March 2, 2020
Keymer Ávila | @Keymer_Avila
For several weeks I have been consulted about the ratio of police officers who have a criminal record, the current recruitment and selection processes, the regulatory basis that governs these processes, as well as the background of an increasing number of officers, with a special interest in the Special Action Force (FAES). I will try to expose some elements that I consider fundamental to address these issues, which transcend casuistry and any contextual reading.
The starting points for the analysis are two transversal problems in police matters in the country. The first is the so-called “recycling of officers”, and the second is the “police hypertrophy”.
Recycling of officers is the incorporation of officers removed from a police force in another security body. This is an old problem that must be addressed within each police institution and be part of its internal procedure protocols for admission, career, and promotion. From a normative point of view, these norms are specific to rules or resolutions related to Personnel Statutes, of a sub-legal nature. In any case, Article 106 of the Law on the Statute of the Police Function requires the existence of a registry of dismissed officers following articles 22 (referring to the National Public Registry of Police Officers) and 33 (which orders to keep the personal record of the officers). These articles constitute the legal basis of a special Ministerial Resolution in force that regulates this matter. This is covered by the normative field, the problem is to effectively execute the mandates.
Secrecy and non-accountability generally characterize the security forces in Venezuela. A timid openness came with the process of police reform that took place between 2006 and 2014, but it all has been reversed. Nowadays it is difficult to know precisely the current number of officers in the security forces, as well as their origin other than they traditionally coming from the most deprived sectors of society. From recently collected data, it can be said that the security forces in the country have gone through accelerated hypertrophy. The FAES is a clear expression of this phenomenon.
Police hypertrophy is the accelerated and excessive growth of these institutions. Every process of massification in the provision of a service must have a rational rhythm, which must be evaluated technically and permanently to ensure the quality and prevent the cure be worse than the disease. Since the 2006 police reform process, the number of police officers at the three territorial political levels has considerably increased. The international standards of police framing rate suggest an average between 300 and 400 officials per 100 thousand inhabitants, Venezuela is well above this average: 429 police officers per one hundred thousand inhabitants.
There were more than 175,000 police officers at the beginning of 2017, up from 114,463 officers in 2006. This means that the police force experienced an approximate growth of 53% in that period, increasing the police framing rate by 128 units to reach 557 police officers per one hundred thousand inhabitants, 207 points above the international standard. In 2006 there were 123 state and municipal uniformed police bodies. By 2015 that number rose to 147 (a 19% increase). This is one more indicator of the Police State that has been consolidating in the country.
The case of the National Police (PNB), to which the FAES is attached, is emblematic. In just six years since its creation, it reached an approximate number of 14,739 officers. The FAES is immersed in this same logic. It started operations on July 14, 2017, with 641 officials, and almost double a year and a half later (1,223 officers). In January 2019, there were about 1,400 officers, a figure that has already been surpassed. How do you get that number of officers in such a short period?
To reach these figures, minimum recruitment, selection, or training standards are not met. Subsequently, the institution cannot carry out efficient supervision and control over those thousands of armed youth who are taken to the streets after an insufficient training time. What’s the outcome? These officers end up doing their will on the street without any legal or institutional limit or subsequent responsibilities.
It is common to hear the complaints and doubts of the old officers about the newcomers and how all the processes for the incorporation of the new officers have been relaxed, as well as the distrust that they generate.
This can also give indications for evaluating the true functionalities of the police in Venezuela. The current homicide rates and the increasing number of deaths at the hands of state security forces have been some of the possible consequences of this steep increase in the number of officers in the country.
In summary, one element is common to both problems described herein: the unmet mandate of article 57 of the Organic Law of the Police Service that requests a person wanting to enroll in the police force not to possess criminal records nor have been removed from any state security agency. If those who must ensure the protection of the citizens have these profiles, and the lethality of their actions accounts for a third of the homicides of the country, the results are nothing more than the daily massacre that engulfs the country.
While the institutions are adrift and the political leadership is only interested in the struggle to maintain or seize power, the different police forces do their will. As the popular saying goes: when the cat’s away the mice will play.
Publicado originalmente en Hearts on Venezuela.