Colombia’s Duque: New police stance on transparency, human rights
Bogota, Jul 19 (EFE).- Colombian President Ivan Duque announced Monday a new policy of transparency and respect for human rights by the National Police at an event at which the force’s new uniforms – now blue rather than green – were unveiled.
“Today, with our men and women of the National Police, we begin a process of comprehensive transformation … This uniform is designed to be used by all citizen security services in (Colombia) and has several elements that are innovative, the most important being its policy of transparency,” the president said.
Among the changes Duque announced were also the use of body cameras to document police operations, a move that will facilitate the identification and supervision of officers.
Also announced was the creation of a department within the National Police to prevent human rights abuses and the strengthening of the institutional policy, along with a new Disciplinary Statute and a Career Statute which will be presented on Tuesday in Congress and will include the greater supervision and control of the police.
“The human rights observatory within the National Police will also begin operations and … will be providing reports every six months … on all human rights standards,” said Duque in announcing a new system for receiving, processing and pursuing complaints.
The police and the Mobile Antiriot Squad (Esmad) will be in the eye of the hurricane due to multiple complaints pointing to a disproportionate use of force, especially during the days of intense protests the country experienced in May and June.
Human rights organizations reported that about 74 people lost their lives in the demonstrations, 48 of these deaths being directly attributable to the police, while the government says that there were only 25 deaths with three of them occurring due to police activities.
Given these complaints, Duque said: “On Aug. 2 we will be launching the new human rights school within the National Police, … on Aug. 9 we will be initiating a new training cycle but favoring certification in human rights for all Esmad agents.”
According to the president, with these changes the government is hoping that “international standards (will be adhered to) in all (police) actions,” and on Aug. 30 the government will also present a new Esmad model for dealing with disturbances.
“Today, we’re taking a significant step in the transformation of the National Police,” Duque said regarding the four pillars of the institutional reform project, which in addition to human rights training will also include changes in procedures and the use of force and standardization in serving the public.
“We’re going to have the European Union and the main universities in the United States working with us to broaden our efforts to protect (human) dignity,” National Police director Gen. Jorge Luis Vargas said.