March 10, 2014
Policing the police
The traumatic police strikes in December forced Argentines, politicians especially, to deal with the cost of not having conceived a security policy both at national and provincial levels in 30 years of democracy. The idea of establishing municipal police forces has now resurfaced as a possible solution to deal with the current rebel policemen. What causes an impression is that the initiative has been embraced by both the left and the right. Those on the left focus on the aspect that the new forces under civilian control and democratically-educated would effectively serve as a double form of control that would limit the drug business, robberies and the prostitution that the police currently benefits from. Those on the right underline that the new municipal forces would have closer ties with their neighbours to fight crime with more efficacy.
It all sounds interesting on paper. However consider what goes on in some municipalities. The Metropolitan Police established by Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri has been useful to increase the number of officers on the beat in some specific neighbourhoods. But when the time comes to assess its performance on a bigger scale (without even mentioning the original sin of the sleazy background of its first chief, Jorge “Fino” Palacios, and the telephone tapping affair) the Metropolitan Police is remembered for its outrageous performance, along with the Federal Police, in the Parque Indoamericano eviction in 2010 and for last year’s eviction of the Borda mental hospital in the Barracas neighbourhood. The Metropolitan Police is also nowhere to be seen when it comes to pettier issues like directing traffic.
And specifically in Ezeiza, the district of the currently all-powerful Buenos Aires province Security Minister Alejandro Granados (a Menemist in the past and now a Kirchnerite) there is also the sleazy precedent of a municipal force that, far from controlling its feared colleagues of the Buenos Aires province police, only increases problems at a local level. And on what is supposedly the other end of the political spectrum, we have just witnessed the lack of skill of the commandos of the San Isidro Mayor Gustavo Posse (a shifting ally of Sergio Massa) in the violent eviction of a gathering with children organized by the Kirchnerite youth group La Cámpora. All these are efforts that are worth considering to reinforce the idea that any police reform will require political courage regardless of the options at hand. It is a courage that the nation’s politicians have not shown so far.