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Monday, June 9, 2014

‘We don’t want a force led by collegiate bodies’

Renewal Front Senator Jorge D’Onofrio seen speaking to Sergio Massa.
By Federico Poore
Herald Staff

Massa ally defends party’s position on police bill

The Buenos Aires province municipal police bill is expected to be taken up once again this week in the provincial Senate following three failed attempts during the last few weeks. Even though lawmakers from the ruling Victory Front (FpV) and Sergio Massa’s Renewal Front agree on the principle, the dissident Peronist bloc is resisting the government’s decision to prevent police officers from carrying weapons while not on the job — a move sponsored by centre-left Nuevo Encuentro lawmaker Marcelo Saín and allies of Governor Daniel Scioli.

In conversation with the Herald, Renewal Front representative Jorge D’Onofrio — who heads the Front’s caucus in the Senate — said lawmakers “need to revise the situation of curtailment of powers” of these new forces this week in the district’s capital city La Plata and explained his bloc’s differences with the proposal that received preliminary approval in the Lower House last month.

What are your main points of contention with the municipal police bill?

At first we had a bill draft that had been agreed upon between (Security Minister Alejandro) Granados, local leaders and Renewal Front lawmakers. While it was discussed in the Lower House, it was changed at the last minute following demands by Nuevo Encuentro and La Cámpora lawmakers. Those are our differences.

Namely...?

We need a 24-hour municipal police service — policemen should be able to carry weapons while not on the job. We need to revise the situation of curtailing the powers of these forces, for example their inability to arrest people for criminal background checks. We want them to carry out traffic enforcement operations, so they’d be able to stop cars. But we also have differences over training.

What are those differences?

(Victory Front lawmakers) are talking about two years of training, meaning we won’t have new groups (of police officers) until 2017. We’re talking about an intensive year so they’ll be patrolling the streets in six months.

Don’t you have divergent views on anti-crime policies?

It’s not about that. (Nuevo Encuentro lawmaker) Marcelo (Saín) keeps saying we don’t want a democratic police. But I want to discuss what would a democratic police look like. If this means a police force that is in an eternal plenary assembly, or a force led by collegiate bodies... well, we don’t want that. We want police to be making arrests.

Don’t you agree with the idea of letting the population revoke the mandates of local police chiefs?

The head of the executive branch has every right to appoint or remove officials. Nobody thinks of revoking the mandates of a Security Minister or of a Public Works Secretary. Legitimacy is given by the head of the executive branch.

What will happen on Wednesday?

I guess we’ll keep getting the same results. It’s crazy to think that the final result will change this time around. We are 46 (provincial senators) and all 46 have already expressed our opinions.

@fedebillie

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