Having the second highest homicide rate in the world is not an honor that any nation wants to carry on its shoulders, and the burden is particularly high for those in charge of protecting the lives of its citizens. With so many government plans against crime launched in the last few years, it’s difficult to see how our police forces are really coping.
Four and a half years ago, the comandante presidente announced the creation of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB), a brand new security force with “…a humanistic and ethical essence.” According to his view: “…it would be firm in the protection of human rights.”
The PNB was based on the recommendations of the former National Commission for Police Reform (CONAREPOL), and was created in part as the replacement for the now extinct Caracas Metropolitan Police (PM).
The PNB has fallen way short of expectations, and is seen today by the public as either a force for repression (alongside the National Guard) or a source of criminal behavior itself. But there are deeper problems inside this organization.
Last January, PNB Director Luis Karabin was replaced after only eight months in charge. He left behind lots of questions, according to an internal report leaked to newspaper El Universal. For example, the number of officers active in the Bolivarian National Police:
…the number of officers in the police is of 18.195, but after analysing all the units assigned to the security corps, the numbers doesn’t match, because that number doesn’t reflect the personnel involved in the Police Coordination Centers of Lara, Zulia, Táchira, Anzoátegui and Nueva Esparta. It doesn’t inlcude the number of officers in the Highway Service as well.
Therefore, the institution doesn’t know the exact number of police officers it currently has.”
HOW. DOES. THAT. WORK? How can a police force act properly if it doesn’t know the number of personnel at its disposal?
Obviously, this lack of accurate information has been found inside other vital areas of the PNB. We don’t know its assets, its weapon caches, or even (unsurprisingly) its finances. And way before that, the corps has shown an astonishing lack of proper logistics.
Even if the government promotes the PNB as a rigorously trained and well-prepared force, but the fact that it put “political and ideological formation” as a priority has raised serious doubts. The results… speak for themselves.
The discussion about the future of policing in Venezuela can’t be ignored much longer. Even if the CONAREPOL opened the door, it didn’t cause much of an impact. Sooner rather than later, there has to be a decision about reforming the police structure (just like the justice system). Without it, not much can be done.