The notorious P.N.B.

What a “humanist” policeman looks like…

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.

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  1. It’s quite shocking and yet not surprising Chavismo shows so much chaos, such a complete absence of accountability.

    In Germany every bullet used by cops has to be reported.
    In Venezuela we don’t even have reliable figures about the amount of prisoners we have in any jail.
    This PNB is a new thing and yet all its errors are going to be linked to the “Cuarta República”.

    • In Canada, every use of a weapon by a police officer , including drawing a firearm out of its holster without further use, must be reported, in writing, to the central oversight bodies. An officer who is observed (or worse, filmed) using a service baton which he omits from his daily report, faces fines, suspension, or dismissal.

  2. What kind of reform do you have in mind?

    I like the standardization effort Chavismo put forth in paper (every cop has to hold a college degree, they have to get human rights training, police academies have to meet some standards, there’s a minimum etc).

    I don’t like the centralization of police forces though at the whim of Caracas. I’d like to see local police forces revamped to carry out the lions-share of patrolling and other prevention efforts, and regional police forces to take over most functions currently performed by PNB (traffic control, highway custody, checkpoints, ad-hoc modules, etc). Obviously, this requires decentralizing the treasury, allowing States and even Municipalities to collect more taxes (something like splitting VAT three-ways: a third going to the national government, a third staying in the Governorship it originated and the final third staying in the Municipality it originated).

    I’d like to see PNB , as a civilian force, take over most of the functions GNB currently performs (airport security, special ops against criminal elements, drug enforcement in urban areas (in support of ONA), and in general complement the now-investigation-oriented-CICPC providing the muscle to deal with organized crime (kidnappings, mafias, extorsion).

    After 12F, I’d like to see GNB reset to square 1. Large segments should be dishonorably discharged an their role within State Security Forces rethought: drug enforcement in rural areas and border patrol functions should be easy to hand out to the army and navy, crime fighting and airport security to PNB, and what would be left for them to do?

    • What you propose is fine by me. Mergering the PNB and the GNB in one civilian police force. And properly discussing what’s really better: either a single national police or a federal division with national, state or local police departments, each one with their own duties, but all well coordinated. Each one has its pros and its cons.

      And of course, give our police officers the paychecks, work benefits and training they really deserve.


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