The police who are where the people are

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– The relationship between the community and the police is very good and close here, states Celso Luis Pinheiro, Lieutenant Colonel of the Military Police of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Pinheiro is attending an international conference on Community Police in El Salvador and the participants from Brazil, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize and the Dominican Republic are on an excursion to San Laureano, a community in the municipal of Ciudad Delgado, a suburb of San Salvador.

– The police here are  structured and technically well prepared, his colleague Major Andrade from the Directorate of Community Police of Sao Paolo adds, impressed.

The have listened to interventions about the experiences of San Laureano. On how the police collaborate with the community, go from house to house and talk to the people, how they interact with the youth: they go to the beach with them, play football, plant fruit-trees with them and even teach the smaller kids art.

All for the sake of reducing violence, for the prevention of  bloodshed.

San Laureano used to be extremely violent. But now there hasn´ t been a single murder in more than three years. The experiences of San Laureano have been replicated in the neighboring communities and now, among 30 000 persons, even petty crime has been reduced to next to nothing. And only eight police-officers, much less than in old days, are in charge of the security, thanks to the good contact the officers have with the community.

Or the community with the police, because it goes both ways. When the people finally started to trust the police, they didn´ t want them to leave. So they built  them a house, they pay their bills and have given them a cell-phone, so that they always can get in touch with their own comunity-cops.

The initiative comes from the community itself, in collaboration with an enthusiastic police officer from Ciudad Delgado, Alfonso Portillo, the Church and local organizations. And the community leader, Felipe Aldana:

– This is a process, not a model, he explains.

And the process has been so succesful that the communities now serve as an example for the ongoing, national peace process, considered one of the most sustainable gang-truces in all of Latin America.

– In all processes the solutions are partial, everyone has to understand that. It is a change and a challenge for everyone – also the police, Aldana continues:

And it parts from defining the problem, he stresses.
–   We have lived for years without the basic needs met , human rights tread on, barbarian authoritarianism, violence of all kinds. Years and years without opportunities.
– And this is not ideology, this is reality, Aldana assures.

But these problems have been addresses with force, with a military approach, with control and police . That shouldn´ t be the case, that means we are not parting from reality, he stresses:

– Public security is a question of conviviality. It should be constructed with social, cultural and educational projects. We have to get away from the military approach and consider the police as part of the community,  first of all regarding them as citizens.

Facts:

  • Comunity police is incipient in El Salvador, having the support of app. 15% of the police force;
  • Community police should be the main pillar in the security work in the so-called 11 municipals of peace, part of the truce, among them Ciudad Delgado.

Read more in Badebukser og fodbold i stedet for skudsikker vest (Danish).

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