Friday, 22 September 2017

'We are the law' police

As most Colombian country folk know well, if you poke a bull, you can expect a reaction. In the same way, if you antagonise people, most of us will react in some way.

There are a number professions, however, where maintaining a cool head and looking at things rationally is a prerequisite; or at least it should be.

One of those is policing. Yes, there's no doubt that being a law enforcer is no easy task. So for that very reason, it's something that should not be in the hands of those of a reckless disposition.

Policía Nacional de Colombia: It seems like for every decent police officer in Colombia, there's at least one incompetent one ...
Some police officers think they are the law. (Image from Facebook.)
Unfortunately, in Colombia, as you get in many countries, some police officers here don't have the temperament to carry out their duties in an even-handed, fair manner. Add to this a new police code which seems to have been introduced without much forethought or adequate instruction, and the risk of abuse of powers -- or not knowing the limitations of them -- increases substantially.

OK, there's nothing new in the fact that some Colombian police officers are corrupt or take advantage of their position. The problem with the latest police code is that rather than trying to curb these abuses, the way a number of 'boys in green' interpret it results in further problems, not less.

What's more, a lot of these additional problems are completely avoidable, with the police very often being the root cause. Rather than taking an objective view of the situation and doing some fact-checking, they take one side of the story and run with that. But hey, to heck with due process when there's a chance of money being made.

For sure, we all must respect the law, but what about when the law -- or those supposedly upholding it in any case -- don't respect us in the first place? With some of the penalties at the Colombian police force's disposal, it pretty much equals a 'guilty until proven innocent' policy. 'We are the police and we alone can decide whether you've done wrong or not.' Judge, jury and executioner.

There are, thankfully and rightfully so, procedures in place to contest penalties. The thing is, with more common-sense policing, some of these charge notices issued need not have been handed out in the first place.

We could also say that police time is being wasted on rather trivial issues while the bigger criminal problems crippling Colombia carry on pretty much unabated with, at times, police connivance.

Obviously enough there are areas where more effective policing is needed. Yet the way the new police code is being used by some officers -- not all that is to say -- seems more a case of coming down hard on the less serious problems in the country. The easy way out.

This isn't terribly surprising all the same. A case of adding a splash of paint to a few internal walls in a house where the load-bearing structures are falling apart, built on flimsy ground as they were.
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