DOI: 10.12924/johs2022.16020165 |Publication Date: 5 July 2022
Comparative Reflections on Community-Oriented Policing (COP) in Post-Conflict Central America
|1 Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway|
|2 Department of International Development Studies, University of the Valley of Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala|
|3 Institute of Public Affairs, University of Chile, Santiago de Chile, Chile|
|* Corresponding author|
Abstract: In this article we discuss the comparative impact and significance of Community-Oriented Policing (COP) in Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua). We emphasize in particular the formal role of COP as a means to re-establish trust between the state and community, demonstrate professionalism and to evidence the democratic accountability of the police to the population. Although these formal goals remain the goal of community oriented policing, we demonstrate in this article that there has been an increased emphasis on more kinetic or militarized forms of policing in recent years. Hard handed, heavily armed and interventionist police policies have spread from El Salvador to Guatemala, and more recently Nicaragua. Moves towards more aggressive policing are explained by governments and police forces as a necessary response to the rising threat of gangs and drug cartels and horrifying levels of homicide statistics. However, as we highlight there is also evidence of these changes reflecting undemocratic shifts within national administrations and the repositioning of people within government and national institutions with links to these countries' earlier military governments.The net effect of these changes we argue is to erode the intentions of COP initiatives, and severely reduce levels of trust and accountability between people and the democratic state.
Keywords: accountability; Central America; democracy; policing; trust; violence