Colombian police under fire: Image, corruption and controls

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to discuss the extent and impact of corruption on public trust and on the stability of the Colombian police. The effectiveness of public controls, civilian oversight, and overseeing bodies is evaluated to determine the degree of impunity and the level of independence from other agencies of control. Design/methodology/approach: The research in this study is based on data analyses of surveys, interviews, and an observational approach. This paper considers four general surveys, namely: Latinobarómetro, Iberobarómetro, Global Corruption Barometer, Corruption Perception Indexes, and World Values Survey. The observation consisted of accompanying Bogotá police department teams for two months during the evenings between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. This study draws upon 20 interviews with police officers of all ranks. Additionally, an informal observation of police activities during the night was carried out to discover the occurrence of corruption, which was impossible to reveal by a more formal observation. Findings: Although corruption in the Colombian police force is presumably a generalized phenomenon, it is still one of the most appreciated agencies among Colombians. However, scandals have been cleverly mitigated by rhetoric and apparent purges and the setting-up of inoffensive mechanisms of control. Internal inspection and civilian oversight have been weakened - rendered ineffective by an increasingly powerful police leadership. Research limitations/implications: Since corruption is a concealed phenomenon, its analysis always causes problems. Police officers are reluctant to talk about the problem and there is an organizational denial of the phenomenon. Originality/value: The paucity of academic research on police forces in Latin America is still apparent and the field of study lacks a real degree of specialization. Similarly, there has been no empirical examination of issues pertaining to the study of the modern Colombian force. This paper thus attempts to compensate for the lack of empirical research on the Colombian police. It contributes to the overall literature on police corruption by explaining the organizational features of bribing and police corruption on the beat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-420
Number of pages22
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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