Community police in Colombia: An idle process

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Bogotá's community policing programme is often cited as a successful or at least illustrative example of the modernisation of police forces in Latin America. However, we lack a rigorous evaluation of its scope and outcomes. Although the Bogotá community police project was one of the first programmes implemented on the continent and employs one of the largest number of officers, it never seems to have been completely integrated into the inner workings of the police department, and this has reduced its chances of success. Although there are community police platoons in the vast majority of Colombia's Departments/Provinces some of its founding purposes have been sidetracked due to the armed conflict in the country and the higher-ups within the institution have not given it sufficient importance beyond lip service. This analysis maintains that the limitations of this community model can be found in its attempt to retain a certain level of independence in the face of other institutional actors and the community at large. The possibility of losing prerogatives and authority has limited any and all attempts at transforming the institution. Given that a community oriented police force requires greater community oversight and supervision of the police and that beat officers must have greater on-the-job autonomy and discretion, this project does not fit well into an extremely hierarchical institution that has huge gaps between its higher officials and beat officers and that seeks to control the decision-making process regarding safety policies. This article, for all of these reasons, offers a discussion of Colombia's community police programme within the context of the role it plays and the place it occupies within the broader police organisation in light of that institution's history, culture and ethos.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-56
Number of pages14
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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