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Column 033015 Brewer

Monday, March 30, 2015
The Paradoxes of Law
Enforcement in the Western
Hemisphere
By Jerry Brewer
While the United States boasted
in 2004 that the “objective
quality of policing in America”
had improved in recent decades,
nations from Mexico to the
southern tip of Argentina
appear to be losing the
enforcement of the rule of law
battle.
Corruption, insecurity, and
poverty are frequently labeled as
the root causes of those failures.
Consequently, enforcing the law
through “policing,” despite
sound reasoning from
acceptable premises, leads to a
conclusion that seems senseless,
logically unacceptable, or selfcontradictory.
Certainly it is much more than
just enforcing the law, but in
addition to some attempts at
reforms made by many Latin
America nations, many find
their systems of justice are

simply dysfunctional. Many
have a total lack of policing
capabilities and infrastructure,
and little hope of acquiring
them.
Many of those must turn to their
military for superior armament
and manpower to counter
heavily armed resistance,
ambush, and organized criminal
insurgency. Lacking of course
are trained police to
competently investigate, process
crime scenes for evidentiary
value, and build cases against
suspects for successful judicial
prosecution.
There could be an interesting
international debate on whether
police performance or the
quality of police practices is
being enhanced or is digressing.
The 2004 National Academy of
Science report on U.S. policing
boldly announced, “police are
more effective in fighting crime;
they are less corrupt; and they
are less likely to engage in
unprofessional acts.”
U.S. Senators last week
criticized federal programs that
outfit and equip police
departments with military gear,
saying, “they waste funds and
sow mistrust between law
enforcement and the
communities they police.”
Many Latin American countries
could not imagine their police
attempting to enforce the law
and keep the peace with
anything less than military
grade weaponry, albeit the sight

of oppressive-like enforcement
is obviously not pleasant but
needed to “outgun” superior
force used against them.
In El Salvador last Thursday, in
the city of San Jose Villanueva,
just south of San Salvador, eight
gang members were killed in a
confrontation with police. Police
in January of this year were
given authorization by the
government to shoot “without
any fear of suffering
consequences” if threatened by
gangs.
The Barrio 18 and the Mara
Salvatrucha (MS-13) are two of
the largest gangs in El Salvador.
These and other gangs, over the
last year, have accounted for
many violent confrontations
with police – during which
dozens of gang members have
been killed, with more than 40
police officers shot.
In Honduras, which is said to be
the most dangerous country on
the planet, the president
recently sent military troops to
protect a “lost city” that was
rediscovered deep in the
jungle. This due to fears that
gangs and looters “could pillage
ancient artefacts from the
abandoned home of an
unknown civilization.”
Mexico continues to experience
head-on ambushes of their
police and military patrols by
criminals. While Mexico is
attempting to work valiantly to
build capable policing
infrastructure and increase

training and professional
development, the government’s
spending on defense equipment
has “skyrocketed in the past
year.” This spending has been
described as necessary for use in
fighting organized crime.
Violence is increasing in Belize,
with increased homicides,
whereas Costa Rica has
increased its police spending
due to fears of drug related
crimes and the presence of
foreign cartels. Illicit drug
distribution, manufacturing,
and addiction are contributing
to high levels of murder and
violence in Argentina, Brasil,
Colombia, Venezuela, and
Ecuador.
Transforming police to be
effective and legitimate in their
policing practices throughout
Latin America appears to be
failing. Latin America leads the
world with 31 percent of the
world’s murders, despite having
approximately 9 percent of the
world’s population.
“Latin America is the most
insecure region in the world,
with 1 in every 3 people reported
being a victim of a violent crime
in 2012.” If transnational
organized crime is allowed to
reach uncontrollable levels and
threatens the state, turning to
the military may be the only
options available for some.
The criminality and violence
destabilizing many of the
countries in the Western
Hemisphere are much more

than an estimated annual
US$80 billion drug demand.
Extortion, kidnapping and
human trafficking for a myriad
of purposes are running
rampant, and leaving a huge
death toll – as well as thousands
that are reported missing.
And few cases are ever solved.
The discrepancy between high
violent crime and death, and the
critical need for effective
policing, suggests the need for
an acute focus on police
legitimacy that can also change
deficit levels of public support
and cooperation. Justice leads
to legitimacy.
The public perception of justice
and accountability is measured
by the actual policing practices
and the results. Professionally
trained police, and the proper
equipping of police forces, with
strategic oversight, are keys to
the answers.
——————————
Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of
Criminal Justice International
Associates, a global threat
mitigation firm headquartered
in northern Virginia. His
website is located at
www.cjiausa.org.
TWITTER: CJIAUSA
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