Police Benefit from Public-Private Partnership
The before-and-after pictures are startling. Shattered windows, bullet-riddled doors, broken down sewage and plumbing systems and damaged roofs, were all part of the deteriorating conditions at many police stations where members of Guatemala’s National Civilian Police (PNC) live and work. However, as part of a broader strategy to “dignify” the police career in this Central American nation, a range of actors, including USAID, joined forces to improve the living and working conditions of policemen and policewomen.
A private bank, the Worker’s Bank—or BANTRAB—signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year with Guatemala’s Police Reform Commission and USAID’s Violence Prevention Project to pool resources and refurbish five police stations around Guatemala City in the Mixco and Villanueva municipalities. And last week, the public-private partnership began to bear its fruits with the reopening of two stations.
Police personnel at those stations can now live and work out of installations that have been repainted, where roofs, floors, and walls have been repaired, the living quarters of agents have been revamped, and the electrical wirings and connections have been fixed and secured. The office space to serve the public has also been renovated. The premise behind this initiative is that a happy cop is a better cop, that working under better conditions boosts morale and productivity.
At the official reopening of the stations, BANTRAB president, Sergio Hernández, made a public call for other banks and private sector actors to engage in citizen security issues and support efforts like the police station refurbishing initiative. “Its only fair that we take care of those who take care of us,” he said.
USAID has also focused on improving the trust between police and the communities they serve. The Violence Prevention Project worked to strengthen PNC units on effective community policing. Last year, the project helped establish the Officer’s School at the Police Academy and supported the design and implementation of a new bachelor’s degree program in police sciences, with an emphasis on community-based policing, which provides relevant university-level education to officers for the first time in the country’s history.
Similarly, USAID Guatemala’s Security and Justice Sector Reform Project is providing technical assistance and support to the PNC and the Police Reform Commission to establish a merit-based career path system for the police. USAID also works to strengthen the PNC’s financial and management systems.
Guatemala, no doubt, faces daunting citizen security challenges. However, the participation of the donor community and the private sector, coupled with strong governmental efforts to strengthen its public security institutions, can help make the police force a more responsive and effective institution.