The Colombian Justice System or Lack of it!

There are times when I really despair, I have now lived under three justice systems, obviously the UK, where I worked in it for thirty years, Spain, where I had property for many years, and Colombia.
Yes, all the systems have their faults.

The UK was suffering from cost cutting, and fast track policing, which in my view helps no one, Police Officers need to gain experience on the streets, and to create systems where people jump the Rank queue, just creates resentment, and blocks those with experience from advancing, giving them little option, either stick with it for the pension, or bail out.

Likewise Government cost cutting, ends up taking the Police Force back years, and in my view, is a short sighted method of reining in the Governments budget. It will now take many years to bring the UK Police back to a standard fit for purpose, through no fault of the rank and file Officers trying to stop the place falling apart.

Spain on the other hand came  on in leaps an bounds as far as the Police were concerned, the Guardia Civil during my time in Spain, went from being an oppressive Force, that was as far from the people as it could get, to making a conscious effort to close that gap, which was hard considering there military type make up, but I found them to be really approachable by the time I left Spain in 2012, and they were all having to learn English as a second language, and doing well at that as well.

Now we come to the Policía Nacional de Colombia, to call them a Police Force is pretty much a joke, many of them are no better than the criminals they are supposed to catch. Don\’t get me wrong, there are good guys, but from my experience, they are few and far between.

Unfortunately the Policía are built on a Military basis, much like the Guardia Civil in Spain, but they also have conscription, which is no motivation for any organisation, lads that just want to do their time and get out. Corruption and abuse is rife, and little is done to try and stop it.

Colombia has a huge Police Force when you look at it\’s population a ratio of 360 Officers per 100,000 of population, compare that with the UK which has 210 Officers per 100,000 of population, and yet which would I rather put my trust in? the UK Police every time.

Early last year, whilst we were having problems (which are still ongoing) with the Authorities controlling the Fincas de Recreo, these are farms or large houses altered to accommodate large groups of people of families for a few days at a time, these people bring their own sound systems, and have little or no regard for the people who live permanently in the areas, there have been times when we have gone five days with little or no sleep.

Some Municipalities control these places, but others including mine, Copacabana, Antioquia, fail to do so, and in fact refuse to do so, making out that they have the problem in hand, but doing nothing.

So as I was saying, last year, I was out walking the dogs, at 6am one morning, when I saw our local Police Patrol at one of these Fincas, having a jolly time with the inhabitants, instead of controlling them, so I took video footage of them, unfortunately I was seen, I walked off, knowing full well what would happen next, and sure enough, a couple of minutes later, the double manned motorcycle patrol pulled up alongside me,, and immediately got in my face, demanding to know what I was doing.

They asked to see my Cedula, which bearing in mind the time in the morning, and the fact I was in the middle of nowhere, I didn\’t have with me, and at that time, there was no obligation for me to carry it, especially as I was in the vicinity of my home. They threatened to call for the van to take me to the Police Station, until my identity was confirmed, at which I pointed out that they knew where I lived as they had come to an accident immediately outside my property shortly before, I faced them out, and said that if they wanted to take me, then do so, but be prepared for the consequences, at which they made off, knowing that intimidation had not worked. As a result my Wife rang the police station, and within 24 hours spoke with the Officers, where she received an apology. They were totally out of order.

Again, early in the New Year, I was going from home to Copacabana, with my Father-in-law, when I saw two suspicious looking lads trying to stop cars, I tried to phone the police station, but no answer, I tried again once I had parked in Copacabana, and they said they could not hear me, and to call in to the Police Station, which I did, but they showed no interest whatsoever, so on my return home, Marcela rang the station to find out what action if any they had taken…reply, \”we were on our lunch\”, absolutely useless!

Two weeks ago, a report was made to the Copacabana Police, regarding a burglary in the area, the Police arrested two suspects,took them to the Police Station, and when they were released, it is alleged that the Officers gave the suspects details of the informant, word of this spread across the district like wildfire, people were not happy, and were frightened at the same time, we all know how easy it is to get hold of firearms and knives here, it is easy to be murdered by thieves and burglars.

As a result, last week, there were a number of street robberies on our mountain road, between 4am and 7am, the times people walk down the mountain to catch the bus on the Autopista (laughingly called a Motorway), they were detained at knife point and robbed. As a result the local Police Commander, had patrols in the area, and one of the victims pointed out two of the suspects, who were from Medellin,  they were detained and taken before the Judge, a second victim was found, and both were asked to go before the Judge and identify the offenders, but they failed to turn up, and the Suspects were released.

Do I blame the victims for the suspects being released? no, as much as I would like to, I can\’t, if the justice system wont protect the victims, and in fact goes as far as to collude with the Offenders, by passing informant information to them, then what hope is there? Yes, ideally the Victims should stand and be counted, but most have families, who can blame them for being frightened of what will happen to them.

Until the Policía Nacional de Colombia sorts out it\’s own internal mess, and proves that it can be trusted, then nothing is going to change, it is a sad state of affairs.

Published by Phil Sale

I moved to Colombia from Spain in 2012, and I am happily married to a Colombiana.

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