Colombia: On the Police Reform

Editor’s Note: The following is an unofficial translation of the article “Sobre la Reforma a la Policía” from the revolutionary Colombian news source El Comunero Prensa. The piece illuminates how the same arguments of opportunists are used worldwide to deter rebellion, and their positions are just as treacherous, and even more so in the context of the oppressed nations.

For weeks there has been talk of the need to reform the police. Politicians from various parties have expressed their opinions on the matter and the mainstream media have joined in spreading those ideas. Some mayors are already taking measures in this regard, such as the Medellín Mayor’s Office, which gave Yoga and meditation classes to the members of Esmad, to help them control their emotions, as if the problem were their emotions and not the orders they have to violently suppress the protest of the people.

“Various riot squads have received yoga classes and medication, providing them with tools to manage their emotions and reactions in stressful moments”

Here are some of the ideas that have been spreading these days: According to Claudia López, mayor of Bogotá, “the Police need reform. The need to improve their selection, their training, their supervision and control, and the welfare of the police. It needs less militarism and more civility. That is not radical at all: it is obvious.” [1]. According to Carlos Caicedo, governor of Magdalena, “a constitutional reform is needed to design a new police authority that restores the confidence of citizens, guarantees the full exercise of human rights and fulfills its true mission: to protect all people in life, honor and goods.”[2] Congressman Inti Asprilla has already submitted a bill in this regard to Congress with the following proposals: “a pedagogical component, with the implementation of a chair on the proportional use of force and respect for human rights; reinforce the disciplinary system within the Police, […] and a regulation of police procedures against the unarmed population, in which strangulation, blows with a baton to the head, a maximum of one ‘taser’ discharge are prohibited, not driving in unidentified vehicles and the obligation is created for each police officer to have a body cam.” [3] And finally, Vargas Lleras stated that “It is time to seriously reimagine our National Police, but to exalt it, strengthen it and make sure it can respond to the new and very complex national realities.“[4]

These are just a few manifestations of various politicians, but there are many political forces that have been talking about the issue. However, according to the MESP [5], MERyP [6] and LJR [7], student and youth revolutionary organizations, in a statement released this week affirm that none of these positions raises the underlying problem: the role of the police in a society divided into social classes. They explain that the police, as part of the State, are part of the tools used by the ruling classes against the dominated social classes, and that is why their fundamental function is to guarantee, by any means, the current social order: that the big bourgeoisie and landowners continue to exploit and oppress the vast majority of working people. Therefore the problem is not to generate courses for the police, change their weapons, generate protocols, or give them yoga classes, because in any case, their role is to defend this unjust society. According to the above, the comrades affirm that those positions that propose a Police Reform as a solution are positions meant to deceive the masses, to appease the popular uprising against the police that was unleashed days ago, to “restore confidence in the institutions” and that people trust the State, but that they will never bring a real solution, because as long as power is in the hands of the wealthy, the police will be nothing more than their protective dogs. All these speeches are part of the usual politicking, be it those of the supposed “left,” “center” or right, what they seek is to appease the combative struggle of the people to channel it towards elections, spreading illusions in the laws and institutions, in possible reforms so that the people vote for them. The electoral “left” faithfully fulfills its role of defending this old and rotten society, and no matter how much they call themselves revolutionaries, their practice is clear: to delude the people in the laws and institutions of this rotten state and never show the root problem and the need for revolution as the only true solution to the problems of the people. The statement reads: “To inspire hope among the people with legumes is a tactic historically used by the ruling classes that complements the ever-present violent repression. Policies that they turn to precisely at times like the present when the people have lost credibility in the institutions of the State and take to the streets to fight massively and combatively. It is the preferred tactic of those opportunist sectors that dress as the ‘left’ or the ‘center,’ such as Petro or Claudia López, because through it they deceive the people into voting for them and incidentally gain the endorsement of the wealthiest by helping them legitimize the current exploitative and reactionary state.”  The full statement, mentioned above, written by students and young revolutionaries, can be read in the following link:

For these reasons, the police, no matter how hard they try, investing millions in advertising, doing public stunts, small charity works, or making film screenings in popular neighborhoods, etc., will never be able to have a good relationship with the people: how could they have unity with the peasant who takes the land from the landlord, if the police are in charge of evicting them?; likewise, they will never be able to have a good relationship with the workers who carry out strikes, marches, and takeover factories to win better working conditions, because the police are in charge of preventing it by force; they will never be able to have a good relationship with the poor families that build ranches on the slopes of the city, because the police are in charge of evicting them and destroying their ranches; they will never be able to have a good relationship with the street vendor, because the police are in charge of chasing them, intimidating them, taking their cart away and damaging their products; they will never be able to have a good relationship with young people who fight for education, for freedom of expression, for opportunities, because it is the police who are in charge of repressing them; consciously or unconsciously of the role played by the police in this society, the people hate them, and will continue to hate them, because the police exist to oppress the people and the people live that oppression every day.  According to a survey by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce “Only 18% of those consulted rated the police service as good. This is almost half of the 35% that approved it in 2008. ” [4]

But the ruling classes, the politicians, the mass media, will never openly acknowledge the role of the police as a tool of oppression, nor will they openly acknowledge the natural hatred that the people feel against them, and again and again they will try to clean up the image of its protective dogs, as the Defense Minister has stubbornly done in recent days, who has the nerve to affirm that “what the citizen of the world demands is more and better police. What the Colombian citizen demands, whatever the city, is more police, more force, it is the permanent legitimate claim of all regional authorities. “[8] But if the people really wanted more police, then why did the people, en masse in the streets, attacked and set fire to more than 70 CAIs (police stations) in Bogotá between September 9 and 11, leaving hundreds of police officers injured ?

Parallel to all this debate on the reform of the police, members of parliament are calling for a bill to advance more quickly in congress “to regulate social protest.” [9] Laws with which they intend to further restrict the right to protest and impose stronger punishments on those who dare to protest beyond the permitted limits. All this discourse of “police reform” will be used by the ruling classes as an excuse to legitimize before public opinion the project for the “regulation of protest,” because according to them, such project contains a chapter to control the action of the police and it will seek to guarantee the “peaceful protest,” but the true essence of the project, its main objective, it is to further restrict the protest of the people and to punish the people severely when they go beyond the narrow margin of bourgeois legality and of “peaceful protest.” According to El Espectador, the project includes repressive measures such as fines of up to $82 million for damage to public property and “It prohibits demonstrations in the vicinity of hospitals, ports, rivers and airport ports, cultural heritage sites, such as the Catedral Primada (Cathedral Metropolitan Basilica) in Bogotá. This, in advance, would prevent citizens from completing their mobilizations in the Plaza de Bolívar (Bolivar Plaza). ” [10]


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