Police force restructuring is aimed at increasing professionalism within the ranks and cutting corruption.
President Evo Morales says the Bolivian National Police needs to be demilitarized and that there’s a crisis of credibility among the public toward the security force because of systemic corruption.
"We must demilitarize the police so they are reoriented to protect society and not exercise their power and arrogance over the people," said the head of state at the opening ceremony of the ninth Citizen Security Summit in Beni, a northeastern department of Bolivia.
“Corruption is coming from inside the training centers,” the president said. He was referring to a December scandal where high-ranking directors within the National Police Academy (Anapol) accepted bribes of between US$10,000 and US$20,000 from some 350 applicants in exchange for their entrance into the institution.
Corruption within the ranks of Bolivia’s police has long swept under the rug. Over the past several months, however, at least four regional-level police officials were charged and dismissed for drug trafficking, criminal association and passive bribery.
"Seeking to tackle the credibility crisis and corruption problems that the Bolivian Police faces, Evo Morales proposes to 'demilitarize' the Police."
On Tuesday, Morales announced his National Security Plan 2020-2025 that includes Special Force to Fight Violence and the Special Force to Combat Crime.
The reform includes strengthening the Office of Internal Control, obtaining new technologies to create more transparency and accountability among the ranks.
"Because of some police, the public have had to take care of themselves and stay away from the police, how can that be?" President Morales said Tuesday, even calling some "police cronies of drug traffickers."
The head of state attributed insecurity in the country to "poverty and crime" but mainly it comes from "big drug trafficking and smuggling."
Evo stressed there must be "profound" restructuring of the police in order to restore public confidence in the force. "We have to make this a profound reform, let's debate not only for the good of the police, but for the good of the people and the good image of our beloved Bolivia," said the president.