San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Data Conflicting, but Show Gains in Cop Force

The Public Security Ministry appears to have made some progress in meeting President Oscar Arias administration’s goal of having 12,000 National Police officers by the end of his term in 2010.

However, the ministry’s human resources department provided The Tico Times with two conflicting reports on the number of police, calling into question the level of progress.

One report states that in 2006, when Arias took office, there were 9,433 officers. Another report states there were 8,792 officers in 2006.

The first report states the levels rose to 10,049 last year, while the second put the number at 8,941.

The first report states there are currently 10,518 officers, but the second report had no numbers for 2008.

The ministry declined to allow the head of human resources to explain the discrepancy to The Tico Times.

As of this week, Public Security Minister Janina del Vecchio said her agency has roughly 11,000 police, up from 9,433 in 2006. A recent graduating class of 500 on July 15 helped boost that number.

After the daily La Nación reported in May that the ministry was having a hard time recruiting, del Vecchio relaxed training requirements at the NationalPoliceAcademy from seven to three months, which has drawn the ire of some police veterans.

“They’re coming out with less discipline,” grumbled 31-year veteran Melchor Astúa, the head of SIPO, a police union.

“They’ve started recruiting mostly campesinos,” he said.

The ministry also decreased its education requirement from a high school diploma to two years of high school to try to meet its recruitment goals, Astúa said.

Del Vecchio told The Tico Times last week that officers don’t quit because there are too many benefits to staying, and they can’t get pensions if they resign.

But La Nación’s report stated that of the 800 police who quit their jobs over the last two years, more than half cited unfavorable working conditions.

And National Police Chief Erick Lacayo acknowledged losing 40 to 50 officers a month to attrition – a mixture of retirements, resignations and firings.

Del Vecchio said corruption and positive drug tests are also significant causes of attrition.

“One positive drug test and they’re out,” she said. “So we lose some that way and others for corruption. There are 97 corruption cases under review by the legal discipline department (the equivalent to an internal affairs bureau) – we made that a priority – and we could be losing more.”


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