Police Reform in Chile Underway As Institute Faces Backlash

SANTIAGO – On Dec. 12, the General Director of Chile’s national police force announced a series of changes to public order control. The police reform is in part a response to recent reports of human rights violations from local and international organizations. Rozas also stressed that his position is available if authorities “deem it convenient, adding that “we are obedient, not deliberate, and I am the first to abide by that decision.”

In a press release, Mario Rozas, the General Director of Carabineros de Chile (Chile’s national police force) announced a series of changes related to public order control. 

Among them, the Fuerzas Especiales de Carabineros (“Special Forces” in English), previously tasked with ensuring public order, will soon cease to exist and be replaced by Unidades COP (or “COP Units” in English; “COP” being an acronym for Control del Orden Público or “Public Order Control” in English).

COP Units will be supervised by local chiefs, and will first be implemented in West and East Santiago, replacing the current Special Forces in the zones, as summarized by BioBioChile. After this, COP Units will be implemented gradually in other regions.

Rozas said that additional reforms would include an overhaul of the current manuals and public order control protocols, although there is still not much information available about the process. 

The General Director also said his position is up for replacement, too, if authorities “finds it convenient.” “We are obedient, not deliberate, and I am the first to abide by that decision,” he said, as quoted by BioBioChile.

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Planned Police Reform

The police reform will start with a Working Board to discuss the modernization of human and logistical resources. Through this Board, police will see changes in working tactics, use of technologies, and structure – this last including the creation of the COP Units.

Other measures in the reform will include better training and instruction on the use of non-lethal weapons, new vehicles, and advanced audiovisual technologies “to register police action as an act of transparency,” explained the General Director.

Rozas concluded with the High Command list for 2020, which names the new authorities within the institution for the new year to come.

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Avoding Future Human Rights Issues

The planned police reform comes after the many reports from local and international commissions, which criticized the police’s actions in Chile and their participation in human rights violations, during the social unrest.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and, most recently, the United Nations Human Rights Commission all agree that a complete reform is much-needed, if the political crisis is to be solved.

In this regard, Rozas also acknowledges the occurrence of abuses by police officers in some of the complained of events after the social outbreak and maintained that there was an “administrative certainty that there is responsibility of the police involved.”

He also emphasized, “We are going to do [this reform] with a basis in the civil society, we are going to ask for help so that institutions such as the National Institute of Human Rights, the Ombudsman for Children, and all the institutions of civil society can help us update our tactics and techniques of public order control.”

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