The Guatemalan Army and National Civil Police cooperate to provide security patrols to prevent armed attacks on mass transit buses. [Photo: Araceli Osorio]
The Guatemalan Army and National Civil Police cooperate to provide security patrols to prevent armed attacks on mass transit buses. [Photo: Araceli Osorio]
CENTRAL AMERICA NEWS – Guatemala’s Joint Security Force, which consists of Army Soldiers and National Civil Police (PNC) officers, improves public safety by conducting patrols and vehicle searches and capturing dangerous suspects.

The security force was launched in 2000, and its 4,500 Military service members and 3,000 PNC officers concentrate their efforts in Guatemala City as well as the Departments of Zacapa, Escuintla and Huehuetenango.

When conducting patrols, Troops and police officers typically work in teams which consist of two Soldiers and one police officer. Checkpoints, where Troops and police officers verify that vehicles have not been stolen and are not transporting contraband, such as illegal weapons, ammunition, or drugs, are comprised of two Military members and two police officers.

Military service members who work alongside police officers are divided into nine squads; six of these are assigned to Guatemala City, with the other three conducting operations in various departments. There are 10 task forces within the squads, each of which combats a particular type of crime, such as robbery or extortion.

Soldiers trained to work with civilian population
Guatemalan Army Soldiers support the National Civil Police at vehicle check points, where they verify that the vehicles have not been stolen and are not transporting contraband, drugs, or illicit cash. [Photo: Araceli Osorio ]

Guatemalan Army Soldiers support the National Civil Police at vehicle check points, where they verify that the vehicles have not been stolen and are not transporting contraband, drugs, or illicit cash. [Photo: Araceli Osorio ]

In addition to their Military training, Soldiers who are assigned to the Joint Security Force receive additional education on how to protect human rights and the best ways to deal with the civilian population, according to Army Colonel Manuel Pineda, Chief of the Army’s Sixth Squad.

International cooperation is an important component of the initiative.

“We have received support from friendly nations, cooperation that includes non-lethal equipment and special training for Military operations other than war. The plan we have followed for the last few years, on the orders of President Otto Pérez Molina, has been to recover capabilities in security, use those capabilities to complement law enforcement efforts, and to support the safety of civilians,” Minister of Defense Manuel López Ambrocio said on June 30, 2014.

Army Soldiers are supporting police efforts to improve security in a variety of ways. In 2014, the Army participated in 115,154 civilian security operations, which included more than 42,600 foot patrols; 26,620 security and search checkpoints; 20,040 vehicle patrols; 5,700 searches and seizures; and more than 2,000 security operations at bus stops.

And their joint cooperative efforts are having a positive impact. For example, as of December 15, there were 4,748 killings in the country in 2014, compared to 5,155 in 2013.

In 2013, law enforcement authorities recorded 4,226 homicides that were committed with firearms. That number was reduced to 3,932 in 2014. In 2013, there were 566 killings committed with knives and other bladed weapons. The number of such homicides went down to 484 in 2014.

Ongoing cooperation

The Army will continue to cooperate with the PNC to improve public safety while the police force trains the number of officers it needs to ensure security throughout the country, according to Defense Minister Ambrocio.

But by the end of 2015, the PNC will have 35,000 officers, and the Joint Security Force might be disbanded, according to Minister of Internal Affairs Mauricio López Bonilla.

The goal is not to replace the civilian law enforcement forces, but to support them until those forces reach the quantitative and qualitative levels set forth in the government’s plan, Ambrocio said.

“Once we arrive at that point, we are prepared to withdraw from the scene and focus on increasing our abilities in our own areas, and therefore we are beginning modernization processes within the military’s scope, for example, recovery of mobility; special, individual equipment; tactical communications; and weaponry,” he explained.
Via Dialogo-Americas.com


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