Police Reform: Combatting Corruption and Protecting the Vulnerable

  • October 30, 2015


For those who knew Aurora’s story, it was a powerful moment when she began addressing dozens of young Honduran police recruits, encouraging them to use their training to ensure that Honduran citizens are given dignity, respect, and protection.

Four years ago, she lost her son when corrupt police officers murdered him and his friend. In response, Aurora resolved to raise her voice and demand an end to impunity for actions committed by corrupt police and other authorities. She’s been a highly involved member of a coalition that AJS helped form to change the Honduran security and justice system.

The coalition is called the Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ), and its diverse membership includes NGOs, the Evangelical and Catholic church, Honduras’ largest public university, and more.

Standing up to violent and powerful people takes tremendous courage — thankfully, Aurora has that courage.

“We expose our lives by denouncing police officers who collude with criminals. Still, I’m not afraid of dying, and instead, I feel courage,” Aurora said, speaking about her work with other members of the APJ.

Her trip to the national police academy was part of an AJS/APJ visit to further discuss reforms with the leaders of the police.

Despite the Honduran government spending about $7 million in the last three years to root out corruption and abuse among Honduran police, results have been disappointing, and AJS has been a brave public voice demanding real reform.

While Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world, it also has the lowest reported rate of police per capita in the Americas. This means that the good police in Honduras really have their work cut out for them.

AJS studies the challenges facing Honduras’s police and legal system and then puts forth practical suggestions on how to address them. One of the main focuses of AJS’s security reform work is improving the National Police’s accountability and performance — and there are some exciting changes happening.

The Honduran Police Technical Institute consists of a cluster of buildings sprawled across a plot of land the size of a large city block. Young women and men in navy blue uniforms and white sweatsuits jog down the main road in formation and scurry from building to building. In the distance, green mountains rise up out of the dry plain that the institute sits on.

This year, this institute is expected to graduate 1,900 new police officers — but most significantly, it is graduating them with a new style of training, one that emphasizes human rights, conflict resolution, and community policing.

AJS has been pressuring the government to make these changes, and we’ve even set an example of how this works through our teams that help ensure justice in cases of homicide and sexual abuse. As the government writes and reforms the main laws regulating the national police force, AJS has been a major voice influencing how the laws should be written.

After Aurora spoke to the young police recruits, one of them asked if he could respond. Seated upright and stiff in his small desk, the recruit told Aurora, “I want to be part of a positive change in our country. I want to respect the rights of others. I’m studying very hard, for 13 hours each day, on how to be a good police officer.”

The challenge for this young man will be the system that he will have to work in after he graduates. For AJS, one of our tasks is to ensure that steps are taken to stop the corruption and impunity that have afflicted the Honduran National Police and the communities they are tasked to serve.

The changes taking place in the police academy are encouraging, but there is still a lot more work to be done. Through it all, AJS and our allies like Aurora will continue following our calling as Christians to love fearlessly and work diligently so that poor Hondurans are treated with dignity and justice.

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