Panamá,25º

21 de Jan de 2020

Nacional

The best police money can't buy

I don't believe that there are very many "one size fits all" organization charts or departmental regulations in public administration. T...

I don't believe that there are very many "one size fits all" organization charts or departmental regulations in public administration. These things ought to vary according to different conditions. I look at the arguments about whether Ricardo Martinelli broke a campaign promise by appointing Gustavo Pérez, Jr. as National Police director, from that point of view. I hear conflicting things about Pérez, and these opinions don't break along expected partisan lines.

Panama doesn't have a public hearings and confirmation vote system to vet presidential appointees like the United States does.

Before recommending the US system, one needs to consider that they have 100 times the talent pool that we do, so if many quality appointees are driven away by the ordeal of the process they have up there, they have many more options; while here, a system that drives away too many people may well leave us only with those dregs with the most artfully fictitious resumés to fill our public posts.

On the face of it, Martinelli's appointment of a PRD member who was the number two man in Noriega's Special Anti-Terrorist Unit is not a violation of his promise to rescind Martín Torrijos's security decrees.

The main problem was that those decrees were an attempt to create a command structure that preempts the authority of elected civilian leaders.

But Pérez is coming back to the public sector after many years as a private ports security expert. His appointment is probably a blow to the military establishment that Torrijos tried to foster.

It's a good idea to have former cops who left the force in good standing to pursue other occupations and learn other skills coming back years later to fill command positions. That's not to rule out promotions from within, but they should never be as narrowly circumscribed as Torrijos wanted to make them.

We want brilliant men and women, people who are well educated in many different fields, on our police force. We shouldn't create a system that gives the advantage to mediocre time servers and insufferable sycophants.

SMART COPS. Well paid police officers are less likely to try to pad their incomes through corruption. But only to a certain extent. Over the years the crooks who have been exposed in law enforcement have included some of the higher paid ones.

However, educational benefits that allow police officers to study any subject of their choice and in many cases enter professions that pay much better than police work are another way to attract high quality recruits and keep them honest.

That many of these people will leave the force can be counted as a loss for police, but there's an offsetting gain for society. The bench and bar would be improved by more men and women with experience in police work, and in turn, the police would benefit as an institution to have a pool of judges and lawyers who started out as cops when looking to fill important posts.

The same can be said with respect to ex-cops in the medical profession, accounting, academia, the arts or many other pursuits.

The long-term result of a policy in which the smarter officers are expected to move in and out of police work?

It would be a police force that's part of, rather than apart from, our society.