Desertion rate high among experienced detectives
PANAMA. The fusion between the Judicial Investigation Department (DIJ ) and the National Police has been an unfortunate decision. This...
PANAMA. The fusion between the Judicial Investigation Department (DIJ ) and the National Police has been an unfortunate decision. This was the finding of La Estrella after interviewing former members of the defunct Judicial Technical Police (PTJ).
Problems such as low wages, too much work, no upward mobility and having to carry out functions that really are the responsibility of other governmental institutions have created disillusionment and the desertion of around 700 inspectors over the last five years.
The situation inside the department is bad. The DIJ has been absorbed and alienated by the National Police, mixing its preventive function with its investigative one, meaning that the DIJ has been relegated to second place, according to former PTJ units.
A detective cannot be trained overnight and has to go through a long learning process. Recruits have to be in good physical condition and be willing to learn about crime, which means that they have to dominate a vast range of disciplines. With bad training and without the necessary tools to carry out a proper investigation, mistakes are going to happen – such as the case of the two young fishermen who were shot by policemen who allegedly confused them with drug dealers and then tried to cover up their mistake by planting evidence.
The former PTJ units explained that detectives know how to write a case file, what they need to find out and the processes they have to follow before a case can be passed to the Public Ministry for the suspects to be prosecuted.
Currently, the mass resignation of trained inspectors capable of carrying out investigations has led to the Police transferring several of its members to the DIJ to cover the vacant jobs.
“The inspector who investigates homicides and resigns leaves a great hole and, in fraud cases where the criminals are very smart, the Police cannot solve them due to lack of experience,” said a former detective who did not want to be identified.
According to him, the fishermen case went to the Public Ministry tainted from the beginning, especially after it became apparent that evidence was planted.
Due to the fishermen case, the Attorney General, Ana Matilde Gómez, requested that all cases in which members of the National Police are involved at the scene, custody should be in the hands of the DIJ.
The former inspectors said that it is pretty common for trained detectives to handle simultaneously between 135 and 150 files in a period of 60 days and that is why many cases remain unsolved. What was done in the past with a force of 50 people is now the responsibility of one person.
The Legal Medicine Institute ad interim director, Jose Vicente Pachard, said that the lack of knowledge with regard to the procedures that must be followed when investigating a homicide affects its results and could result in a criminal going free if the chain of evidence is not respected.
The Attorney General’s Secretary, Rigoberto Gonzalez, said that although a lot of detectives have resigned, many have stayed and added that sometimes mistakes are not made for lack of knowledge but for the way evidence is interpreted and the DIJ is continuing to do its job.