Colombian officials have begun helping Honduras to polygraph their police force to try and determine if any have ties to organized crime, evidence of Colombia’s increased role in providing security training in the region.
As part of an effort to combat the high levels of police corruption in Honduras, DIECP, the investigative body charged with assessing suspect police officers, began a series of tests on June 27 involving psychological assessments, toxicology tests, and a polygraph, reports Honduran newspaper La Prensa.
Five Colombian experts have been sent to the country to assist with the polygraph which will also be overseen by US officials. According to El Heraldo, the participants were asked eight questions, including whether they had ever been paid off for kidnapping, trafficking drugs, or carrying out extrajudicial killings.
Two groups of 40 police officers were set to take part in this initial round, however, only 36 participated on June 27, and 33 on July 2. Assessments are set to be completed this week.
DIECP is planning to evaluate around 300 officers this year through the same program.
Colombia’s role in regional security has grown markedly in recent years, largely as a result of the US-backed Plan Colombia which has seen some $8 billion of mostly police and military aid provided since 2000. The country has helped train forces from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Haiti and even offered security advice to African nations. Furthermore, Colombian police are known to have been assisting their Honduran counterparts since at least 2010.
The assumption of this role has made Colombia something of a poster child for the US and its military aid programs throughout the region. In 2010, then-US Defense Secretary Robert Gates praised the country’s security advances and its progression towards being an “exporter of security.”
The Honduran police force is one of the most beleagured in the region, with officers believed to be actively colluding with gangs in trafficking drugs and carrying out extrajudicial killings. Initiatives to combat corruption have so far fallen flat, despite the country calling on others to assist in police reform. In January, for example, a delegation of Chilean officers visited the country to consult with Honduran officials and provide policy recommendations.
The DIECP initiative is a welcome step forward. However, with a police force of 14,500, evaluating 300 officers is only a drop in the bucket, a problem exacerbated further still if officers fail to submit themselves to the tests.