In an attempt to obtain better control over its notoriously corrupt and unreliable police force, Guatemala plans to equip officers with microchips that will track their whereabouts.
The microchips, which will be placed on the back of police badges, will store information on the officers' movement, reports AFP. This will allow authorities to ensure that police are sticking to their orders, as well as determine if officers were present at the scene of a crime.
Guatemala's interior minister, Mauricio Lopez, also told the press that the colors and fabric of police uniforms will be changed, both to make it easier for citizens to distinguish between different elements of the force and to make it more difficult for criminals to create fake police uniforms.
InSight Crime Analysis
As an International Crisis Group report released in July found, Guatemala's National Civil Police (PNC) is widely perceived as corrupt and incompetent. Last month, authorities arrested a ring of police officers who allegedly carried out extortion, kidnappings, carjacking, and money laundering. The officers reportedly committed the crimes while on duty and used official police identification, uniforms, and vehicles as cover, highlighting the concerns meant to be addressed by the tracking chips.
But even high-tech measures like the tracking chips are no substitute for significant police reform, which has stalled. In the face of Guatemalan criminal gangs and Mexican drug traffickers, the police often poorly trained and outgunned, and understaffed, with only 25,000 agents in a country of over 14 million. Although President Otto Perez has promised to add 10,000 new officers to the force, the current pace of expansion (1,500 new agents are trained every nine months) is sluggish.
Given the political and financial challenges posed by police reform, there is concern that President Perez will deepen his reliance on the military rather than the police for security, a policy that could undermine efforts to overhaul the police force. Since taking office, the president has created four new military brigades to combat organized crime. The Guatemalan Army's fatal shooting of eight protestors earlier this month, however, highlights the dangers of using the military as a substitute for competent civil law enforcement.