Security officials in Honduras announced that the National Police will adopt new uniforms designed to combat officer impersonation, a noteworthy step toward combating a longstanding problem.
A police spokesperson said on January 30 that new uniforms will be equipped with small computer chips sewn into officers' shirts beneath the official Honduran National Police patch, El Heraldo reported.
The chip will contain officers' personal information, and officials say it will be difficult for criminal groups to reproduce.
Carlos Hernández, an advisor to the Special Commission for the Purging and Reformation of the National Police, argued that police imitation is an enduring problem in Honduras and that a solution is long overdue.
"In this country we have always complained that there has been a parallel industry of making uniforms that are used for criminal purposes," he said. "It should not surprise us that these new uniforms have distinctive patches."
Police officials also emphasized that the patches are to protect officers and the public and that they will not track or record officers while they are on duty.
InSight Crime Analysis
This new initiative shows that the Honduran National Police is taking steps to address the issue of police impersonation. Acts of violence carried out by criminals impersonating police officers have become relatively commonplace in Honduras.
The effort to address the impersonation problem comes against the backdrop of a larger effort to reform the National Police and help regain public trust after numerous scandals tarnished the force's image.
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Honduras is not alone in combating the threat of police impersonation. The 2015 seizure of 500 contraband police uniforms in El Salvador, the recent breakup of a false police gang in Mexico and the adoption of similar anti-impersonation technology by the Colombian National Police suggest that this is a regional issue.
However, it is not yet clear what impact the introduction of the new uniforms will have in Honduras. In theory, the computer chip technology would allow civilians and other officers to confirm the authenticity and identity of officers wearing the uniform. But doing so requires specialized equipment that can be expensive and difficult for untrained users to operate.