May 23, 2011
On a visit to Mexico, I heard about an interesting idea to help combat the wave of murders, kidnappings and other security problems that is rocking most Latin American countries -- creating independent monitoring groups to scrutinize the police.
But now, with the drug-related violence that has left nearly 40,000 deaths over the past five years, Mexicans are desperate for a solution to end the bloodshed. On
Much like similar marches that have taken place in recent years in
"There is an international consensus that insecurity and violence are due to many factors that need to be attacked in many ways. But nothing that we do to improve public security will work unless we reform our existing police institutions," he wrote.
Curious about the idea, I asked
Whereas Human Rights Commissions and People's Advocates Offices can only make recommendations, independent police monitoring groups have more investigative powers -- including subpoena powers in many cases -- and more influence to reform police forces, he said.
"The International trend is to strengthen external controls over the police as much as possible," he told me. "
According to leaders of several U.S. police monitoring groups, the secret of their success is that they are not on the payroll of police departments.
In the case of
"Having subpoena power makes an important difference, because we can compel people to answer questions under oath," says
My opinion: In the long run, reducing crime rates in
But none of this will be enough unless countries clean up corruption-ridden police forces. Creating independent police oversight commissions is an idea that
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(C) 2011 Andres Oppenheimer, The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services