Cablegate: Costa Rican Police Professionalization Program


DE RUEHSJ #0997/01 1452045
P 252045Z MAY 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. SUMMARY: Taking advantage of technical assistance from
NAS Panama, Post has launched a multi-year program to
professionalize Costa Rica's national police force. With
crime rates rising rapidly and over 700,000 Amcits visiting
each year, the program is a key part of our Mission Strategic
Plan and responds to a direct request for assistance from the
Arias Administration. The goal of the program is ultimately
to transform Costa Rica's Fuerza Publica from a traditional,
reactive police force into a proactive, community-oriented
police force that is truly preventative. Implementation will
require a complete change of philosophy within the Fureza
Publica and making effective use of information tools like
COMPSTAT. Costa Rica will also have to dedicate substantial
financial and human resources to the project. With top-level
buy-in and a 35% increase in the Ministry of Public
Security's 2007 budget, plus progress on campaign promises to
hire 4,000 new police officers over the Arias
administration's four years in power, the program is off to a
good start. END SUMMARY.

The Program
2. The first part of the program targets top police managers
through a series of seminars on executive leadership
(SEMAGEL). The first SEMAGEL was held in San Jose on April
25-26 at the Ministry of Public Security. The top official
for each police district (all 10 Comissarios) and nearly 20
key operational and administrative staff attended the
seminar. Since the program entails radical change, debate
was lively from the outset with obviously different levels of
buy-in among the Comissarios. Over the course of the
seminar, NAS Panama's Police Advisor Don Gosselin and the
head of Panama's Metropolitan Police Unit Rigoberto
Feuillebois addressed questions, challenges, and reservations
based on their direct personal experience. While it is too
soon to declare all the seminar participants completely on
board, they do have a fuller understanding of what the
changes mean and how they will be implemented. The
philosophies behind community policing were discussed at
length. Participants were taught a self-evaluation tool
(called EARE in Spanish) in which success is measured in
terms of problems solved at the community level and with
community participation.

3. Political leadership at the Ministry of Public Security
is fully committed to the program. At the end of the
seminar, Vice Minister Gutierrez impressed the participants
with his knowledge of the program and made clear to all that
a full transition to community policing is a key part of the
Ministry's overall policy. The Vice Minister acknowledged
that implementation will require a complete revision of
philosophy and doctrine within the Fuerza Publica. Gutierrez
urged the Comissarios to faithfully implement the transition,
and warned that he will be following their progress closely.

4. The second part of the program is to improve management
tools and technology. Gosselin and Feuillebois introduced
COMPSTAT as a management tool to assist senior managers in
holding subordinates accountable for results. COMPSTAT is a
data-analysis tool that generates digital maps which display
exactly where and when crimes occur so that trends can be
identified and police resources applied effectively. The
group participated in a mock COMPSTAT meeting to understand
how the process works from the supervisory and mid-level
management perspective. Participants saw clearly how
COMPSTAT can help them respond proactively to prevent crimes
rather than merely reacting afterward. They also saw how the
system will quickly provide feedback to them and to their
superiors if they fail to use the information effectively.
COMPSTAT, or a system like it would be a highly effective
tool in holding mid-level police managers accountable to
their communities.

Next Steps
5. The next phase of SEMAGEL is practical application and
will begin June 18. The first SEMAGEL seminar ended with a
homework assignment. Participants returned to their
districts charged with working with their communities to
identify an existing security problem that is solvable within
current resources. Officials are expected to work with
community leaders to resolve the problem while applying the
EARE self-evaluation tool. Gosselin and Feuillebios will
return to review results and to hold another mock COMPSTAT
meeting based on the results.
6. The final phase will require training for up to 150
mid-level managers in order to create a "command structure"
capable of directing and focusing the efforts of the 4,000
new police officers Arias has promised. Using a "train the
trainer" model, these mid-level officers will be trained
primarily in Costa Rica by officials we will send to various
instructor development courses and police academies in the
U.S. Post began this process by sending four officials
identified by the Ministry as "agents of change" to
participate in a separate series of leadership seminars
sponsored by NAS Panama and developed in conjunction with the
Southern Police Institute at Louisville University (Reftel).
This five-week course will build on SEMAGEL and provide
in-depth training for the implementation of community
policing. Also, we will send officials to train at the
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in
conjunction with training financed by NAS Panama. Finally, we
are exploring opportunities to send instructors to train at
the New Mexico State Police Academy as part of the new Costa
Rica State Partnership Program with the New Mexico National

7. The program is ambitious, urgently needed, and off to a
good start. Adequate resource levels to train the mid-level
managers and to provide some, but not all, of the equipment
necessary to get a COMPSTAT-like system operating will
determine our success. The GOCR is willing and able to meet
us part way. For our part, we have requested $200,000 in
INCLE funds for 2008 and an additional $100,000 for 2009 to
support the program and see it through to completion. For
Costa Rica to persuade the region that military forces are no
longer needed to maintain domestic security, its police
forces must be better trained, better led, more professional
and more effective. For a few hundred thousand dollars, we
can give them a significant push in the right direction.

© Scoop Media

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