What ever happened to trust in Colombia?

recently released video reveals the abuse that a freshman police has
to undergo as part of a seeming right of passage ritual. In the
video, the naked policeman is forcefully taken by fellow officers to
the site where his commander feeds him animal feces. The video brings
law enforcement institutions, yet again, into the middle of a human
rights scandal which continues a long process of delegitimization of
these institutions. Colombia must have law enforcement institutions
that inspire trust amongst citizens, and that maintain high ethical
and moral standards.

The video
that has been made public is not only appalling, but also
disturbingly ironic. The policemen conducting the event jokingly
bring up human rights, while a fellow officer lies naked on the floor
awaiting his fate. Then, the highest-ranking officer, who leads the
occurrence, refers to the baptism and communion of the victim, prior
to feeding him animal feces.

While the
highest-ranking officer featured in the video has been taken
off-duty, the revelations raise questions that cannot be dismissed
easily. Why would a high-ranking police official consider this
behavior to be acceptable? Why is there a sense amongst participants
that the actions taking place are normal? Above all, if actions like
this are occurring within the police, is the national police an
institution that Colombians can trust?

In a
nation like Colombia, in which the respect for the law cannot be
enforced throughout the entire territory, and in which violence and
disrespect for basic human rights are defining characteristics of the
lives of many, the ability for citizens to trust the institutions
charged with law enforcement is incredibly important.

At a time
in which Colombia is searching for solutions to the many issues
resulting from the long-standing armed conflict, it is crucial for
governmental and law enforcement institutions to inspire trust
amongst the citizens so that they can then serve as the legitimate
drivers of the transformations necessary to address those issues.
Colombians must be sure that the police and the military are on the
right side of morality and justice. It is time for them to prove it.

Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations in New York   

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