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Where do police institutions in Latin America stand today, and where might they be in 2030? Despite attempts at reform, most Latin American police today conserve the rigid bureaucracy, lack of transparency, and propensity for abuse of authority that preceded the advent of democracy. The result is police forces that are frequently unable to meet citizen expectations in a context defined by increasing demands from citizens and unprecedented threats—notably from organized crime—that lay bare the weaknesses of police institutions and sometimes reinforce their worst traits. Nonetheless, modest changes in some countries offer a potential roadmap for future progress, including the demilitarization of the police (with notable exceptions) and the willingness to experiment with new forms of police-society relations, or “community policing” practices.
The key trends and challenges that will determine the state of Latin American police forces in 2030:
- Organized crime and the militarization of internal security;
- Centralization versus decentralization;
- Community policing;
- Police recruitment, training, and work conditions;
- Adoption of technology and information systems;
- Police transparency and citizen legitimacy.