BA province Security minister vows to double police forces in only two years
by Federico Poore
Buenos Aires Herald, 26-09-2013
The head of the Victory Front (FpV) Buenos Aires province Security Minister Alejandro Granados yesterday announced that one of his key goals in his new post is to have a total of 100,000 police across the province within two years.
“We now have 42,000 men working the streets of the province but we’ll be adding lots more who are now doing paperwork and we’ll be strict with those on sick leave so that they return back to work soon,” Granados said.
Remarks from the former Ezeiza mayor came one day after the so-called Provincial Security Council held a meeting in La Plata City, where Granados began discussing with leaders from different political parties some of the measures he will adopt to fight crime in the province.
But is this promise a realistic goal, or merely wishful thinking?
“It’s very difficult,” former Security secretary León Arslanián told the Herald. “I assigned 5,000 new officers each year, and we had lots of trouble finding them because of the complex selection process.”
Arslanián, who served as a local official during the last part of the 2002-2007 Felipe Solá provincial administration, compared his experience with Granados’ promise of adding 50,000 men a year before the end of 2015.
“I really don’t know how he would do it,” the former official said.
‘Bring back retired officers’
The recently appointed minister explained that apart from taking officers away from desk jobs to patrol the streets there are other ways of boosting personnel numbers.
“Five thousand officers will graduate (from the police academy) in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — a total of 15,000 new men,” said Granados, who congratulated his predecessor Ricardo Casal for the idea of installing decentralized academies.
Both Casal and Granados were appointed by Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli, who, since taking office, has displayed a tough-on-crime discourse and abandoned all previous police reform attempts.
“We’ll receive 10,000 men from the federal forces and up to 10,000 retired police officers,” Granados said. They will be assigned bureaucratic desk jobs “so police officers who are now not assigned security tasks can patrol the streets,” the former Ezeiza mayor added.
He was flanked by Scioli’s right-hand man and Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez.
Sociologist Gabriel Kessler told the Herald he thinks there’s a budget issue at stake that Granados is choosing to ignore.
“The province has chronic budgetary problems. How are they going to double the police workforce?” Kessler asked himself.
However, the author of Sociology of Amateur Crime said other main issues are still open to debate.
“They’re trying to sell the illusion of a fully-controlled territory, the idea that crime can only be tackled through patrolling.”
Moreover, security measures should not be just deployment for deployment’s sake. Where will these new forces go? Who is going to run them? Another problem involves some of those retirees to be called back, Kessler stressed.
“The province needs to know why they abandoned the force,” he said. Were they removed from the force? Were they too old for the job? Did they have experience with a different police culture? All these questions remain unsolved, the sociologist said.
Arslanián recalled a final problem that has already been pointed out by Horacio Verbitsky, head of the Legal and Social Studies Centre (CELS in Spanish), in pro-government newspaper Página/12 — salaries.
According to the former Security minister, officers who work in the Buenos Aires provincial police earn a lot less than those working for the relatively new Metropolitan Police set by Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri. They are paid even less than the already low wages paid to Federal Police forces, he added.
“Metropolitan Police is paying good salaries and is able to ‘suck’ some of the provincial workforce dry,” Arslanián explained.
This is another obstacle if the goal is to add several tens of thousands of police officers to the current workforce. For now, Granados’ promise is just that — a promise.