Community policing plays a very important role in Ecuador. It is the most decentralised police force which, from police stations in the heart of each community, works directly with the people.
The role of this police force is prevention rather than intervention. Indeed, community police is, on the one hand, the first point of contact with the community in case of conflict and on the other hand, on account of its proximity to communities, the community police plays an essential role in the prevention of violence and delinquency.
Historically, this so-called ‘general’ police force did not receive much training despite the importance of the tasks assigned to it. Institutions preferred to concentrate on more specialised police bodies.
However, the state now wishes to change this situation and wants to develop the skills of these police officers, particularly in their ability to manage conflicts within communities peacefully and ensure the inclusion of the needs of the community as part of the action plan of each police station.
Based on a systemic approach, this training helps to foster a better understanding of the psycho-social development of adolescents, the family and community dynamic, non-violent communication and peaceful conflict management. In parallel, hands-on coaching is carried out which is designed to help the police implement the concepts learned.
To assess the added value of the training, the delegation carried out a test by means of a pilot project aimed at 33 community police officers from all regions designated by the Ministry. The police officers stressed that the training and coaching provided by Tdh not only allowed them to interact better with people but also gave them the tools to better understand community dynamics in general and family dynamics in particular.
Given this positive assessment, the Interior Ministry asked Tdh to work in the regions of the country most affected by conflict, particularly the regions bordering Columbia which not only suffer from armed conflict but also from youth delinquency caused by various forms of trafficking (drugs, people, arms etc.).
28 members of the law and order forces in the province of Esmeraldas have successfully completed the training and have worked with over 40 communities in prioritising the issues that affect them in particular.
In August 2014, nearly 100 communities were able to work towards setting up a citizens’ plan for security. 61 police officers were awarded a continuing education diploma by a state university attesting to their ability to apply techniques for peaceful conflict management and the prevention of delinquency.
The next step is to work with two other challenging regions in 2014 to train another group of around 60 police officers and enlarge the project in 2015 by increasing follow up training with those police officers already trained.