ECUADOR: Salesian Polytechnic University Collaboration Provides Training for Community Policing
(MissionNewswire) Ecuador is one of the most inequitable societies in the world, according to UNICEF. The richest 20 percent of the population receives almost 50 percent of the national income, while the poorest 20 percent receives only five percent. According to the World Food Program, almost 26 percent of all children under age five have stunted growth, increasing to 31 percent in rural areas and 47 percent in indigenous communities.
Violence, especially towards young people, is high in the country. Homicides are the second leading cause of death among young people and the primary cause of death among young women. Instances of physical abuse and domestic violence happen so frequently, they are often not properly handled by local law enforcement agencies. In addition, a high percentage of youth are subject to drug use and are at-risk for engaging in criminal activity and gang violence.
As a proactive measure to decrease the rates of violence in the country, law enforcement is moving to a community policing model, something practiced in communities across the United States since the 1980s. Ecuador’s general police force, which has often lacked specialized training, will now have access to community police training thanks to a partnership between the Salesian Polytechnic University, the Terre des Hommes International Federation’s delegation in Ecuador, the Ecuadoran Interior Ministry and the Ninez & Vida Foundation.
Leading the project is the Terre des Hommes International Federation, a network of ten national organizations working for the rights of children and to promote equitable development without racial, religious, political, cultural or gender-based discrimination. Training is taking place at Salesian Polytechnic University campuses around the country. The 120 hour based training program develops the skills of local police officers, particularly in their ability to peacefully manage conflicts within communities and incorporate the needs of the community as part of the action plan of each police station.
“Police organizations play a very important role in communities and quality training is paramount for officers to do their job well,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The more police officers can be a part of a community, getting to know local residents and understanding their needs, the better able they are to prevent crime rather than just intervene after a crime has been committed.”
The training program also helps law enforcement gain a better understanding of the psychosocial development of adolescents and family and community dynamics as well as teaching non-violent communication and peaceful conflict management. Outside of the classroom, hands-on coaching is provided to help the police officers implement the concepts learned.
The curriculum was initially tested during a pilot program conducted by Terre des Hommes. After participating in this program, more than 30 officers reported an increase in their ability to interact with people and understand community and family dynamics. In addition to the officers participating in the pilot program, 28 officers have successfully completed training in the province of Esmeraldas and close to 100 other communities have worked towards setting up a citizens’ plan for security. Close to 60 more police officers will be trained in 2014 and the program is hoping to expand in 2015.
The Salesian Polytechnic University, which started in 1994 and has campuses in Cuenca, Guayaquil and Quito, provides educational programs in biology, social science and human behavior, education, science and technology, animal science, literature, administration and finance and religion. Students attending the university focus their studies beyond the classroom often taking part in hands-on research and job training.
UNICEF – Ecuador