Newly graduated police officers in Ecuador are facing a significant challenge as they enter the force without essential equipment. Despite the recent graduation of 8,500 agents, the National Police has yet to provide them with new pistols, vests, and helmets. The government has acknowledged the issue and claims to have reserves available, but the reality on the ground tells a different story.
Guillermo Lasso’s government has made a bold promise to increase the number of police officers in Ecuador to 80,000 by 2025, up from 51,000 when he took office in May 2021. To meet this target, the administration initiated accelerated training programs that reduced the training period from two years to just six months.
Some new agents already deployed
This approach allowed for the graduation of the new batch of officers on June 6th and 9th, in Rumiñahui and Guayaquil, respectively, bringing the total police force to over 60,000. Furthermore, the recruitment of an additional 5,000 officers slated to graduate by the end of the year has already commenced.
The intention behind these efforts is to strengthen police presence in areas with the highest levels of conflict. For instance, Guayaquil is set to receive 1,290 new officers, 500 of whom arrived on June 15, 2023. However, the influx of recruits has exposed a significant problem: while the police force is expanding in numbers, infrastructure and equipment are failing to keep up.
The lack of adequate infrastructure for the new officers is a cause for concern. As a temporary solution, the agents are being accommodated in improvised sleeping arrangements within classrooms at the Catholic University of Guayaquil, using inflatable mattresses. This situation reflects the urgent need for proper housing facilities to accommodate the growing police force.
Moreover, the shortage of equipment is exacerbating the challenges faced by the new officers. Despite the training starting in October 2022, the police have only recently initiated the procurement process for pistols, helmets, and bulletproof vests, beginning on February 17, 2023. The purchase processes are scheduled to be completed by June 19th and 20th. However, as of June 15th, the qualification stage for helmets and weapons was still underway and offers for vests were being evaluated.
Minister’s false claim
When questioned about the lack of equipment, Juan Zapata, Minister of the Interior, acknowledged the issue but claimed that the police have reserves available in reserves.
This contradicts the official documents associated with the procurement processes. For instance, the Storage Department confirmed on May 23, 2023, that ballistic helmets and vests were not available in their warehouses. The Gunsmith of the institution also certified the absence of short-arm pistols in various regions nationwide.
Although the Police have purchased 24 million rounds of ammunition, with five million arriving on June 15, 2023, Minister Zapata clarified that the entire budget allocated for this year has already been exhausted. Consequently, the purchases for the new officers are reliant on additional allocations, leading the institution to request an increase in the budget ceiling.
To compound the problem, the new officers are not yet deployed on the streets due to their assignment to conflict zones. They are currently undergoing intensive training, lasting three weeks, to familiarize themselves with the use of both short and long arms. While this training is essential, the delay in providing the necessary equipment puts additional strain on an already stretched police force.