Two sides have differing opinions on legality and propriety of transfer of police officers assigned to the Attorney General’s Office.
The controversy between the Government and the Attorney General’s Office continues. On Saturday, February 11, 2023, the Ministry of the Interior transferred all the Police officers assigned to the Public Ministry.
This measure affected 37 police officers, including criminal case investigators and the security team of prosecutor Diana Salazar.
The Prosecutor’s Office described the changes as a “clear interference in justice.” The Police responded that the transfers are part of a routine staff rotation plan, since the legal periods have been met.
Prosecutor requests reconsideration
But the controversy did not end there. On Sunday morning, the Prosecutor’s Office issued a new statement regarding the issue, saying it was sending a letter to Juan Zapata, the Minister of the Interior, asking him to cancel the transfer.
The petition covered changes to investigators and top security personnel, which includes five members of Salazar’s personal protection team.
The Public Ministry says this decision “denotes a clear intention to undermine peace of mind and jeopardize the personal integrity” of Salazar.
In its new statement, the Prosecutor’s Office explained that based on the Code of Security Entities (Coescop), the transfer of personnel would be illegal.
Article 137 of this norm establishes that the Prosecutor’s Office presides over the Comprehensive Specialized System of Investigation, Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (Seiimlcf).
Based on that position, the Prosecutor’s Office says it has the “legal coverage to direct and coordinate the technical-investigative police personnel of the System’s operating entities, without being subject to officialdom of any kind.”
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the new staff includes 20 agents who come from the Community Police, with no experience in the criminal area. And these agents are not yet accredited by the Seiimlcf.
National Court criticizes transfer
In the midst of the controversy, as the highest entity of ordinary justice, the National Court of Justice (CNJ) issued a statement on February 12th. The entity criticized the decision of the National Police on the transfer of the uniformed officers assigned to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Court indicated that this decision affects “the independence and integrity of the judges and the Prosecutor’s Office.”
For this reason, the CNJ demanded that the State authorities respect and guarantee the powers of judicial servants. As well as “his [her] security and his [her] honor.” Since, doing otherwise “attacks due process, judicial protection and other rights.”
The Assembly jumped in
Almost simultaneously with the Court’s reaction, the National Assembly also issued a statement on the transfer of the police officers assigned to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Legislature said that a rotation of personnel, in the midst of open investigations, “only… achieves in delaying an investigative process, which the country requires with due speed and opportunity.”
According to the statement of the Assembly, the transfer of uniformed officers is due to the latest raids made by the Prosecutor’s Office. On Friday, February 10th, the Public Ministry raided the Presidency of the Republic.
Minister of Government denies transfer interferences in Justice
According to the new Minister of Government, Henry Cucalón, the transfer of police officers assigned to the Prosecutor’s Office is a routine task that has been done in the past.
In one of his first appearances since he took office, the Minister denied that the transfer of police officers assigned to the Prosecutor’s Office is an interference in Justice.
“I call for calm. Replace is not the same as remove, it is a common process. There is no obstruction or interference,” Cucalón said in an interview on Telemazonas on February 13th.
Cucalón said that the measure corresponds to a habitual rotation, carried out by the Department of Human Talent of the National Police, and not by the Government.
“Those who carry out the investigations are the prosecutors, and they must be supported.”
The new Minister pointed out that in 2022 at least 6,000 procedures of this type were carried out among State institutions, and some 330 transfers were in the Police.
Police say that staff turnover is routine
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the new police team “that is intended to be imposed,” does not have specific experience in the criminal area and has not passed confidence tests. And the officers will have to start from the beginning in all the ongoing processes.
After the public complaint by the Prosecutor’s Office, the National Police also issued a statement. The entity clarified that it continues to support the Prosecutor’s Office with the same number of investigators and security agents for the prosecutor Diana Salazar.
“Only the staff have been rotated, as appropriate after completing their period,” said the institution.
According to the Police, this rotation is carried out with all the entities with which it collaborates and some internal areas of the institution itself.
These are some of the changes:
- Legislative Escort: 80% turnover
- Internal Revenue Service: 90% turnover
- Constitutional Court: 90% turnover
- Institute of Historical Studies of the National Police: 90% turnover
- Galapagos: 100% rotation
- Border control staff: 100% turnover
- Prison contingency staff: 100% turnover
- Quito transit service: 98% turnover