Author:Carolyn Martinez, Michelle Martinez

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Official country name: Republic of Colombia

Capital: Bogotá

Geographic description: A large country in northern South America, south of Panama

Population: 42,954,279 (est. 2005)


In the pre-Columbian age the conquest with the arrival of Spanish conquistadors and the colonial periods ruled by Spain, there was no law enforcement except for the military. Viceroy José de Ezpeleta Galdeano created a police force in Bogotá in 1791. In 1890 Carlos Holguín sanctioned Law 90 that created a National Police; this law allowed the government to contract, either in the United States or in Europe, someone capable of organizing the new National Police. In 1891 the French began helping Colombia build a police force; the force was organized by a commissar of France's National Police, Juan Maria Marcelino Gilbert. At the time Colombia's police force consisted of approximately 450 men. By 1899 there were 944 men in the National Police, and they were divided into eight divisions. During the Thousand Days' War, the National Police came under the governing of the Ministry of Military until 1901. Law 41, decreed on November 4, 1915, divided the National Police into three sections: one section dealt with security and monitoring, the second was a Civil Guard, and the third became the Judicial Police.

On May 4, 1946, the political police unit was created, organized by the Conservative president Mariano Ospina Pérez; the police were used to threaten, terrify, and murder Liberals. Two years later on April 9 the political police inspired greater fear in what was known as La Violencia, which lasted until the 1960s. During the 1950s the National Police department was moved to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of National Defense from that of the Ministry of the Government. In January 1978 Colombia's Congress granted the police and the military a license to kill. This was intended to handle the widespread terror and narcotics that had increased since 1966 with the founding of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC; Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN; National Liberation Army), and the Movimiento 19 de Abril (M-19; April 19 Movement). In 1988 the National Police was Colombia's principal law enforcement organization. As indicated by Colombia's 1991 constitution, the National Police is part of the armed forces with headquarters located in Bogotá.

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Structure and Organization

The 1991 constitution states that there are four main branches in the armed forces: air force, navy, army, and the National Police. The National Police deal specifically with public order and internal affairs. Each branch is barred from involvement in political matters, and only the armed forces may produce or possess weapons, munitions, and explosives without special permission.

The National Police is modeled after the military branches and its organization parallels the headquarters' command, which is divided into distinct operational sections including personnel, intelligence, operations, and logistics.

Hierarchy and Ranks

The hierarchy is like that of the army and each wears the representative symbol of his or her rank on the uniform. The official hierarchy is as follows:


Lieutenant Colonel

Second Lieutenant Colonel

Major General


Brigadier General




The executive level's hierarchy is the following:



Assistant Paymaster


Intendente Jefe


The noncommissioned officers' hierarchy is the following:

Sergeant Major

Second Sergeant

First Sergeant

First Corporal

Sargento Viceprimero

Second Corporal

Police-Community Relations

The relationship between the National Police and the community has been strained at best. Robert H. Davis (1993) mentions that liberticida was a term coined by journalists to describe the effect of the government security laws passed in 1927–1928 to allow national police forces greater latitude in suppressing alleged threats to the state. Since then, the relationship between the police and community has not improved much. Also, according to Davis, there have been scandals linking the police with murders, the destruction of unions, and more. During the 1980s some believed that the mayors and civil magistrates that had input in law enforcement matters were a corrupting influence.

Local Police

The National Police's primary duties are to handle common crimes along with narcotics interdiction and some counterinsurgency work. They are also to participate in rural areas in civic action and riot control. Other duties include traffic regulation enforcement, public recreation area supervision, gold and emerald mines security, and transportation of valuables between government banks and on the national railroads. The National Police also provide guards for the prison system and the necessary administration.

Special Police

A number of specialized units in the National Police fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense. The Agrupación de Fuerzas Especiales Antiterroristas Urbanas (AFEAU; Urban Counterterrorist Special Forces Group), which consists of approximately 100 personnel from all branches of the armed forces as well as the National Police, is led by the commander of the armed forces. The AFEAU was formed out of the failed assault on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá. Sniper teams, assault teams, a crisis management team, and a hostage negotiation team make up the AFEAU. Little is known about this unit's actual operations, though available information states that the AFEAU provides security at the guest residences and meeting sites attended by the presidents of various nations. In support of this security effort unit operators conduct preemptive raids on suspected safe houses thought to be housing individuals who pose potential threats to the event.

Another specialized unit is the Unidad Antisecuestro y Extorcion (UNASE; Antikidnapping and Extortion Unit). The UNASE was created in response to a record number of kidnappings in Bogotá in 1991, and its specialty is hostage rescue. The guerrilla groups FARC and ELN are frequently the perpetrators of kidnapping for ransom. Being a part of the highly trained specialized UNASE team is dangerous. Members are often involved in shootouts with these terrorists. The ranks of UNASE are filled by members of the police force. UNASE units are based in major Colombian cities such as Cali, Bogotá, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga. Part of the UNASE is

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Colombian police escort guerrilla commander Omaira Rojas from the Valledupar maximum security jail to a flight that will extradite her to the United States, March 9, 2005. Rojas, a woman known as "Sonia," was a commander in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and believed to be a ...

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