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Serious Problem: When the Police Become the Victim of Criminals (From Policing in Central and Eastern Europe: Deviance, Violence, and Victimization, P 527-539, 2002, Milan Pagon, ed. -- See NCJ-206198)

NCJ Number
Sebastion Sal
Date Published
13 pages
This paper examines the trend in Argentina toward criminals victimizing police through killings, woundings, and assaults, followed by a comparison of Argentine security policy with that of other countries.
There are two categories of police organizations in Argentina. The Federal Police Department has jurisdiction over Federal territories, such as Buenos Aires City. Each Province also has its own police department. Buenos Aires City is surrounded by suburbs that are located in the Buenos Aires Province. Thus, the Federal police and the provincial police are responsible for adjoining jurisdictions in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. Criminals typically commit crimes in Buenos Aires City and then find shelter in the slum areas of the suburbs. The police are hated in Argentina because they are viewed as tools of oppression of a government that has failed to provide economic opportunities for the middle class, many of which have descended into poverty and slum housing. Killing or injuring a police officer has become a status symbol among juveniles in the slums. These attacks typically occur when police officers are off-duty. The number of police officers killed in Argentina increased 57 percent between 1996 and 2000, and woundings of police increased 22 percent over this period. This trend has increased fear and anxiety among police officers and made them more ready to shoot anyone who shows any sign of aggression or threat. The police agencies have sought to address this problem by counseling and training officers in the use of force and supplying officers with body armor. Officers are also trained to hide their identities as officers when they are off-duty. In May 2002, the Argentine Congress passed a new law that mandates life imprisonment for anyone who kills a member of the security force, a police officer, or corrections personnel. This paper also reviews measures of physical protection for police officers in Europe, Australia, and the United States. This paper advises that Argentine police agencies and officers must take the initiative in improving police-community relations, such that attitudes toward police become more positive. Police should also be trained to fire their weapons only under circumstances where it is clear that their lives are being threatened. Training must focus on restraint in the use of firearms. The cycle of violence under which police and criminals fear that the other is determined to kill them will only perpetuate and escalate the violence. Police must ensure citizens that their rights will be respected, even when they have committed crimes. 21 notes