President Danilo Medina on 25 June issued a decree replacing the heads of the national police force and of the police's drugs-control directorate (DNCD).
The replacement of the two chiefs is unlikely to resolve the problems plaguing the police force, or to lead to an immediate improvement in security conditions. Widespread corruption, both within the DNCD and throughout the PN, combined with a shortage of resources and a large number of poorly trained officers have undermined efforts to improve the security situation and effectively tackle persistent high rates of violent crime.
However, the decision to appoint new heads highlights that the government is aware of the importance of implementing institutional changes if the situation is to improve. The government is preparing to submit plans for comprehensive police reforms to Congress. However, even if the reforms are swiftly passed and successfully implemented, the deep-rooted nature of the security challenges means that they are unlikely to significantly reduce crime in the short term.
In this context, crime – which has increased sharply over the past decade – is likely to remain a significant challenge for the government and businesses alike. The most credible threat facing foreign business personnel is opportunistic crime, including petty theft, pickpocketing and mugging. However, high levels of impunity and the widespread availability of firearms mean that there is a risk of being exposed to incidental violence during attempted robberies.
The government has yet to make public its reasons for removing the two men from their posts, though it has divulged that they were both discharged honourably. Medina has indicated that the decision was not prompted by allegations relating to corruption or involvement in criminal activity.