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How Much Police Corruption is There in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica News – There are 900 traffic officers patrolling more than 25,000 miles of Costa Rican roads in 3 shifts. The Internal Affairs Department of the Public Works and Transportation Company receives hundreds of complaints against corrupt traffic officers every year. When it comes to trying these cases however, less than 50% of those who submit complaints ever show up to declare in trial.

costa rica police corruptionIn 2013, 391 complaints were filed but only 126 were processed. 2014 seems to be progressing at the same rate as the previous year. In only So far, more than 250 complaints have been made but only 45 could be processed. Many of the cases claim illegal transactions including a traffic officer asking for a bribe in exchange for him not writing the person a ticket. In 2013, 5 officers were let go after being found guilty of this charge. One more traffic officer has been fired because of a similar incident this year.

So let’s estimate the numbers of traffic officers that have had complaints filed against them for acting unethical in the line of work. There have been 250 complaints filed this year. This means there will be about 500 for the year.  Let’s assume on a conservative estimate that these 500 complaints are for only 250 Costa Rica officers.  This is a random guess and it could be less or more.  There are 900 police officers and we are making the assumption that 250 have had complaints filed against them.  This means that about 28% of officers have been suspect of unethical behavior.

I truthfully think these numbers are higher than the assumed 28% as this does not take into effect those that did not take the time to file a complaint for whatever reason. It could be because they are scared to do so or just did not have time.  An educated guess would be that about 1/3 of Costa Rican police officers are corrupt, or about 1 in 3.  Good chance those light flashing behind you are maneuvered by a corrupt Costa Rican cop.

Another large amount of complaints are bogus and made out of anger when a particular officer writes them a ticket. The department is forced to filter through these situations all the same just in case. Unfortunately this means that they are not able to concentrate on the real cases that need attention. This law was only put into place in 2012 and although it has seen many positive results there are still details that need to be ironed out. The department would be able to focus on the real cases if another control was put into place that filtered out the real cases from the angry resentment cases from the get go.

Officers are subject to up to 30 days suspension without pay if sanctioned. These sanctions come from suspected corruption cases but most often if the officer does not turn in their daily ticket report or if they do not show up to a trial that they were asked to attend. Once convicted of a larger crime, like abuse of authority, they can be subject to up to 8 years in jail.

The only way to possibly cut down on this is to go through the entire legal process of filing the complaint and then appearing at court.  At this point in 2014 only 45 out of 250 complaints have been processed or 18%.  Without anyone holding these officers accountable, they will continue their corrupt behavior.  Either that or their pay can be increased….but that is not likely going to happen.

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