Citizens break the law and police officers abuse their power
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Recently, two law students were violently forced by police officers to get out of their car. A video, which has been transmitted by national media and uploaded to social networks, shows the officers’ attitudes and the students’ reactions. The local government accepted that there was an abuse of power on the part of the policemen. The students filed a complaint before the Ministerio Público (Offices of the State Attorney General), which has launched an inquiry, and before the Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos (Office of Human Rights). According to the students, their human rights were not respected.
On March 14, the Zúñiga brothers (Alan and Osvaldo), according to Alan, were at a service station with their car. When they left the shop in their car, Osvaldo (who was not driving) had a glass of beer in his hand. The police officers saw them and asked them to stop the car, but according to Alan, “We did not stop the car because we were not doing anything. We were about to turn into the Aurrerá parking lot. I kept driving and they got out of the patrol car and that is when everything began.” On March 18, the video, which has had close to 200,000 hits on YouTube and has been shown multiple times on national television, appeared on social networks. It shows the moment when one of the police officers points to one of the students with a gun while a second policeman tries to pull the driver from the car by the neck and squeezes his genitals. The students try to explain to the officers that they are wrong and they cannot take them out of the car because it is private property, but one of the policemen answers, “You will get out because I want you to.” After arguing and wrestling, the students do not get out of the car, and a third policeman appears. Pointing at the student who is filming, he says, “If you keep filming me, you will regret it.” Later, one of the police officers sprays a tearing agent, such as pepper spray, at the students and they get out of the car.
Alan told Atención that they were mistreated; several bruises are apparent on his hand and face. For that reason they filed the complaint and are asking that the policemen be censured. He urged the authorities to investigate the case.
Local government acknowledges abuse of power
The local government reported that the motorists were arrested for insulting the police officers, for driving while they were drinking alcoholic beverages, and for not obeying the instructions of the authorities. They also said that a similar car had been reported in connection with vehicle thefts in the city in recent days. Gabriel Arturo Saldaña, director of Public Security, answered some questions for Atención.
Jesús Aguado: Was the police officers’ behavior correct?
Gabriel Arturo Yáñez: There are situations, shown in the video, that are not correct or proper on the part of the police. Even if there was a disorderly conduct from the students, the procedure was not correct.
JA: What would be the correct procedure?
GA: The police officers should have stopped them and, because the students were drinking alcohol, the policemen should have called a traffic officer, who has the duty of convincing the students about the importance of cooperating with the authorities and facilitating the work of the police officers.
JA: What happened to the officers involved in the case?
GA: They have been suspended from their jobs while we try to clarify the case. The case is being considered by the Committee of Honor and Justice (a city hall committee made up of a city councilor, a police officer and the director of Public Security). The process for making a decision about the policemen can last a few days, but we do not want to make a decision without having all the information. We will try to do it as soon as possible, but always respecting the process set forth by the regulations.
JA: In general, what is your opinion about the case?
GA: We have to dignify the image of the institution with professional work and training. In five months it is impossible to change an institution, but we have been working on training since we started this administration. We are also preparing regulations for the legal use of police force.
JA: After this case, should sanmiguelenses feel protected by the police or afraid of them?
GA: This was just an accident, caused by an inappropriate behavior from citizens and police officers and has had a complicated result. Residents should not be afraid of the police force; our objective will always be to protect the population. The sanctions will be for correcting our errors. We have many positive results and those should also be acknowledged. In situations like the one we had, the people should always cooperate with the authorities, and the police should behave more professionally. This experience will strengthen us as unit.