Remarks of Deputy Chief of Mission Mark C. Johnson on the Inauguration Ceremony for the Police Information and Operational Control Center (COP)

March 30, 2017

*This English translation is provided as a courtesy. The speech was originally written and delivered in Spanish, and only the Spanish version should be considered authoritative.

Excellency Vice-President of El Salvador Republic, Salvador Oscar Ortiz; Honorable Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mauricio Landaverde; President of Public Security Commission, José Antonio Almendáriz Rivas; Director of Civil National Police, Howard Cotto; Distinguished legislators and special guests; good morning.

It is a great honor to be here accompanying you to inaugurate this important new tool for the PNC, the Police Information and Operational Control Center. When we talk about the tools that police officers use to execute their important work, many people think about vehicles, bulletproof vests, or weapons. Many of them ignore the fact that one of the most important tools that an officer can have is the access to information. It is information about the city and its geographical distribution; information about people and resources; information about well-known criminals and their accomplices; information about criminal threats that the population is facing; and information about plans and movements of their fellow police officers.

Police officers must know where their colleagues are. Imagine two police units that are investigating the same extortionist net; or planning to raid in a house where an under covered agent gathering intel on criminals.  There can be also situations — such as in an earthquake or other natural disasters — in which the police must to work with other governmental institutions to carry out rescue operations. The Operational Control Center is designed to monitor situations such as those I mentioned and to make it easier for the police leadership to visualize and direct the activities needed to control these situations. It gives the police the access to information about the locations and plans of their fellow officers. It is designed to create opportunities as well as to prevent tragedies.

Now, the police chiefs can carry maps, videos and other crucial information that will allow then to direct operations all over the country, 24 hours a day.  The COP provides the needed data for them to make the best decisions possible, in situations where the slightest hesitation can mean the difference between the life and the death.

The need of have a center like this one was identified some time ago, in 2010, when the PNC was doing an operation to counteract gang violence. When the investigative units started to grow, the operations against criminal groups increased, and the community policing efforts began in cities and towns around El Salvador. The need of have a central location in which the leaders could be able to monitor those activities became clear.

More recently, coordinated efforts such Jacque Operation or of the El Salvador Specialized Reaction Force activities, stressed even more the need for a centralized point of contact in which the police will be able to communicate as a single voice with relevant institutions such as General Attorney Office and Armed Forces.

The U.S. Embassy, through INL, has worked alongside PNC since 2010 to fill this need, identifying the problems and developing a plan to deal to create the COP. We have invested more than $300,000 in construction material, office furniture, telephones and computer equipment to improve this space. The PNC, for its part, has staffed the Center with committed officers, space, and the institutional support to incorporate the work of this Center into daily police operations. The COP you are seeing here represents the commitment between our both countries about to increase the PNC professionalism and improve the citizen security in El Salvador.

But what is most important is that the COP allows the police to plan in advance. Whether a crisis situation is man-made or natural, taking the necessary steps to prepare for it will limit the damage and accelerate the recovery process. Having good established plans, thoroughly analyzed and using a robust information management system to carry them out, will prove that the COP is invaluable, regardless of the nature of the problem.  Anticipating problems rather than reacting to them is a key step towards achieving a safer El Salvador for all. In this way, the police will have a better chance of serving their Salvadoran citizens with professionalism and pride.

The inauguration of the COP represents a step in that direction and we are very proud to share this milestone with our friends and partners of the Civil National Police.

Thank you.

*This English translation is provided as a courtesy. The speech was originally written and delivered in Spanish, and only the Spanish version should be considered authoritative.