After 40 years with the same Police Code, the Colombian Congress is on the verge of voting Wednesday a comprehensive overhaul of the Police Code in order to more effectively deal with realities affecting 48 million Colombians.
The new code will incorporate more than 240 items that could have a significant effect on your daily life in Colombia – whether a citizen, resident or tourist. After almost two years in the hands of legislators the Codigo de Policía will give far-reaching powers to the National Police when dealing with crime and common infringements, which range from drinking and driving, paying your parking fines, the use of a warrant, animal and pest control, graffiti on your street and strict new noise regulations.
According to house representative Rodrigo Lara, the code also works both ways; in so much that citizens (and foreigners alike) will have more recourse to the law to denounce police abuse.
Some of the more controversial rulings of the new code include the right of the police to enter premises without a written order so as to extinguish a fire, deal with water leakages, or settle an animal-human altercation; even if that entails chasing “a rabid animal.” In effect, the police can enter your home at any moment if they suspect “someone requires help.”
The code also proposes that the police can stop, detain and transfer anyone under the effects of alcohol and/or drugs – and use force for their self-defense.
If you are out and about, the code also stipulates that cops can wait outside the movie theatre to make sure film classifications (PG, Restricted) are enforced. If you happen to own a second-hand cellular phone which was reported as stolen, it will be confiscated. Shops that trade in stolen merchandise will be shut down by the police. And all that selling of “goods or services” on public transportation will also be banned.
You can also be fined if you obstruct access for disabled persons while in TransMilenio or refuse to give up your seat to the elderly. If you try to hop on the bus without paying your way, you can end up with an even heftier fine than ever before; or as any Monopoly player knows, “Go to jail.”
Animals are also written into the new code and those who abandon an animal or deprive it of light, air and food will receive “corrective measures.” Dangerous dogs will be classified and registered with local mayoralties. Residents of a gated community or apartment complex will now be able to ban a dog from living there if considered a threat.
The police will also have powers to shut down motels and brothels in residential neighborhoods, suspend a party or shut it down temporarily, if it bothers the community at large. Sex workers must have identity cards with them at all times and encourage safe sex. Brothels that promote or “exhibit” their business will be fined.
Word is still out on how much fines across the board will increase, but expect to pay anywhere from 2 million pesos to 22 million, depending on the infraction. According the Director of the National Police General Jorge Nieto, the new code is a “fundamental tool” to enforce citizens’ rights and clamp down on the illegality which permeates our cities, from out-right vandalism, to cellphone theft or preventing your neighbor from getting a good night’s sleep.