During the last two years, I have had the unique opportunity to be a small part of an enormous transformation for peace and quality of life for the citizens of Panama. Under the direction and management of ICMA (International City/County Management Association) funded by USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) and their mission to provide international assistance, I was invited to provide proven methodologies in the areas of Community Policing, which included, police integration in schools, outreach centers, and in public schools.
Prior to my involvement, this transformation required a monumental effort on behalf of ICMA’s Municipal Partnerships for Violence Prevention in Central America (AMUPREV) program, funded by USAID and the Alcance Positivo program, in which ICMA is a subcontractor to Creative Associates, to establish a solid foundation for a sound understanding and relationship between the Panamanian government and the agencies under the same. In doing so, a host of diligent professionals from the community and abroad have been deployed towards this goal, which I humbly express my gratitude for the opportunity to have worked among.
The solid foundation was based on the creation of organized committees acting as a coordinating body. These committees (Colon, San Miguelito and Panama City, each having their own) are comprised of leaders from the community, officials of the local police and members of business and governmental offices. Together they represent the vast majority of the community’s interest.
The challenges for each of these committees often varied and at times drastically due to the range of different needs of the community represented, types and amount of resources available and the dynamic of the group itself. While some groups had a very strong governmental influence, others had a stronger community based influence. At times, I was able to witness opportunities to share learned experiences that were beneficial to all three of the groups.
While I had an opportunity to interact with the majority of the members of these groups, I would have to mention the most impact was on The National Police of Panama. My contribution being of law enforcement in nature allowed me to get close to the officials of the police, which allowed for a true interaction of concepts and ideas. During my involvement, I have seen significant changes in the way the Panamanian police officials have accepted the community policing concept not only by why of verbal acceptance, but by implementation of and execution for change.
What is in the future for the citizens of Panama? If Panama as a country continues to accept the influence and the assistance from other countries, the future will be bright! Just prior to leaving Panama, I was given a tour of a community project where The Panamanian government supported by the National Police of Panama where able to gather resources to build a safe living environment for the citizens of that community. This was an impressive accomplishment, indicating important change is occurring.