Police Commissioner Fátima Flores Méndez is Granada’s new police chief and she is bringing a new vigor and vitality to the position, which she will hold for three years. Commissioner Flores comes to Granada with 33 years of police experience. Her previous departmental posts were in León, Chontales, and Rivas, as well as a tour of duty as head of the National Traffic Police and one in Managua’s Oriental Market.
More importantly, Commissioner Flores comes to Granada with a willingness to change things here. When she first arrived in town, she spent several nights working with the police night shift walking the streets of Granada to get a feel for her new assignment. In previous interviews, she indicated she wanted to work together with organized community groups, improve safety at night and strengthen the general police presence.
The Amigos de la Policia is a group of citizens, expats and businesses that organized in Granada several years ago to improve the communications between the community and the police. With various degrees of success, relations were improved. Motorcycles were purchased, gasoline vouchers were provided to cops and training was offered. Unfortunately, results were mixed and members of Amigos de la Policia began losing their interest in the group. The common perception was that police were not improving their methods despite efforts to help; a police presence was not seen outside of the Central Park area and responses to calls for assistance resulted in long delays—if they responded at all.
Things have changed. The community has grown, more businesses have opened and tourism is up. Nicaraguans are returning from abroad and more expats are moving to the Granada area. And of course, we have a new police chief that wants to improve things and work with the community. Because of all this, the Amigos de la Policia saw an opportunity to renew its efforts and work with the police again.
Amigos de la Policia recently held a few meetings with Commissioner Flores to discuss our history and past problems. We reached an agreement to initiate several new programs of cooperation. We came away from our meetings believing the new police chief could be an instrument of change with our support and that the Granada community would support her if changes are seen. We agreed to start with three initial programs:
1. Formal English classes for selected policemen
10 officers would be selected, formal classes provided, required attendance, regular testing.
2. Gas money (solely for the tourism police)
Gas vouchers would be used solely for the Tourist Police which would help response times.
3. Provide police communications to Amigos de la Policia
Provide timely and relevant reporting of police activities and successes for publishing to the community.
But first, introductions were needed before the Amigos de la Policia could begin recruiting members again. And the new police chief wanted an opportunity to meet with folks and explain her plans for the city.
Last Thursday at the Garden Café, around 40 people showed up to hear the police chief explain her plans and to ask her questions. Commissioner Flores said there are 160 police officers assigned to the city and the force is requesting an additional 50 officers. The plans are to expand the tourism police unit to 17 officers and open a new police station in the tourism area along the lake. Our hope is that the tourism police will begin regular patrols on the streets of Granada. In addition, new phone numbers are being set up to improve response times.
We now have a real opportunity to improve security in Granada, but the community must support the new efforts of the police. By the community we mean citizens, expats, businesses, tourists and foundations. As Mark James commented at the presentation, “It is a two-way street, reach out to a policeman when you see one, say ‘Hola’ and express your appreciation.”
Amigos de la Policia will be sending out invitations to the community to join our organization. Members will receive a badge that demonstrates their support. If you want to be part of the solution, please consider joining our board of directors. We welcome any constructive ideas that will help our organization to help Granada.
In the meantime, please warmly welcome Police Chief Flores to Granada. Let’s provide her the support to make Granada even better. For more information about Amigos de la Policia, write us at: [email protected]