An Ecuadorian Officer Credits Workshop with Helping Him Gain Key Skills

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February 2014

In summer 2013, Major Geovanny Guzman of Ecuador’s National Police was ordered to Quito to attend a three-week ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) training on criminal investigations and trial skills. Frankly, he was unenthusiastic. He thought the training would be more of the same—lecture after lecture for days on end. Within the first few minutes of the first session, however, he knew this course would be different and that he would like it.

The trainings included simulations to demonstrate crime-scene protection and processing and testimonies.

Participants say that the skills they have acquired will enable them to better support the criminal justice system and to contribute toward combating impunity. 

Attended by judicial police from around Ecuador, the training offered a primer of the accusatorial criminal justice system and trained on pertinent skills, including crime-scene analysis and forensics. It was developed to further participants’ understanding of their role in the investigation and trial phases of criminal cases and to equip them with the necessary skills to discharge their duties effectively.

As a National Police senior officer, Geovanny had attended similar trainings. The level of engagement expected of participants made the Summer 2013 training stand out for him. “I told other officers, ‘Remember … this is a course where we have to participate actively,’” he says. “We knew this was going to be a different course [and that we] had to read and prepare each night for class the next day.”

Since Ecuador began its transition from an inquisitorial to an accusatorial criminal justice system in 2001, a lack of both trainings for justice sector actors and inter-institutional coordination created weaknesses in cases and led to failed prosecutions. Working with local stakeholders, ABA ROLI identified knowledge gaps among police officers and developed three courses to address them. Geovanny and about 90 other police officers attended the workshops, which were held from August to September 2013, that covered investigation and trial skills, including the presentation of testimony and the introduction of evidence.

Participants say that the skills they have acquired will enable them to better support the criminal justice system and to contribute toward combating impunity. “I learned from the course … how the judicial police must work together with the prosecutor to present the case at trial,” says Geovanny. “Under the inquisitorial system, evidence was presented in writing and the police officers had a very limited role in the trial process and little communications with prosecutors.”

He adds that prior to the trainings, the judicial police worked independently and did not fully understand the roles of the judge, the prosecutor or the defense lawyer at trial. Geovanny says that police and prosecutors didn’t discuss cases before trial, which led to misunderstandings as to what their respective responsibilities were. “Until now, I viewed the prosecutor almost as an adversary,” says Geovanny. “When I showed up to testify and things didn’t go as planned, I blamed the prosecutor and the prosecutor blamed me.”

Geovanny says he feels privileged to have attended the training and plans to share what he learned with his colleagues. “Thanks to the trainings I understand that with communication and coordination we [police and prosecutors] can work as a team and get better results,” he says.

ABA ROLI will train 20 of those who attended the August and September workshops on adult and interactive teaching techniques to prepare them to lead similar classes for the approximately 3,000 officers of the Ecuadorian National Police.

To learn more about our work in Ecuador, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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