President, Accreditation Commission of El Salvador
Focus: Accountable Policing
Topics: Integration and Amalgamation
Keywords: reform sequencing, private security, integration and amalgamation, gangs, depoliticization, demilitarization
Interviewer(s): Flor Hunt
Country of Reform: El Salvador
Location: San Salvador, El Salvador
Date: Thu Jul 3 2008
Knut Walter gives a sociological and historical account of the militarization of Salvadoran political life, even under civilian rule, culminating in the civil war. He describes the peace accords and ensuing reforms as a process of demilitarization of the police and reassignment of the armed forces to a very limited national security role. He praises the design of the National Civil Police and its commitment to training, high levels of education and curricular emphasis on human rights. Walter identifies a need to improve investigations, given the low national sentencing rates coupled with the highest homicide rates in Latin America. However, he rejects the argument that the army was any more effective in containing violence in decades past through zero-tolerance policies. He attributes the high homicide rates to structural causes that must be addressed, including widespread availability of weapons, ambiguous property rights and social vulnerability brought on by migration. Walter then discusses the proliferation of private security firms in El Salvador as a result of the culture of violence during the war years and as a possible strategy for integration of ex-combatants into the work force, but he denies any conflict of spheres of competence with the National Civil Police.
Full InterviewDownload MP3 (51MB)
Knut Walter Interview
At the time of this interview, Knut Walter was president of the Accreditation Commission of El Salvador. He earned a doctorate in history and held academic posts at Jose Simeon Cañas Central American University for 23 years. He was a fellow at the New York Social Science Research Council, and he served as director of graduate programs at the Latin American University of Social Sciences in Guatemala.