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Colombian Police are Polite and Protective


If you ever visit Colombia, you really can’t miss the Colombian police. They always wear a lightweight iridescent lime green vest over their uniform. Mostly they are young men, although I do see a few women too.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Colombia in the past 2 years, actually 10 months total. So I’ve had a lot of time and instances to observe their police force in action in various cities. And I can honestly say I’m quite impressed overall. Here’s a few particulars I noticed on my recent visit to Popayán…

General Helpers

It was the morning of a big parade in Popayán and I had noticed a huge increase in the number of police on patrol in town. But as I sat eating my breakfast at the corner of the square I had the delightful experience of observing one particularly helpful officer. Check out the header photo on this post.

I watched him go over to the older vendor lady who was trying to set up her street stall, selling fruit drinks. But it was just too difficult for her to do handle the task physically. So… police to the rescue!

First, the officer carefully attached the outer shelf. Then he lifted the large heavy vats of juice onto the shelf and stood back. However, it was not to the lady’s satisfaction. So he politely and calmly put them back on the ground, reconnected the shelf, and again lifted the vats back onto the shelf, this time placing everything according to her precise instructions.

He made sure she was satisfied and nothing else was required before he returned to his other duties. I was so totally impressed by his kindness that I was inspired to write this post.

Giving Directions

Another primary function I noticed was that of simply giving directions. Everyone here seemed to treat the police like roving information kiosks! What’s the parade route? What time does it start? Where should I stand?

Preventive Caution

Just so you don’t think that Colombian police are all smiles and sweetness, I must also tell you what else I noticed in Popayán. Because it was a 3-day celebration happening, there was a huge influx of visitors from all over. This of course attracts pick-pockets and bag snatchers as it would in any large city anywhere. Plus the night time parties with music and dancing in the square could be occasion for… hmmm… let’s just call it over-indulgence in alcoholic beverages and resultant lapses of judgement as to socially acceptable behavior!

So the police set up large movable gates on every street leading into the square. And once darkness set in and people started filtering in, they monitored everyone entering quite diligently. A line was formed and the police talked to and checked each person. I watched them do complete pat-downs, up-against-the-wall style, of nearly every man coming in. And the ladies had to open their bags and purses while the police checked the contents.

In any case, there were no complaints, no loud voices, nobody seemed irritated about the process. Even the guys getting a more “thorough examination” didn’t seem in anyway fussed or offended by it. More like a “getting through airport security” type of attitude.

Then my turn came, and… surprise! They just waved me through with a smile, not caring at all what might be in my little napsack. I guess they figure white-haired gringo ladies are not anything they need to be worried about. Too bad I didn’t have any heavy luggage or large vats of liquid… I probably could have gotten them to carry it around for me!

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