Monday, December 22, 2008

Panama: Gays blamed for collapse of emergency phone line

According to a brief note that appears today in the Panamanian newspaper Critica, an anonymous "police source" has said that vacationing high school students and the gays are to blame for the collapse of Linea 104 - Panama's emergency phone system ("Minors and gays shut down Police calls"). From the article:
According to a police source, now that the school year has ended many youths make pranks on the dispatchers, during most of the day, while at night, alleged homosexuals call to harass police units, without thinking that this call might save the life of a person when it is really needed.
I tried to look for corroborating information elsewhere but could only find a Sept. 10, 2006 article in La Prensa that might provide another explanation as to why Linea 104 is experiencing problems: At that time there were only ten officers devoted to answering emergency lines and an estimated 400,000 calls per month coming in ("10 policemen respond to 400 thousand calls a month").

By the way, the Panamanian Police Department that seems to be blaming the gays for shutting down the phone lines is the same Department that was calling for gays to be allowed to serve as police officers back in April (see "National police chief says gays can serve as law enforcement officers" and "Negative to lukewarm reactions to letting gays serve as police officers"). What gives?

Well, back then the Director of the Police Department was Rolando Mirones, a civilian selected to lead the Department under a policy that sought to combat past corruption by making it possible for non-police officers to run the Department. At the time, rising crime numbers and controversial stands such as backing those gay police officers who were already in service added to pressure by military leaders and some within the police department for him to step down.

Indeed, Mirones submitted a letter of resignation on May 13, 2008, a month after pushing for the Police Department to accept the enrollment of gay officers. With his departure, the government also reinstated rules that require that those who lead the Police Department must be police or military officers - and does not allow for civilians to take the top post ("Arcia justifies militarization").

The current Director, Francisco Troya, has been a career police officer.

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