The police in Bolivia are not very popular thanks a reputation for being corrupt, lazy, incompetent and creating more problems than they solve. I’ve heard numerous stories of people having to pay them to investigate a crime, and even then they usually come up empty-handed.
Some may attribute these poor standards to their abysmal salaries of around US$200 per month. Bolivia is a very cheap country, but that amount is simply not enough to support a family, hence they turn to corruption. I suspect under payment is one factor, but there also appears to be an ingrained culture of entitlement and dishonesty.
A city without police
In June 2012, the FELCC went on strike which meant the entire city of La Paz was literally without a police force. To be honest, I was in La Paz at the time and hardly noticed any difference. The military patrolled streets enacting their own form of martial law, which basically meant standing around on street corners to make sure people weren’t looting.
During that period the crime rate actually went down. The strike finally ended when the police were given a 20% pay rise. Unfortunately, however, we are yet to see a 20% increase in efficiency.
Arrested for bribes
My girlfriend was arrested today for drinking alcohol in a public square next to her university. She took one sip of some premix which her classmates offered her to celebrate finishing exams. No one was being noisy, yelling or creating a nuisance. Nevertheless, the men in green rolled up, threw them all in a van and took them to a cop shop on the other end of town. They were held until friends or relatives were able to come and pay a bribe to get them out.