Dominican Republic Table of Contents
Figure 9. Organization of the National Police, 1989
The country's first police organization was a municipal force set up in 1844 in Santo Domingo. Beginning in 1847, other towns formed similar organizations. Eventually, there were independent police forces in every province. These forces were largely controlled by local caudillos, and the national executive branch had only nominal influence over them. These local forces were disbanded in 1916 during the United States occupation; the United States Marines, and later members of the Dominican Constabulary Guard, assumed police duties. The National Police was created in 1936. After that time, police activities in the nation were completely centralized, and no independent provincial or municipal forces existed.
In 1989 police personnel numbered some 10,000; the strength of the police had remained relatively constant since the 1950s. The director general of the National Police was a police major general, who was directly subordinate to the secretary of state of interior and police. The police maintained a close relationship with the armed forces, and until the 1980s, the chief of the National Police was quite often a senior officer from one of the armed services. The director general was assisted by a deputy director and two sections: internal affairs and planning, and special operations. Three sections, each headed by an assistant director general, carried out the administration and operation of the National Police. These were the Administration and Support Section, the Police Operations Section, and the Special Operations Section.
The Administration and Support Section supervised personnel, police education and training, and finances. It was responsible for the logistical system, communications, transportation, records, the police radio station, the police laboratory, and the data processing center. This section administered the police academy at Hatillo in San Cristóbal Province. The Police Operations Section oversaw normal police operations. It was segmented into several functional departments, including robbery investigation, homicide investigation, felonies and misdemeanors against private property, highway patrol, and narcotics and dangerous drugs. Police patrolled on foot, on horseback, and by motorcycle and automobile. The customs and harbor police employed a small number of boats.
The deputy director of police functioned as the immediate superior of five regional directors. These officers, usually police brigadier generals, were responsible for five territorial zones: the Northeastern Zone (headquartered at San Francisco de Macorís), the Northern Zone (Santiago), the Southern Zone (Barahona), the Central Zone (San Cristóbal), and the Eastern Zone (San Pedro de Marcorís). The police regions each covered several provinces; forces within the regions were broken down into provincial, company, detachment, and local police post divisions.
The Special Operations Section was responsible for the administration of the secret service, which in 1989 was headed by a police brigadier general. The secret service performed undercover surveillance of domestic political groups and foreigners suspected of espionage or of inciting political or economic disorder. In this capacity, the secret service coordinated its efforts with the National Department of Investigations (Departamento Nacional de Investigaciones--DNI), which was under the direct control of the president. Created in 1962, the DNI was authorized to "investigate any act committed by persons, groups, or associations that conflict with the Constitution, laws, or state institutions, or that attempt to establish any totalitarian form of government." The DNI was an investigative body and, unlike the police, it did not generally have arrest authority. The functions of the DNI were closely coordinated with those of the armed forces' intelligence units, as well as with the functions of the police. In 1989 the DNI was commanded by a retired army general.
Approximately half of all police personnel were stationed in the capital area, both because Santo Domingo was by far the nation's largest city and because police headquarters, as well as several special police units, were located there. Among the special units garrisoned in the capital was a paramilitary special operations battalion with some 1,000 personnel. The unit was used for riot-control in Santo Domingo, although elements could also be deployed rapidly to any section of the country. Other specialized police units included a specialized bank guard corps and a sappers corps that performed firefighting and civil defense duties.
Like the armed forces, the police participated actively in civic-action projects. Police medical and dental teams provided services for poor residents throughout the country. The police also made donations to organizations set up to assist the poor.
The public image of the police had improved since the 1970s, but excesses on the part of police personnel, including beatings of suspects, continued to receive media publicity. Both government and police officials had announced their intent to monitor such activities and to take corrective measures, but complaints about such abuses continued to surface during the late 1980s. The role of the police in quelling disturbances and in supporting the government's political agenda also continued to spark controversy.
Data as of December 1989
Dominican Republic Table of Contents