Carabineros de Chile

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Carabineros de Chile

The Chilean Constitution assigns the task of law enforcement to the Carabineros de Chile and the Policía de Investigaciones. The first institution was formed in 1927 with the definitive unification of the state and municipal police with the army's Cuerpo de Carabineros (Corps of Carbineers).

From this period on, both police forces were to report to the ministry of the interior, who was responsible for preserving the public order. Under the military regime of Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990), Carabineros underwent considerable transformations, as its general director became a member of the military junta. During this time, both the Carabineros and the investigative police were placed under the ministry of defense. Law Decree no. 444 established this change under the argument that ensuring the united action of Carabineros required that the police not be required to report to a secretary of state primarily concerned with politics, which would hamper the technical efficiency of the police. This institutional change ensured a high degree of operational autonomy of the police, because the ministry of defense was not involved in the preservation of public order.

The role of the Carabineros traditionally has been that of security police, including the preservation of the public order and the control and regulation of vehicular traffic. In recent years, this role has evolved and now the Carabineros also investigate crimes.

In the early twenty-first century, the Carabineros de Chile has 36,777 officers.

The Carabineros are organized along military lines, as evidenced in the institution's discipline and training. Like the army, the Carabineros have separate schools for commissioned and noncommissioned officers, and they fall under the jurisdiction of the military courts for violations of the law committed in the course of their service.

Following the transition to democracy, the first democratic governments maintained closer relations with the Policia de Investigaciones de Chile than with Carabineros, due to the perception that the officers of the later institution identified with the military regime. Nonetheless, the prestige Carabineros enjoyed throughout the region—due to its professional competence and disciplined structure—helped palliate this mistrust. Another factor was the increasing concern of the population with the growing rates of crime, which led them to seek the presence of carabineros in their neighborhoods.

With regard to this increase in citizen insecurity, in the late 1990s Carabineros undertook a restructuring process to increase operative personnel, which implied that the institution ceased to fulfill twenty-four of the sixty-seven tasks assigned by law. In 2007 the institution began the periodic evaluation of its operations using new performance indicators that were developed by its planning department. Carabineros began to incorporate the notion of community participation in the institution's discourse, in keeping with that of the government and the municipalities.

Thus, during 1999, in response to increasing insecurity due to the growing crime problem, the Carabineros put into action the Plan Cuadrante (Quadrant plan). One primary objective of this program was to increase the presence of police on the street. The area under supervision by each command was divided into small sectors or quadrants. Vehicles and human resources were assigned according to the specific needs of each quadrant. Responsibility for the management of each quadrant is assigned to police officers who bear the title of delegado or the lower-ranking subdelegado. These police are to attend to and resolve the problems brought to them by the citizens in their quadrant. The Carabineros have also adopted the practice of public accountability by sharing statistical information on police activities with community leaders and local public officials.

Public support for Carabineros and for Investigaciones is notoriously higher than that received by other components of the criminal justice system, such as the courts. Surveys on public perceptions of Carabineros demonstrate public confidence in the institution. The 2003 survey on the perception of Carabineros asks whether in the past twelve months the respondent has been the victim of or witness to a Carabinero using his or her post for personal gain. A negative response was given by 88 percent of the respondents. Only 6 percent had witnessed a Carabinero acting for personal gain, and 2 percent had been the victim of such abuse.

A victimization survey carried out in 2003 listed a series of statements regarding officers of Carabineros and asks respondents whether they agree. The statements that received more positive responses were Carabineros are responsive (78.9%); Carabineros are disciplined (73.9%); Carabineros are efficient (66.2%); and Carabineros treat people well (63.2%). In the response to the question as to whether Carabineros treat people well there are more positive opinions of respondents from the highest income bracket than from the lowest.

See alsoChile: The Twentieth Century; Chile, Constitutions; Criminal Justice.


Candina, Azun. "Carabineros de Chile: Una mirada histórica a la identidad institucional." In Seguridad y Reforma Policial en las Américas, edited by Lucía Dammert and John Bailey. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI Editores.

Frühling, Hugo. "Carabineros y consolidación democrática en Chile." Pena y Estado 3, no. 3 (1998): 81-116.

Frühling, Hugo. "La Policía en Chile: Los nuevos desafíos de una coyuntura Compleja." Perspectivas 3 (1999): 63-90.

                                             Hugo FrÜhling