Astor Escalante Saravia explains the internal development of the Ministry of Public Security in El Salvador, which oversees all pertinent branches, including the National Civil Police and the National Academy for Public Security. He describes a multi-player approach to institutional reform that involves the National Council on Security and Peace, UNDP, and a number of NGOs that specialize in crime prevention and rehabilitation for former gang members. While recent reforms have been successful, he says, lack of resources remains a challenge. Concerning the National Civil Police, Saravia identifies three areas for improvement. The first has to do with the failure of the current model to insulate police officers who work within their own communities from risks and ties to the criminals that operate in the same turf. The second critical issue involves corruption. He emphasizes the role of perception, and highlights the large impact of small measures like changing the uniforms of the Transit Police to increase accountability. The third issue concerns proper police conduct and the problem of police brutality, which he says is being addressed nationwide by virtual training based on case studies.
At the time of this interview, Astor Escalante Saravia was El Salvador's vice minister of public security and justice, a post he held since 2006. He was the director of the penitentiary system in 2005, after working for eight years in the National Public Prosecutor’s office as a prosecutor and chief prosecutor. Previously he served as an adviser to the Ministry of Government, which oversaw the security sector until the Ministry of Public Security was created with a mandate to govern the police and associated agencies.