Benjamin Cestoni describes the recruitment procedures employed by El Salvador's National Academy for Public Security. Every three months, the process begins with a national recruitment announcement, a sequence of five qualifying exams that apply appropriate standards for both male and female potential cadets, personal interviews, and a vetting process that involves background checks within the recruits’ communities. Cestoni identifies the financial burden associated with foregoing salaried employment while at the academy as a challenge for both recruitment and completion of training. The effectiveness of each recruitment round depends on the agricultural seasons, and there is a high drop-out rate due to cadets finding paid employment. The main incentive to join the academy is the prospect of long-term job stability, but Cestoni says the promotion system must be improved. He underscores the success of recruitment of women, whose enrollment increased from 4% to 7%. He identifies areas of present and potential coordination with the National Civil Police. First, a recent curricular shift at the academy favors hands-on, skill-intensive training over theoretical instruction, which necessitates the cooperation of the police. Second, there is constant feedback between the two institutions, so that training workshops are developed in response to the needs of acting officers. This process resulted in great improvement in the area of investigations. Nonetheless, Cestoni points to a need for coordinated follow-up on students after graduation, to consolidate assessment of each officer’s career progress. Cestoni attributes academy modernization to the support offered by the international community, especially from Spain, France and the United States. His most important suggestion for cost-efficient cooperation is for donors to emphasize deployment of trainers to the host country over inviting trainees to donor countries.
At the time of this interview, Benjamin Cestoni was the acting director of the National Academy for Public Security in El Salvador, a position he had held since 2006. A lawyer by training, he worked at the Attorney General’s Office for 12 years and was appointed as the executive director of the Commission for Human Rights under President Álvaro Magaña in 1982. He subsequently served as the presidential commissioner for human eights during the administrations of presidents José Napoleón Duarte and Alfredo Cristiani. His political career began when he was appointed as President Armando Calderón’s personal secretary. Cestoni was then elected as deputy to the Central American Parliament, and served as minister of transportation.