On Wednesday, May 29th, the Chilean police force unveiled a test project designed to improve relations between the police force and the Mapuche people — a relationship that, in certain parts of Chile, has involved significant amounts of violence. The project involves the use of “ethnic patrols,” which consist of trained police officers of Mapuche ethnicity who speak Mapuzungun (the Mapuche language). These patrols will also utilize specially-painted vehicles.
Initially, there will be four patrols comprised of 60 total officers, and they will work in the areas of Padre Las Casas, Collipulli, and Cañete. If successful, the project may be replicated in various parts of the country. According to the police high command, there are more than 200 Mapuche individuals currently serving in the police force, many of whom already speak their native language, and future units could draw from those officers.
The announcement of the new units received an immediate response from Jaime Huenchullán, the spokesperson for the Temucuicui who sees the project simply as a police tactic. According to Huenchullán, the communities are not likely to embrace the new units and their presence might only lead to additional distrust.