Chief of judicial police, irked over budget, retires

Poder Judicial photo Jorge Rojas Vargas

Officials in the Poder Judicial are praising Jorge Rojas Vargas as he makes plans to leave July 1. And Rojas is leaving quietly even though part of his motivation appears be be that he believes his Judicial Investigating Organization is being shortchanged.

He appears to be making good on this threat a year ago when he said he would quit unless the agency got more resources. He renewed his complaint last month when he warned that his agency’s budget was being cut back from a 9 percent increase to just 4 percent.

The reduction in the allowed increase will have a negative impact, said Rojas. The increase appears to be less than inflation. He warned that even meals fed to prisoners would be affected.

“The situation is of concern given that the increase in criminality in the country and citizen insecurity during recent years means that the judicial police deserve to have the necessary resources to work and combat crime,” said Rojas then.

The U.S. State Department underlined the problem in its recent human rights report when it said that many criminal cases did not have sufficient evidence to go to trial. In 2010 approximately 235,000 criminal complaints were filed with the judicial branch, of which 4 percent (9,835 cases) went to trial with a conviction rate of 61 percent, the report said.

That means just 6,000 convictions or just 2.5 percent of the complaints filed.

Rojas has been in the top investigative job since November 2001. He has seen his agency’s workload increase geometrically.

Under the Costa Rican system, most investigations are done by a representative of the court from Rojas’ agency. Fuerza Pública officers are supposed to prevent crime. Once one takes place, the police in blue uniforms arrive at the scene, secure the area and turn the case over to investigators and prosecutors.

Judicial investigators even have responsibility for handling traffic deaths, frequently in the company of a judge.

Rojas went public with his budget complaints May 16. Year after year his agency is seeing a reduction in resources to fight crime, he said. Lawmakers responded that his budget is part of the judicial budget and it is the Corte Suprema de Justicia that allocated the money.

Rojas met with the court magistrates in a formal session Monday. Afterwards, many praised him.

Magda Pereira said that he was tenacious in strengthening the scientific work of the judicial police.

Zarella Villanueva said that Rojas had opened space in the agency for the participation of woman.

Román Solís pointed out that Rojas defended the autonomy of his agency.

Eva Camacho, Julia Varela, Carmenmaría Escoto and Ernesto Jinesta said the retirement by Rojas would be a loss to the judiciary.

However, the logical conclusion is that Rojas did not get more money for the agency. The judiciary, like many other government organizations, has high fixed costs in its operation that are not easily reduced.

Rojas began in the Sección de Inspecciones Oculares in 1974. That is the crime scene investigation unit. Later he became the boss there. Later he was in the División de Robos y Asaltos, the Sección de Tránsito and as a chief in the Departamento de Investigaciones Criminales. He also was the regional chief in Alajuela. In 1997 he became deputy director.

Rojas likes to keep track of investigations. From his desk he can check up on each case being handled by the agency via a computer data base.

That was not always the case. When Rojas became director, judicial police had only one long-distance telephone line and computers were clunky. He directed modernizations, including modern scientific approaches to evidence such as DNA testing, toxicology, chemical analysis and x-rays.

These were all the advances Rojas said were jeopardized by limited funds.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.