FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2007. MUSEO HISTORICO POLICIA NACIONAL DE COLOMBIA, BOGOTA. I visited Colombia's national police historical museum late this afternoon. I was given a free private tour in English by Juan, who was doing his one year of mandatory military/police service. The museum is in a beautifully restored building with displays of police equipment, vehicles, guns, communications gear, and uniforms. The highlight of the museum are the displays covering the life and death of Pablo Escobar, former head of the Medellin cartel. Near the end of the tour, I was invited to witness a private ceremony celebrating cadet birthdays and honoring employees-of-the-month. Juan introduced me to the group, including the museum director, Major Humberto Aparicio Navia. Apparently, I was the first person from Hawaii to visit the museum in recent memory. They showed me such genuine Colombian hospitality.
Ironically, later in the evening while working on my computer in the common area of Platypus Hostel, members of Colombia's immigration police, known as "DAS", entered the hostel and demanded identification from everyone. There were at least 20 DAS officials and local police. They did not give any reason for their search. They search some of the guests rooms and personal belongings. The officer who demanded identification from me was not happy that I gave him a photocopy of my passport. My original passport and money belt were locked in the hostel safe. He waited while I retrieved my original passport. The two questions I was asked was "What is your job?" (Response: Aborgado/Lawyer) and "Why are you in Colombia?" (Response: Tourist). He returned my passport and that was it. Even though nothing happened, this was not a pleasant experience. At least in the United States, police cannot summarily ask you for identification without probable cause. Probable cause means that the police (or other official) must have a bona fide reason or belief that you are committing a crime or in the process of committing a crime. Here there was none, or at least no reason was given. During my time in Bogota, I routinely saw police stop people (mostly young) for identity checks. German, the owner of the Platypus, later told me he thought they were looking for a specific child molester/trafficker based on a newspaper report he had read. Whatever the reason, this was the first time in 20 months of travel (and for as long as I can recall) that police have performed such an identity check, on private property no less. Unfortunately, it soured my experience in Colombia just a bit, particularly since I had such a good time at the police museum earlier in the afternoon.