José Roberto León Riaño

Inducted April 2013

Nominated by Maria Victoria Llorente and Patricia Bulla, Fundación Ideas para la paz (Ideas for Peace Foundation)


General José Roberto León Riaño is the Director General of the National Police of Colombia. He has served with the National Police of Colombia since 1977. He has worked in a number of different units and regions during his time in the National Police including the capital, Bogotá, the city of Medellín and its department (i.e., territory/state) of Antioquia, the city of Cali, Magdalena department, Amazonas department, and Atlántico department. He has worked on a diverse set of issues in these departments including anti-extortion, anti-narcotics trafficking, anti-kidnapping, citizen security, rural security, and intelligence analysis.

General José Roberto León Riaño has received 279 decorations during his distinguished career in the National Police of Colombia.

He has a Bachelor´s degree in police and business administration from the Cooperative University in Bogotá; a Diploma in integrated security at the National Police School in Bogotá, a Master’s degree in Hemispheric Security and Defense at the Inter-American Defense School in Washington, DC and a Diploma in Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law at the Nueva Granada Military University in Bogotá.

He has also taken courses at the French Ministry of Defense in Paris related to financial management and monitoring of police programs, analysis of security information, and explosives training.

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

General José Roberto León Riaño has been involved in a series of evidence-based approaches in the National Police of Colombia. He was appointed Chief of Citizen Security and Coexistence in 2007 and served as the leader of Strategic Operations and Services Department of the Police. This group oversaw 26 projects to improve the police including the National Plan for Community Policing in Quadrants (PNVCC).

The PNVCC was implemented in Colombia’s eight major cities beginning in 2009. The program involves identifying small geographic areas consisting of multiple blocks (quadrants) with major crime problems in each city. The main response was to provide community policing and problem solving to each area and to customize treatment based on the particular issues afflicting each quadrant. PNVCC training was staggered across 120 police stations, allowing for experimental comparisons between stations where officers had received training and those where they had not. PNVCC’s combination of community policing and other problem-oriented strategies has had a generally positive impact on crime rates in the quadrants in which it has been implemented. The evaluation also assessed officer attitudes, officer time spent in the quadrants, officer collaboration with other stations, and officer problem solving skills. While these outcomes have not shown findings as beneficial as the overall declines in homicides, personal theft, and vehicle theft, there are indications that the National Police of Colombia are making progress in efforts to move from a command and control approach to a more community-oriented, problem solving model.

In October 2011, General León Riaño was recognized for his essential contribution to the development and implementation of the PNVCC and promoted to General Subdirector of the National Police. In June of 2012 he was promoted to General Director of the National Police and given the rank of General.

More recently, he wrote the foreword and oversaw the writing of the “Operational Strategies for the National Police within the Framework of National Government Policy on Citizen Security and Coexistence.” This plan specifically advocates for three pillars of evidence-based policing: scientific evaluation of police practices; partnership with researchers to study crime and police interventions; and improved data collection and integration. These operational strategies include the continuation of the PNVCC and the implementation of a number of other evidence-based initiatives. Sixteen strategies to target criminal activity and organizations will soon be implemented.

Contributions to Grants, Publications, and Projects:

  • León Riaño, J. R. Foreward. In Operational strategies of the National Police within the framework of national government policy on citizen security and coexistence.
  • Bulla, P. et al. (2012) Impact evaluation of the national plan for community policing in quadrants. Metropolitan areas of Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Cúcuta, Bucaramanga, Pereira and Cartagena. Bogotá, Columbia: Fundación Ideas para la paz.