BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The head of Colombia’s police resigned Wednesday amid accusations of illegal enrichment and sexual misconduct with young cadets that threatened to tarnish the reputation of one of the South American nation’s most-prestigious institutions.
Gen. Rodolfo Palomino’s resignation came a day after Colombia’s inspector general opened an administrative probe into the accusations, which surfaced in the media late last year.
Palomino, in this third year as police chief, reiterated his innocence at a press conference and said the charges are part of a campaign to slander him.
“I can’t allow that because of an investigation against the director, doubts be cast on the police’s honorability,” Palomino said surrounded by his family and high-ranking officers. “Human beings are never above the institutions they serve.”
The accusations against Palomino range from his purchase of a luxury home outside Bogota that was apparently incompatible with his police salary and alleged illegal wiretaps against journalists.
But the most damning charges, which have monopolized public attention the past few days, are Palomino’s alleged participation in a male prostitution ring, dubbed the “Community of the Ring” by local media, that allegedly forced entry-level cadets to cater to high-ranking officers and even members of congress.
Palomino has for months fought accusations by a former colonel that he abused his position for sexual favors years ago.
In announcing the probe Tuesday, Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez said authorities obtained testimony and a videotaped conversation from 2008 between a then-senator and police captain that it said corroborates existence of the prostitution ring.
President Juan Manuel Santos, who in December had ordered his own probe of Palomino, thanked the general for his nearly four decades of public service while swiftly naming his replacement, Gen. Jorge Nieto, who had been deputy director.