Friends of Utah: Cristian Lazo Mejias

Mr. Lazo Mejias is an instructor with the Gendarmería Training Academy and Superior Education Department, where he teaches future law enforcement officers in Chile. Before coming to the U.S., Mr. Lazo Mejias hoped to explore U.S. strategies for crime prevention and effective social reintegration of ex-convicts. He was also interested in best practices to strengthen public trust in public security institutions and improve cooperation between law enforcement institutions, making him an ideal candidate for the Community Policing program, a program administered by FHI 360.

During his time in the U.S., Mr. Lazo Mejias observed community policing practices in rural and urban areas, examined the critical role of transparency and accountability in law enforcement, and explored methods for assessing the security needs of the public and how to increase community security through planning, communication, and the use of volunteers. 

Mr. Lazo Mejias’ group met with several law enforcement officials, including those with the Unified Police Department, the Salt Lake City Police Department, and the Ogden City Police Department. One of Mr. Lazo Mejias most memorable moments during his stay in Salt Lake City was a ride along with Salt Lake City Police Department patrol officers.

 Cristian Lazo Mejías_Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

Ride along with Ogden City Police patrol officer.

Mr. Mejias also had the opportunity to meet with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill to learn about collaborative and community-oriented approaches to problem solving, including therapeutic justice and alternatives to prosecution.

Cristian Lazo Mejias (photo 2)_Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy

Meeting with Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the heightened risk of outbreaks within penitentiaries, Mr. Laxo Mejias faced outbreaks in staff and inmates, as well as riots. As a result, many of the existing programs and initiatives were halted. Mr. Lazo Mejias shares, “The pandemic that affects us has undoubtedly prevented progress in initiatives for our service and we hope in the future to be able to generate related activities.”

Yet, the lessons he learned in the U.S. have helped Mr. Lazo Mejias navigate the pandemic in his own community. “We learned to be more empathetic to the community,” said Lazo Mejias. While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected international communities in different ways, we are grateful for the essential workers, like Mr. Lazo Mejias, who advocate for health and safety in vulnerable populations. By encouraging community policing -- collaboration between law enforcement and citizenry to inform and enforce law -- officers like Mr. Lazo Mejias are learning to bring justice, citizen diplomacy, and peace to their communities.