Back in 2009, the government of Panama decided to update and provide all law enforcement and defense agencies with new uniforms, technology and weapons.
The Republic of Panama is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures are uniformly high (seldom exceeding 32 degrees Celsius or 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit)—as is the relative humidity (84 percent)—and there is little seasonal variation. Climatic regions are determined less on the basis of temperature than on rainfall, which varies regionally from less than 1,300 millimeters (51.2 inches) to more than 3,000 millimeters (118.1 inches) per year. Almost all of the rain falls during the rainy season, which is usually from April to December.
Due to the combination of rainfall, high temperatures, humidity and salinity, any law enforcement weapon used in Panama must be capable of enduring the extreme conditions with virtually little maintenance, reliability and swift performance.
In the past, the vast majority of law enforcement personnel used .38-caliber revolvers. The switch to semi-automatic pistols needed to be as smooth as possible. The government was looking for a replacement model with easy operation, maintenance and training. The new weapon would also need few parts—allowing gunsmiths to complete repair jobs, if needed, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The weapon of choice needed to be accurate, with decent stopping power and capacity, and it needed to be lightweight for the prolonged working hours that law enforcement agents are usually subjected to.
After months of debates, deliberation and negotiations, the different security agencies of the government of Panama finally reached a consensus and approached the regional office of GLOCK Austria—namely GLOCK America, which is in charge of all the contracts for Central America, South America and the Caribbean—and informed them that after the thorough review of their submitted business proposal, the semi-automatic GLOCK pistol was selected as the standard-issue weapon of choice for all law enforcement entities in Panama.
It was a logical decision due to the unique qualities that have made GLOCK one of the preferred choices for law enforcement and personal use in countries with similar climates, such as Brazil, Suriname, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and others in Central and South America. This is a great accomplishment that speaks very highly of GLOCK products.
Panama was interested in acquiring 16,000 GLOCK 17 pistols, out of which 8,000 were reserved for the National Police, all of them in black and engraved with the motto “proteger y servir” (to protect and to serve), with three 17-round magazines and two double-magazine cases.
With this new equipment, law enforcement officers transitioned from old and outdated .38-caliber, six-round revolvers to modern-day 9mm 17-round pistols, enabling them to better perform their functions when fighting crime. The “Servicio de Protección Institucional,” or SPI as it is commonly referred to, is the agency in charge of protecting high-ranking government officials and state properties, and their agents would also be equipped with the GLOCK 17, replacing their similarly outdated Browning and Beretta pistols.
Special Tactics & Border Patrol
Special Operations units were also equipped with the GLOCK 17 in order to cope with their demanding air, sea and land surroundings.
The “Servicio Nacional de Fronteras” (or SENAFRONT for its acronym in Spanish), is the entity tasked with the responsibility of patrolling and protecting Panama’s natural borders, and their main area of influence is the rainforest. For this very demanding and extreme climate, they use the same GLOCK 17 with an OD green forest color, which matches perfectly with their Digital Woodland fatigue uniforms. Their pistols are engraved with their motto “Dios y Patria” (God and Country).
The “Servicio Nacional Aero-Naval” (SENAN) is the entity in charge of patrolling and protecting Panama’s air and maritime space. Due to their demanding and extreme working conditions, the GLOCK 17 is also the weapon of choice and has an OD green finish that perfectly matches their camouflage MultiCam uniforms. Their pistols are engraved with their motto “Dios, Patria y Honor” (God, Country and Honor).
All of the above groups, in conjunction with the National Police and the Canal Police (also equipped with GLOCK 17), are also tasked with the critical mission of guarding the country’s most important asset, the Panama Canal, the gateway between the Atlantic and the Pacific, which serves the world’s maritime commerce by offering a safe and expedient passage to more than 12,000 ships per year.
The changes and equipment standardization are part of the government’s vision for updating all law enforcement agencies, allowing their personnel to better accomplish their tasks and duties by providing them, in the case of their duty sidearm, with a trustworthy, accurate and safe weapon.
To complement GLOCK America’s proposal, training modules/courses for gunsmiths were offered to all of the agencies. Each gunsmith section was provided with the required tools and spare parts for the optimal performance of their new arsenal. For a week, approximately 100 gunsmiths were trained and certified to cope with the important job of maintaining the newly acquired equipment up to specifications at all times.
GLOCK is now the weapon of choice for all law enforcement officers in Panama. This is a major accomplishment, as GLOCK is now the sole provider of sidearms to the Republic of Panama.