Meixco City – Mexican lawmakers and organizations offered mixed reaction Wednesday to a plan approved by a majority of the nation’s governors that would subsume municipal police forces into state-level law enforcement agencies.
While some say the approach could improve coordination and aid efforts to purge corrupt cops, others contend that any reform will fail unless accompanied by an overhaul of the way Mexican police operate.
Twenty-three members of a council that includes the governors of Mexico’s 31 states and the mayor of Mexico City signaled their assent Tuesday to the plan to eliminate local police forces.
The notion has emerged amid a wave of drug-related violence blamed for 19,000 deaths nationwide since December 2006.
More than half the country’s 2,022 municipal police departments have fewer than 20 officers, according to the federal Public Safety Department, whose head, Genaro Garcia Luna, formulated the plan approved by a majority of the governors.
To become a reality, the proposal would have to pass Congress and be ratified by state legislatures.
Leaders of the Senate blocs of the main opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and the center-left PRD welcomed the governors’ endorsement of the plan.
But Sen. Alberto Anaya of the leftist Labor Party said the real need is for a fundamental restructuring of both police and the military, to which rightist President Felipe Calderon has assigned the leading role in the battle with drug cartels.
Support from the idea came from the civic group Mexico SOS, which said the initiative would advance the cause of removing corrupt police and foster a unified crime-fighting policy.
It is time to “send a signal of unity and strength against organized crime in the sense that we are capable of joining forces and putting our ideological differences to one side,” the organization said.
The head of Icesi, a think-tank devoted to issues of public safety, told Efe the proposal is “very much on point.”
Working for “starvation wages,” municipal police officers are “highly vulnerable” to being suborned by criminal organizations, Luis de la Barreda said.
But the director of the organization Citizen Initiative and Social Development, Ernesto Lopez Portillo, said the consolidation proposal could make things worse, not better.
“The police problem in Mexico has to do, first, with the professional quality and management of police institutions,” he said. “We don’t have proven police models in Mexico.”