Monterrey, Nuevo Leon - Authorities in this northern industrial city said 178 municipal officers, or 40 percent of Monterrey’s entire police force, either resigned or have been dismissed in connection with anti-corruption screening carried out this week.
In a press conference Friday, Monterrey Mayor Fernando Larrazabal presented the results of five rounds of testing the officers underwent in recent days.
On Monday, Larrazabal ordered the police force’s 14 command-level officers and 600 patrolmen to be subjected to five evaluations to weed out officers suspected of ties to drug traffickers.
Larrazabal said 118 officers voluntarily resigned and 60 others with blemished records were fired.
The mayor said 76 percent of the sacked officers had been penalized by the city’s Honor and Justice Commission – an agency that processes claims against law-enforcement officials – or “denounced for actions that required the intervention of internal affairs.”
He added that 15 police failed toxicological exams, while polygraph tests determined that 12 officers were unfit for the job.
Larrazabal added that Monterrey authorities prefer a smaller, more committed police force that is less susceptible to infiltration by organized crime.
“It’s important to let citizens know that this government is launching a new stage of the Monterrey municipal police; it’s a stage in which we have fewer police but less chance of (residents of the metropolitan area) having doubts about their conduct,” he said.
The mayor said the purge is no guarantee against future acts of corruption or abuse of authority, and added that the city’s “zero tolerance” program will remain in effect.
The mayor said that on Monday he will announce a program of financial and labor-related incentives to support officers who remain with the police force.
Only some 400 Monterrey officers will remain employed, while another 150 cadets currently undergoing police-academy training will later join the force.
The army and Nuevo Leon state police were in charge of law enforcement in the city during the two-day lockdown.
The army determined that the Monterrey police force has been infiltrated by organized-crime groups and many of its officers work for Los Zetas, a band of special forces deserters turned outlaws.
Several municipal cops have been arrested in recent months for carrying out kidnappings on behalf of drug cartels.
In March, 23 members of a council that includes the governors of Mexico’s 31 states and the mayor of Mexico City signaled their assent to a plan to eliminate local police forces.
To become a reality, the proposal would have to pass Congress and be ratified by state legislatures.
The notion has emerged amid a wave of drug-related violence blamed for some 23,000 deaths nationwide since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006.
The president has deployed about 65,000 army troops and federal police nationwide to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations, with part of their work involving dismantling municipal police departments accused of having corrupt officers.