The top police commander in the central state of Mexico acknowledged that officers extorted money from motorists and said he understood why in a video released Monday by the Reforma newspaper.
State Security Agency, or ASE, director Rogelio Cortes Cruz said his only concern was that officers not commit “excesses.”
“I’m not appalled if they grab a peso or two pesos. It’s their problem, but the day they grab them, that dude and you, you’re going to the slammer,” the chief said in a secretly taped conversation with police officers.
Cortes Cruz admitted that some officers carried altered ticket books that showed fines up to 600 times larger than the law allowed, Reforma reported on Sunday.
Noting that some cops demand as much as 15,000 pesos ($1,270) for an infraction, he said: “Then that’s an excess.”
That is the kind of behavior that harms the agency because it draws attention to corrupt practices, Cortes Cruz said.
“I’m waiting with a machete to see which dude falls,” the chief said.
The ASE commander said he was aware that police salaries were low and hard to live on, making it understandable that officers would squeeze motorists for bribes.
Cortes Cruz, a career police officer, has been in charge of the ASE since last year and has held numerous command posts since 1998.
Mexico state, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area, is one of the regions most affected by drug cartels and other organized crime groups, security experts say.
Motorists in Mexico state and other parts of the country are used to being stopped by police officers looking to pocket some money.
Officers try to conceal their intentions, sometimes stopping a vehicle for 20-30 minutes until the driver pays some money to avoid a larger fine.
The non-governmental organization Transparencia Mexicana estimates that 197 million bribes totaling more than $2 billion were paid in Mexico in 2007.