The Nuevo Leon Attorney General's Office announced Saturday that 44 municipal and transit police officers from the municipality of Santa Catarina were charged and jailed for engaging in organized crime. Specifically, the charges were for acting as "halcones" and providing protection for Los Zetas cells in Santa Catarina.
Santa Catarina is located within the western borders of the Monterrey metropolitan area on the highway corridor to Saltillo, and is well known to North America's technical rock climbing community for the sheer rock walls of the La Huasteca canyon complex.
Halcones, or lookouts, are the eyes and ears that provide intelligence on the movement of military and police forces and rival criminal groups or potential extortion and kidnap targets in their "plazas" thru radio and mobile phone networks. They are the early warning system that every insurgent and criminal organization worldwide employs.
Co-opted municipal police officers are the most dangerous halcones for the damaging intelligence they provide to organized crime on imminent and ongoing military and police operations. "Transitos"(transit, or traffic, police) are especially useful.
These men and women also damage the society at large due to their extreme corruption.
Police halcones also function as abduction teams, arresting and delivering persons of interest to criminal groups. These victims rarely survive their ordeal. They may act as killers but these are usually actual sicaros working under police cover.
These corrupt police often enter the ranks of criminal groups and drug cartels after leaving or being terminated from their departments.
At the State and Federal police levels these officers are often highly trained and specialized and bring invaluable skills with them. State and Federal police operate at a higher level than municipal police and provide more important functions than mere halcones.
Anyone familiar with the drug war in Mexico is aware that cell leaders, mid-level cartel comandantes and plaza chiefs usually have a police background.
Most municipal police officers usually don't begin as corrupt officials but the low pay, poor training and inferior equipment usually attract many poorly educated and vulnerable individuals. This is especially true in rural and poor urban municipalities.
The 44 officers charged with being halcones were part of a group of 52 officers that were detained last Wednesday by state investigative police backed by Army troops and federal police. A total of 113 officers out of the municipal force of 250 are under investigation for links to organized crime.
The investigation of the Santa Catarina police force was the result of recent arrests of Zetas who confessed that they operated under the protection of certain officers.
The vetting of police departments via background checks, polygraph and drug testing of it officers is now mandatory nationally. The Nuevo Leon state government is currently purging state and municipal police forces of corrupt and low quality officers and will integrate remaining members with new recruits to form a single accredited force named "Fuerza Civil".
Fuerza Civil units, recruited and accredited by the National Defense Ministry (Sedena), will gradually replace all current state and municipal forces.
Although the state government will offer better pay and training with life insurance, housing and retirement benefits, it is inevitable the power and wealth of the drug cartels will insure that members of this force will also be co-opted.
The best case scenario is that the infiltration of the Fuerza Civil will be minimal.
3 Transit police murdered in Apodaca
Three transit police officers were killed and one seriously wounded in an attack by unknown gunmen last Thursday in the municipality of Apodaca, also within the
Monterrey metropolitan area.
Apodaca is another Zeta stronghold whose police force has been heavily infiltrated.
These types of executions are usually the work of rival groups, in this case the Gulf cartel, eliminating halcones.
Earlier last week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, 13 Apodaca municipal police officers were arrested by the Army after several of the officers were witnessed "halconeando", communicating with handheld radios, probably Nextels.
Nine of the officers were jailed and charged with engaging in organized crime.
Video of police commander in Veracruz recruiting his men as halcones
This past July the transit police force in Jalapa, the capitol of the state of Veracruz, was disbanded and all 270 members of the force were terminated.
Shortly thereafter this video was released showing a Jalapa police comandante threatening a group of transit officers with consequences if they fail to comply with his order to act as halcones.
Although no criminal organization is mentioned it can be assumed that the men are being forced to work for Los Zetas, who have being entrenched in Veracruz for several years.
Below is the video and a rough translation of the comandante's words to the men.
"Whoever doesn't want to work will be shot in the ass."
"Who's not going to work? Whoever doesn't work well that's his problem but there's going to be people with the list (of officers) and they'll know who's working and whoever doesn't will be punished."
"And I don't think he's (points to man with clipboard) going to cover to save your asses. All the same report in."
"It's the same thing we talked about this morning, I already know......they want a presence and they want you to get to work."
"They're going to give a Nextel radio to each unit and that fucking radio better be there every morning afternoon and night sending though the 7's and 4's (channels?) where there's.....if you see a Marine....whoever's working, whatever's moving."
"Then, we're only waiting for the word, but this shit is now and whoever doesn't want to we're going to fuck their ass up."
"That's the order bro's, this isn't our shit. It's not a matter of coming here to shock you or brainwash you to get you to work. This shit's getting heavy."
"In fact, the chief said through the 7 4: I'm coming down myself for any motherfucker who refuses to work, so you all will understand."
"I heard that at first they're going to tie you up and beat you and the next time.....so you know that's how they do it, its psychology. That shit messes you up."
"Right now straight up I'll tell you if that happened to me that's it."
"I don't want any problems but that's the way it is with all this shit."
"And whoever thinks he's tough, well that's your problem."