The police force responsible for law and order in this port city will be shut down and replaced on a temporary basis by Mexican naval personnel, authorities in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz said Wednesday.
Part of a national effort to root out corrupt, abusive and incompetent cops, the move was announced by Gov. Javier Duarte via executive order.
The department’s 900 uniformed officers and 100 administrative employees will receive severance and a chance to reapply for their jobs after undergoing a vetting process, state government spokesperson Maria Gina Dominguez told a press conference.
The Veracruz-Boca del Rio Intermunicipal Police serves a metropolitan area of around 700,000 people that has been rocked in recent months by a bloody turf war among rival drug cartels.
Residents were stunned on Sept. 20 by the discovery of 35 bodies dumped on a busy thoroughfare in Boca del Rio, home to tourist hotels and affluent residential areas.
A week later, 32 bodies were found at three cartel “safe houses” in the metro area.
Gov. Duarte shut down the municipal police force to comply with the National Public Safety System’s requirement that each of Mexico’s 32 jurisdictions purge unfit cops and improve training for law enforcement agencies, Dominguez said.
The state government will pay the costs of having the Mexican navy take up the duties of the defunct police force in Veracruz-Boca del Rio, she said.
This is the second time this year the Veracruz state government has shut down a local police department. The 837 officers of the Xalapa-Banderilla-Tlalnehuayocan Intermunicipal Police were laid off in May.
Within days of taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon gave Mexico’s armed forces the leading role in the struggle with drug cartels, a policy that has been accompanied by intensifying violence and 50,000 deaths.
The military has replaced local police in several crime-plagued municipalities.
Mexican soldiers and marines also carry out mass arrests of police suspected of colluding with organized crime, but those dramatic, high-profile operations have led to few prosecutions.