El Diario de Juarez November 11, 2012
|Husband and Wife speaking of their kidnap and torture in Juarez at the hands of Police|
Editorial translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
[Translator's note: There have been numerous news reports of police abuse in Juarez this past year, to the point that Police Chief Leyzaola recently pulled some surprise inspections in several police districts and ordered the release of dozens of detainees who had been arrested because of their physical appearance or because they did not have official identification on them when stopped by a cop. Although the number of homicides has declined measurably in Juarez, extortion, robbery and kidnapping appear to have increased. A big problem is that the police agencies have not earned the public's trust. --un vato] .
Trust in police agencies, an essential element if one wants to talk about consolidating advances in the area of public safety, will never be possible so long as its agents -- especially municipal police in their current phase-- abuse the citizen they were supposed to protect and become the criminals they are supposed to fight.
Any statistical gain from a decrease in criminal matters will be of little use if in the collective imagination an intervention by police generates fear instead of security.
It's no longer a matter of isolated cases. The complaints, the stories that have developed with police officers as antagonists of law-abiding citizens are a constant that does not allow any minimizing or dissimulation.
The general outcry to end abuses-- to adjust strategies, to purge the police of bad elements, to improve methods for internal control and to prosecute criminally those that have gone over to the side of the criminals-- has to be dealt with at the highest level of authority.
The accumulation of cases is alarming. The people of Juarez began this week by learning about the dramatic case of a man who was left for dead by police and, severely beaten and with a plastic bag placed on his head, was dumped in an isolated place in the city's southwest.
Daniel Hernandez Favela, 50 years old, was taken from his home in the La Cuesta housing subdivision by a group of 14 municipal police agents wearing hoods -- according to the complaint filed with the State Attorney General-- who were looking for drugs in the house. They "drove him" around for more than two hours, beat him while they were interrogating him about his activities and threatened to kill him.
Because he denied he was involved in selling drugs, the agents kicked him until he lost consciousness. He later woke up, abandoned in an area outside the city. He had to use a wheelchair to appear in person to denounce the incident and had to be helped by his relatives because it was difficult for him to stand up and walk.
At the Attorney General's Office, it transpired that the police involved in the incident belong to the Special Operations Group (GEO; Grupo de Operaciones Especiales) which has been singled out in other complaints for illegal searches, injuries and even theft of property from the homes they go into.
|9 Year old American boy shot by police as they arrested his mother for murder, she was innocent and set free|
Also during this week, three preventive police officers, among them a woman, were arraigned before a magistrate (juez de garantia), accused of abuse of authority, unlawful use of public force and injuries against three young people who last August were taken from their home in the Portal del Roble subdivision to be tortured and dumped in a vacant lot.
Maria Victoria and Jose Refugio Sifuentes Gamboa and Erick Villa Sifuentes accused the police of detaining them and beating them with no apparent motive after they entered the home without a search warrant.
After they searched the home, the police officers took the three young people away and drove around with them for three hours through several parts of the city. During that time, they covered their faces with plastic bags and continued to beat them.
According to the charges presented by the prosecutors, one of the agents kept pressing Erick Villa's eye until it bled. Finally, they dropped them off and left them with their hands tied on a property close to Independencia Blvd.
The three police agents are facing charges of abuse of authority and excessive use of force, with one of them specifically charged with causing injuries.
The police officers were taken before a judge that will decide on November 14 whether they can be prosecuted criminally, although, in the meantime, they are free.
To close out the week, another story involved municipal police agents that turned out to the leaders of a gang of extortionists and "cobracuotas" (protection money collectors).
On Thursday, the initial arrest of five suspected criminals was widely disseminated because it happened in part due to the decisive actions of a Traffic police agent who pursued two vehicles that had just been involved in Molotov bomb attack against a mechanic's shop whose owner refused to pay the "cuota" (protection money). That day, the way that the Municipal Police coordinated an operation to surround the criminals, one of which fired his pistol against the officers, was notable.
The next day, the case took an important twist when a municipal police agent was arrested and presented to pretrial authorities by his fellow officers after the investigation revealed that he was the leader of the gang and he received the "cuota" money.
Just yesterday, it happened that two other agents, who could not be arrested, also participated in that criminal activity along with Edgar Antonio Castaneda, the (police) officer who, when he appeared before the Public Ministry, said he knew the detainees but denied leading the gang.
That's how the week closed, but the recent register is full of more horror stories in which the police have dirtied their badge and their uniform to become victimizers instead of protectors of the citizens.
Just last week, four other municipal agents were subjected to criminal prosecution, all of them for abuse of authority and torture committed against two young men they stopped with a car that was reported s stolen and who presumably had committed a carjacking.
One of the officers was also accused of aggravated rape.
An arraignment magistrate (juez de garantias) ruled that there were sufficient elements to initiate criminal proceedings, after the State Attorney General filed the charges described above, for offenses committed against the two suspected car thieves that they detained on October 18 in Colonia Las Haciendas.
Initiating criminal proceedings against the police officers was made possible due to the actions of the prosecutor who was assigned the case that the cops filed against the suspected carjackers. Upon noticing the injuries that a doctor was able to confirm right there, upon questioning the suspects and listening to the statement regarding the rape and the threats to keep them from saying anything, the prosecutor ordered the arrest of the municipal agents.
The four agents of the Public Safety (Department) face preventive imprisonment while the proceedings against them are exhausted.
|Two UTEP Engineering students ran out of gas in Juarez, the girls father went for gas|
as the young couple waited. That is when municipal police came and became very agressive
According to the State Human Rights Commission (CEDH; Comision Estatal de Derechos Humanos), there have been 35 complaints filed against municipal police officers for unlawful arrest, theft and abuse of authority. Also, there are some cases of torture and physical and verbal assault inside the police district facilities.
Since the beginning of the month, another dozen complaints of abuse and human rights violations by police officers from different agencies have been received at the mobile units that were installed by the CEDH and the Security Table (Mesa de Seguridad) at several locations around the city.
But the complaints began to skyrocket since last year when the Municipal Ministry of Public Security (Secretaria de Seguridad Publica Municipal), led by Lt. Col. Julian Leyzaola, launched the strategy of "sectorization" which, in essence, involved gradually taking territorial control by zones with reinforcements from agents and new patrol vehicles that were able to carry out a type of "sweep" in each of the districts.
However, the operation was not limited to preventive patrols and developing community ties, but rather, it degenerated into simple forays whose ultimate objective was to generate the maximum possible number of arrests.
There was so much abuse of authority that the "offenses" of many of the detainees was nothing more than their physical appearance, a lack of an official identification document or not being able to prove "making an honest living" to the police officer.
It is unacceptable that, despite numerous complaints, the practice continues. And even though the authorities deny systematically that the police officers are working under arrest quotas, the courts continue to be filled with these types of cases in which, in addition, there is a prevailing tendency to criminalize the most vulnerable sectors of society.
How can they pretend to take a step towards a community police model -- to regain the neighborhood police character-- if, aware of the abuse on a daily basis, the last thing a citizen wants is to have a police officer nearby?
There are, then, areas that will not allow more delay, and the first one has to do with a review of work processes and schemes that affect only the statistics of police intervention or the Treasury, from the payment of fines, but which are not necessarily related to a decrease in crimes.
Another is the perennial demand for purging police agencies, which has never been effective due to operational and budgetary incapacity that all levels of government of have demonstrated, despite the fact that the implementation of professional fitness controls (examenes de confianza) was diagnosed as a priority some time ago.
Although in many of the cases police officers have been charged, that was possible because of the willingness of their commanders to bring charges against the officers involved, or because the protectionist culture among different police and pretrial agencies has been eliminated, the public is still waiting to learn about the systematic application of exemplary punishment of all those who betrayed the trust placed in them as public servants.
Until these pending matters are resolved, even with the undeniable decrease in crime statistics, it will be difficult to convince the community, internal or external, that the City of Juarez can be presented as a "success" in the area of public safety.