Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, November 9, 2009

Disbanding Local Police Forces to Combat Corruption

Mexico's top security official proposed disbanding Mexico's 2,022 municipal police forces and combining them with state law enforcement agencies to better combat corruption and crime.

Local police have fewer resources to fight crime, and their lower salaries make them more susceptible to corruption, Mexican Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said.

"Public safety should be a state policy," he added.

Consolidating police forces would improve communication among officials, he said, and bring greater security to areas where local police have traditionally lacked the means to fight crime. Nearly 90 percent of the country's municipal police forces have staffs of less than 100 people, he said.

Garcia Luna spoke to reporters at the end of a meeting of public safety chiefs from Mexico's 31 states and the capital, where officials presented a report titled "A New Police Model."

The report describes local police as "an easy target for corruption," with more than 60 percent of them receiving monthly salaries of only 4,000 pesos (about $300). Most of them have completed less than 10 years of schooling and are either at basic education levels or illiterate, according to the report.

Incorporating them into state forces would help prevent organized crime from corrupting them, the report said.

Garcia Luna said federal legislators would have to approve any changes to the country's police structure.

President Felipe Calderon has acknowledged that corruption permeates Mexican police at all levels. He has relied on the army to fight ruthless drug cartels, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers across the country since taking office in late 2006. Gang violence has since surged, claiming more than 13,800 lives.

Crackdowns on local police have also become an increasingly common part of the drug war.

In September, the Pacific coast resort city of Cancun fired 30 police officers in an effort to clean up the image of a force long plagued by corruption. In June, nearly 80 police officers suspected of working with drug smugglers were arrested in 18 towns across the northern state of Nuevo Leon after soldiers found lists of police names in the possession of traffickers.

Mexico's 159,734 municipal police make up nearly 40 percent of Mexico's police forces.

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