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

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The Disturbing Reality of Cop Killings in Mexico

"Morogris" for Borderland Beat

Note: This is a direct translation from a report published by Proceso, a left-wing Mexican news magazine published in Mexico City.

Poorly paid, poorly trained, and poorly equipped, Mexican police officers have tragically become "cannon fodder" in Mexico's drug war.

There are no officials records of how many police officers have been killed in Mexico. But according to non-governmental organizations, from 2018 to June 2023, nearly 2,500 police officers have been killed.

In Mexico, the killing of a police officer rarely results in consequences for the perpetrator.

Between 2018 and last June, an alarming total of 2,482 officers have been killed nationwide. Shockingly, statistical data indicates that on a daily basis, at least one officer's death is reported. Those who remain on active duty confront a perilous reality, toiling without adequate protection, enduring low pay, insufficient training, and inadequate equipment, while practically feeling abandoned by the State.

Moreover, the grueling hours they work under these harsh conditions further compound the risk of fatalities they face.

Since 2018, the civil association Causa en Común has been diligently monitoring and compiling data on the murders of Mexican police officers. According to the organization, these cases represent a direct challenge to the State, highlighting the indifference of federal and state governments, as well as societal indifference. Consequently, a significant portion of these homicides receive limited coverage, relegated to the inner pages of local newspapers.

In this context, security personnel in Mexico face a significantly higher risk of being killed compared to other countries. Mexico records 151.7 police officer killings per 100,000 police officers while Canada's mortality rate stands at 2.9 agent murders per 100,000 of them.

Between January 1, 2018, and January 31, 2023, nearly 2,500 police officers in Mexico have been killed. Throughout 2018, at least 452 officers were murdered. Of this grim total, 223 were municipal officers, 198 were state officers, and 31 belonged to the now-defunct Federal Police.

One such incident took place on February 11, 2018, when the Durango State Attorney General's Office confirmed a confrontation involving at least eight men. Among the deceased was José Luis Lazalde Estrada, the municipal director of Public Security of Cuencamé. The investigations revealed that all the victims sustained gunshot wounds in various parts of their bodies.

This violent act occurred on a remote farm situated on the outskirts of Cuauhtémoc, far from the rest of the town's residences.

The investigations determined that the events involved a group of individuals, and based on their positions and the evidence found, it is believed that they were together when the conflict began.

In 2019, a total of 446 police officers were tragically murdered, including 235 municipal officers, 188 state officers, and 23 from the Federal Police.

On March 5 of that year, the District Attorney for the Western Zone of Chihuahua initiated investigations into the attack on municipal police officers during a tour of the La Concha community in Madera. The attack resulted in the deaths of two young officers, aged 23 and 24. At the scene, two vehicles were found with multiple gunshot perforations, two lifeless officers (a man and a woman), and three others injured, including the deputy director of Public Security.

In 2020, following the establishment of the National Guard with elements from the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena) and the Ministry of the Navy (Semar), the number of police officer murders surged by up to 25%.

Throughout that year, 524 officers lost their lives, including 280 municipal officers, 217 state officers, and 27 from the National Guard. Tragically, the year witnessed numerous incidents of violence against police officers.

On February 17, the dismembered body of a former police officer was discovered in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. On February 22, four agents were assassinated in Córdoba, Veracruz. 

Later, on March 8, a commando executed five police officers in Leonardo Bravo, Guerrero, and on March 16, three municipal officers died while reportedly responding to a report of a gunfight in Tolimán, Querétaro.

The rising toll of police officer fatalities is a deeply concerning and distressing trend.

An incident that is not part of Causa en Común's collection is the one that occurred on the night of Thursday, June 23, 2020, in the municipality of Jamapa, Veracruz. During this unfortunate event, the body of the municipal police commander, Miguel de Jesús Castillo Hernández, was found dismembered.

Initially, he had been reported missing, but later, a video surfaced on social media showing him handcuffed and blindfolded. In the audiovisual material, he was seen being interrogated, where he pointed out the authorities of Jamapa and Soledad de Doblado for engaging in illegal actions, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial executions.

Guanajuato had the highest police murder rate in Mexico from January to August 2022 with 32. To see this interactive dashboard, please visit the Causa en Común page here

Official abandonment

In 2021, the number of murders of police officers reported in local media dropped to 401. Among them, 205 belonged to municipal corporations, 161 to state forces, and 35 to the National Guard.

On April 26 of that year, the Journalism and Public Opinion Laboratory (POBLab), a digital medium and civil association responsible for keeping a specific record of murdered police officers, revealed that one in every five agents killed in the state was from Guanajuato. Despite comparatively better salaries and insurance, growing concerns have arisen among members of local police forces.

In recent weeks, criminal groups have escalated violence against police officers in Guanajuato, with a particular focus on the State Public Security Forces (FSPE). Members of the FSPE have expressed their discontent over the lack of a substantial response from their superiors.

In April, eleven officers and former officers were executed, and among them, four were from the FSPE. It is alarming to note that several of these officers did not lose their lives in action but were taken after being forcibly removed from their homes.

Despite the high number of homicides, only five suspects were detained, according to the newspaper count carried out by POPLab on the Official Fallen microsite.

On April 22, 2021, Óscar Guillermo Ríos Álvarez, director of Cereso Mil in Valle de Santiago, was targeted in an attack while leaving his home in León, Guanajuato. The assailants left a threatening card not only for him but also for other directors of the Penitentiary System, which, along with the FSPE, forms part of the State Public Security Secretariat. The attack was allegedly linked to movements of detainees in Guanajuato prisons.

Municipal police in Celaya investigating a crime scene (image credit: Proceso)

The majority, municipal officers

In 2022, a total of 403 police officers were executed, with 252 from municipal forces, 132 from state forces, and 17 from the National Guard.

On February 19 of that year, a tragic confrontation between security forces and criminal groups in the community of Sarabia, Jerez, Zacatecas, resulted in the death of 22-year-old Yonatan Clavel Martínez, a member of the National Guard from Oaxaca. Three alleged assailants were also killed in the shootout, bringing the total number of security elements killed in Zacatecas to 16 during 2022.

From January 2023 to last June, the record shows 256 police murders. On May 26, it was reported that for the second consecutive day, armed civilians attacked elements of the Municipal Police of Celaya, Guanajuato. The attack occurred at a gas station where two police officers were injured.

This attack in Celaya occurred less than 24 hours after another attack against municipal police officers in the community of Rincón de Tamayo, resulting in the death of two uniformed officers and injuries to two more. Notably, this marks the eighth direct attack against Celaya municipal agents in a month and a half, leading to three officers' deaths and five injured.

In Veracruz, on June 5, two police officers from the Civil Force (FC) were reported missing: Miriam Iranís Vázquez Herrera and Miguel Martínez Reyes. They were last seen on May 30 in the city of José Cardel, La Antigua municipality. To aid in their search, the Veracruz State Search Commission (CEBV) disseminated their faces and data.

Until 2020, the majority of police officers killed were preventive officers (755), followed by ministerial officers (136), transit officers (40), and prison guards (22). At the federal level, 46 officers from the Federal Police/National Guard were killed, along with 11 ministerial officers and one penitentiary officer.

At the state level, 10 police officers killed were transit officers, while 257 were preventive officers, 125 were ministerial officers, and 21 were penitentiary officers. On the municipal level, 30 transit officers and 452 preventive officers have been executed.

From the analysis of available information by Causa en Común, specific modalities, patterns, or motivations for the murder of police officers cannot be definitively concluded.

Francisco Rivas, representative of the non-governmental organization Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano, expresses deep concern about the alarming number of police officers murdered in Mexico:

"If violence against the police continues to escalate, those who should protect us, what can we expect as a society? What will become of us?"

"The situation is highly complex and dramatic, considering the current levels of violence and, at the same time, the lack of recognition by the authorities of the seriousness of this problem."

He laments that the authorities do not have an accurate record to fully grasp the number of police officers killed while fulfilling their roles as security and justice authorities.

"We rely on some compilations made by organizations like Causa en Comun, and some media outlets keep counts, but there may still be significant gaps in the information."

Nevertheless, based on the available information, "we can see that there is a substantial problem. Throughout the year, we have witnessed several cases of public servants in the Security and Justice sector falling victim to the grave violence experienced in the country." 

"Why does this happen? Well, it is due to various factors, including a lack of training and resources, but also because of the complicities that exist within state, municipal, and federal governments with criminal groups."

Sources: Proceso (author: Patricia Dávila); Causa en Común; Excel Sheet for 2022


  1. I feel for the honest cops in Mexico... I've met a few cops in Mexico who have been very kind, resourceful, and respectful. These have been in CDMX of course, where they are paid way better than those in the "provincias" (states).

  2. At least have the DEATH PENALTY for folks that kill policeman/Miltary/Reporters/Kids

    1. "For Folks that Kill"......a favorite of Obama....and no equity for women?

  3. I have met a lot of decent and honest police officers in Mexico over the years. I have also met many corrupt police. Part of the problem is that everyone assumes that all of the police in Mexico are corrupt so they don't have sympathy for the honest ones. If people want things to change in Mexico, they have to weed out the bad cops and support the honest ones.

  4. Instead of Lopez obrador talking crap to the USA and denying everything he should pay all police officers with more training that's why they work for different groups because they get threatened and they don't get support from their bosses or district attorney's No don't see that crap in the US in America you respect them and don't even think of threatening them.mexico and Canada should copy that.

    1. @5.54. The Calderon zero tolerance war against the cartels turns Mexico into a killing field and destroys the trust between its institutions, the blatant corruption of Pena Nieto solidifies it, and you blame AMLO, the one man who has been railing for years about how obvious it is that if you pay police and soldiers a tenth of what they deserve then somebody else will pay them more? I never understand how people from the US manage to have it both ways...

  5. Police have no respect in Mexico. In America you kill a cop , IF you make it to court it’s a guaranteed death sentence.

  6. I’m still surprised the Mexican cops don’t all have armoured trucks like our guys have the bearcats and bushmaster even can drive over land mines and keep everyone inside safe. Instead I see 6 police sitting out in the open in the back of trucks with nothing more than a handrail and seat. Id refuse to use them open trucks and demand bearcats.

    1. You're right bro, they should all be issued M1 Abrams tanks to patrol the streets. Or just demand world peace, problem solved.

  7. As a tourist there were a few times that i might've killed a few mex cops. Filth!

  8. Wish the cops in the US were put thru this daily. Maybe us cops would stop beating people If a few got knocked off. Bye piggies!

    1. LEOs do get killed in the USA but when their murderers are arrested the death penalty is the sentence even when they're not on duty. Even here in California I can carry a concealed firearm with a permit.
      Can regular law abiding citizens in México do that? How about law enforcement, can they carry concealed firearms while off duty?

  9. Really surprised they still have police stations or better yet, surprised they are still recruiting hahaha

  10. Brilliant post Morogris. The more people that understand that it isn't about ''corrupt'' police vs ''good'' police the more people might use that logic to break down why kids end up working for local police who are paid by local gangs who are paid by somebody they have never met. People on here seem to know who does what for who in hindsight, but most people don't have that luxury on the ground.


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