HomeNewsAnalysisCalderon Clashes with Mexican Governors over 'Unrealistic' Police Reform
ANALYSIS

Calderon Clashes with Mexican Governors over 'Unrealistic' Police Reform

MEXICO / 3 NOV 2011 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

A dispute between President Felipe Calderon and Mexico's governors over the pace of the vetting of state police forces reflects the nation’s difficulties in carrying out effective, lasting police reform.

Addressing the nation’s governors at a meeting of the National Public Security System, Calderon said that he “implored [them], while also offering the support of the federal government, to bring the evaluation of the middle and high commands, as well as half of the state’s operational and municipal officers, to completion by May next year at the latest.”

Calderon’s government has shown some aggressiveness in removing incompetent or dishonest officials in the security agencies at the federal level. As InSight Crime noted in August, the nation’s attorney general, Marisela Morales, has embarked on a significant housecleaning during her six months on the job. More than 1,000 employees of the PGR, the department she heads, have been either fired, arrested, or investigated during her tenure. Twenty-one of the 31 state PGR heads resigned in August to protest the mass firings.

The governors responded that the vetting process, set forth in a national security law that came into effect in 2009, is not due to be completed until 2013. Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre also objected to what he suggested were the unrealistic aims of the Calderon government. “I think that the governors would like to have police 100 percent certified," he said. “Nonetheless, our reality is otherwise, let’s not aspire to have police forces like Switzerland or such advanced countries.”

Both sides of the dispute err in their arguments. The governors, for instance, ignore the fact that they are carrying out the vetting at a snail’s pace. According to a study from the National Public Security System, released in February 2011, just 8 percent of the state police officers have passed through a vetting process, while states collectively spend just two-thirds of their total security budget allocation.

Given these statistics, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the state governments are not doing everything possible to improve the police under their control as quickly as possible. Furthermore, while the gap between the average advanced country’s police and Mexico’s is yawning, the sense of fatalism displayed by Aguirre is disheartening; revolutionizing a police system consisting of thousands of different institutions is a daunting prospect, but shouldn’t Mexico at least aspire to have world-class police forces?

Calderon’s position is motivated in part by the fact that Mexican governors typically respond to increases in violence with pleas to the federal government to deploy troops; this has been the tactic of, among others, Andres Grenier in Tabasco, and Zeferino Torreblanca in Guerrero. Stronger state police agencies would alleviate the strain on federal resources, allow them to concentrate their efforts more selectively, and could also allow the military to withdraw to a more supportive role.

Furthermore, Calderon has long sought a police reform that would consolidate the nation’s more than 2,000 municipal police departments into just 32 state bodies. Such a reform would make the integrity of the state institutions all the more important.

But Calderon’s position is also flawed. He implies that the vetting process simply needs to be brought to a finish, and then the state governments will all enjoy clean, competent police force.

Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe this. Past police purges have not served as a long-term solution to corruption in Mexican security agencies, and it is not likely that this one will be any different. Those police who remain after the vetting are not universally incorruptible; many of them have simply not been confronted with the dilemma. But if a criminal group loses all their local police protectors, logic dictates that they will seek to replace them. No matter the efficiency and thoroughness of the housecleaning, the gains will be only temporary.

Calderon’s comments reflect a linear conception of vetting, but the gangs are dynamic and adaptable, and the logic of corruption is cyclical. What is needed is not a one-off housecleaning, but rather the creation of strong, permanent anti-corruption institutions: well funded internal affairs bureaus at every level of the police, continual random drug and polygraph testing, perennial asset-monitoring, and the like.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HONDURAS / 7 DEC 2012

Due to the hundreds of officers who have left the Honduras police force over fears of the ongoing police purge,…

MEXICO / 24 SEP 2014

Mexico's Attorney General's Office has refused to release DNA testing results that would confirm the identity of slain Zetas leader…

MEXICO / 1 MAY 2014

Revelations of links between Mennonite communities and cartels from Mexico have garnered international attention recently. Yet while the ties are…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.