A proposal by the governor of Mexico’s southwest state of Guerrero to disband municipal police forces and replace them with a single unit is unlikely to rid the force of some of the structural problems that have hindered its ability to combat the crime groups that have helped turn the state into one of the most violent in the country.
Guerrero Governor Héctor Antonio Astudillo Flores suggested the move would be the best option for improving security in the state in a September 26 interview with Imagen Radio. The day before, state and federal authorities in Mexico seized control of the municipal police force in Guerrero’s beach resort town of Acapulco.
The move came in response to concerns that organized crime groups had infiltrated the force. Once a famous tourist destination, Acapulco is now one of Mexico's most violent cities.
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During the operation in Acapulco, authorities arrested Municipal Transit Director Rafael Rivas Valdés for allegedly having weapons in his possession that were not those officially provided to him, according to Excelsior. Two other police commanders were arrested on murder charges.
Governor Astudillo Flores told Imagen Radio that there are more arrests to come to “stop the possibility of any relationship between these people [municipal police forces] and organized crime.”
Before his resignation in April 2018, former Guerrero Attorney General Xavier Olea said in a March 2017 interview with the Spanish newspaper El País that the state simply doesn’t have the “capacity to confront organized crime.”
InSight Crime Analysis
Disbanding municipal police forces to create a single, unified force does not address any of the underlying factors that cause these units to become increasingly vulnerable to corruption and infiltration from organized crime groups.
Overall, police officers in Mexico are paid dismal wages, often work more hours than should be expected and are understaffed in areas of the country that have the most public security threats. In particular, municipal police officers often earn less than those at the state and federal levels, making them even more susceptible to bribes and infiltration from organized crime groups.
Indeed, state authorities and military personnel recently suspended an entire municipal police force in the central state of Puebla -- a criminally strategic zone for fuel theft -- amid suspicions of corruption and links to organized crime. That was the fourth such operation that authorities had carried out in Puebla this year alone.
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While municipal police forces are undeniably more vulnerable than other units, disbanding them and creating a single unit in hopes of improving security doesn’t address the structural factors that are contributing to the problem, such as a lack of oversight and inadequate training to face organized crime-related threats, among others. It also doesn't take away the financial incentive for crime groups to continue moving drugs through criminally strategic areas, such as Acapulco.
Acapulco is home to a major port with a high volume of boat traffic, which makes it ideal for criminal organizations that are receiving cocaine shipments from Colombia to traffic north to markets in the United States. With a steady supply of drugs and continued demand, criminal groups will keep doing what they have been doing in order to further their criminal activities, including infiltrating and corrupting security forces.