More than 150 police officers were arrested in the embattled north Mexico state of Durango for ties to organized crime, underscoring the enormous challenge President Enrique Peña Nieto faces in combating corruption in the country's local forces.
On January 18, 158 municipal police from the Durango cities of Gomez Palacio and Lerdo were arrested on suspicion of working with criminal groups. Eighty administrative employees of the municipal police were also detained, although they were later released, reported the AFP.
Among those arrested were the directors of public security for both Gomez Palacio and Lerdo.
According to the BBC, the military has been deployed to the area to handle security in both cities while the officers are investigated.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest of these officers comes in the wake of accusations that the prosecutor's office in Gomez Palacio had been infiltrated by the powerful Sinaloa Cartel. The city is currently in the midst of a bloody battle between the Sinaloa Cartel and their rivals, the Zetas. It is as yet unclear to which organised criminal group the arrested officers are suspected of having links.
Municipal police officers are a common target of gangs in Mexico and have a long history of corruption. They are often outgunned by criminal groups and poorly paid. The offer of extra income, is sometimes hard to refuse, particularly when accompanied by death threats for non-compliance. The previous government of Felipe Calderon, who left office on December 1, announced last September that some 65,000 state and municipal police would be removed from their posts after being found unfit to serve.
President Enrique Peña has focused his efforts during his first seven weeks in office on restructuring the Federal Police under the Interior Ministry, dismantling the Secretariat of Public Security (SSP), and mandating the creation of a new 10,000 strong National Gendarmerie. The new administration plans to carry out a similar process of centralization for local police forces under a plan known as the "mando unico," or "single command." However, exactly how this will be carried out has yet to be fully explained, nor how it will help battle corruption in the force.