During the past three years the state of Veracruz in Mexico has removed 3,500 police officers from duty, a result of extensive efforts to destroy deep running ties between police and organized crime.
Of the thousands of police dismissed, 37 Veracruz officers are now facing trial over alleged ties to organized crime, reported La Jornada.
Veracruz's Secretary of Public Security (SSP), Arturo Bermudez Zurita, said that previously the Veracruz police "served other interests," such as "organized crime, namely the Gulf Cartel, Jalisco Cartel, or the Zetas." Now, he said, "there is a different climate, of much better security, that we have created."
Bermudez said of the dismissed officers that authorities know, "Who they are, where they are, and what they are doing," and made assurances the work of agents under his command would be transparent.
The secretary also acknowledged that kidnappings, extortion, and cattle rustling frequently occur in Veracruz, but said incidences of these crimes are decreasing -- although he offered no figures to support the claim.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although Veracruz has historically not been one of Mexico's most violent states, its long coastline makes it an attractive proposition to drug cartels, which have long controlled territory there with the aid of corrupt police and officials.
Once dominated by the Gulf Cartel, the state later became the domain of the cartel's breakaway armed wing, the Zetas. In 2011, then President Felipe Calderon said Veracruz had "been left in the hands of the Zetas."
Zetas infiltration of the police became so pervasive that in 2011 government officials dismissed 980 Veracruz state police as well as the entire police force in the city of Veracruz, some 800 officers and 300 administrative staff.
SEE ALSO: Zetas News and Profiles
Since that time the Mexican government has made attempts at police reform, subjecting officers to confidence tests, which include polygraph and drug tests. Despite reforms, however, the recent implication of Veracruz police in the killing of a Mexican singer shows how even vetting procedures that have removed thousands of officers have not entirely succeeded in weeding out corruption.
A further possible side effect of removing so many corrupt officers is that this may be providing the cartels with a large pool of professionally trained recruits.