The significance of integrity within all levels of a nation’s law enforcement not only serves to stabilize it’s security, but also promotes economic growth and cultural well being. Without this factor, a nation is in peril as those more powerful seek to subdue the weak and bribery overthrows justice.
This report from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) delivers an analysis of Mexican law enforcement reform efforts over the past twenty years. It examines police corruption and human rights violations. Furthermore, it highlights the importance of continued law enforcement efforts in light of Mexico’s on-going security crisis, with an analysis of US security assistance provided.
WOLA promotes human rights, democracy, and social justice by working with partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to shape policies in the United States and abroad. WOLA mission statement
John P. Sullivan
WOLA is proud to release a new, comprehensive report, titled which provides an overview of police reform efforts over the past two decades and examines why, in spite of multiple initiatives, Mexican police forces continue to be abusive and corrupt. In the context of the ongoing security crisis in parts of Mexico, the study argues that a failure to increase efforts to hold Mexico’s police accountable for their actions will only perpetuate a vicious pattern of police abuse and a climate of mistrust between the police and the population.
Click here (PDF) to read the executive summary.
The study assesses the sweeping changes made to the criminal justice system in recent years and evaluates federal initiatives to support state and municipal police reform, vet all police forces through the confidence control (control de confianza) and evaluation system, and strengthen oversight mechanisms, such as Internal Affairs Units. Although Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has promised a new security strategy in order to reduce violence and recover citizen trust in police forces, the report shows that his administration has largely maintained the initiatives and police model that were put into place during the Calderón administration.
Why would anyone want to go to Mexico?
The report contends that while much has been done to reform Mexico’s police, establishing strong internal and external controls has not been a priority for the Mexican government. This has meant that agents implicated in wrongdoing–from acts of corruption to grave human rights violations–have little incentive to change their actions, because the odds are slim that they will ever be investigated and sanctioned.
The study further argues that comprehensive police reform is urgently needed in order to reverse the trend to militarize public security in the country. The Mexican government has argued that it needs to use the military in police roles because police forces are either too corrupt or too ill-trained to handle the high levels of crime and violence seen in recent years. However, Mexico’s experience has shown that deploying the military cannot be a substitute for building police forces that fight crime with the trust and cooperation of ordinary citizens, and the militarization of public security in the country has resulted in a dramatic increase in human rights violations by the Mexican Armed Forces.
As the force positioned to take over the role of the Mexican military in areas with high levels of crime and violence, the Federal Police are given particular attention in this report. The Mexican government has held up the Federal Police as a modern, professional, and well-trained force, and it grew significantly between 2006 and 2012, from 6,500 agents in 2006 to 37,000 in 2012. But with demands to show results in the Mexican government’s efforts to combat organized crime and an environment permissive of abuse, an increase in the size of the force also led to persistently high allegations of human rights violations. In 2006, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) received 146 complaints of human rights violations; by 2012, that number had grown to 802. In 2013, the CNDH issued 14 recommendations regarding human rights violations committed by Federal Police agents. In one incident in April 2013, Federal Police agents in civilian clothes shot at two university students who were driving in a vehicle on the outskirts of Mexico City, killing one of the students.
Click here (PDF) to read the full report.
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