Mexico's government announced it will remove some 65,000 police officers from state and municipal ranks, a move which might boost the ranks of criminal groups seeking new recruits.
Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire stated during a visit to Washington D.C. that of the 180,000 state and municipal police who have had background checks, 65,000 (36 percent) were found to be unfit to serve, reported Informador.
There are currently a total of 430,000 state and municipal officers serving throughout Mexico. Poire added that the aim is to have carried out checks on every one by some point next year.
The reasons for the officers' pending dismissals were not given, nor were details on where they are currently based.
InSight Crime Analysis
Though the announcement of a mass purge of state and municipal police is nothing new in Mexico, this latest round far exceeds the numbers and scale of similar actions taken in the past year. Much of them have been carried out at the local level, with Veracruz alone for example, seeing two rounds of dismissals last year, one of 980 officers and another of 800.
State and municipal officers are often regarded as the most vulnerable link in Mexico's fight against organized crime. Officers among these ranks are poorly paid, more so than their federal counterparts, thus increasing the chance that they will collude with criminal gangs as a way of supplementing their incomes.
Purging the forces of these corrupt elements, however, is a risky move. If these officers indeed have ties to gangs then removing them from paid work could push them further into the hands of criminal organizations. Jalisco state had to suspend a purge of its forces in May because gangs had posted recruitment ads for some 900 cops about to become unemployed.
The government's focus on vetting state forces should perhaps be broadened out to include federal agents. The federal police have suffered a number of embarrassing incidents this year -- including a July shootout in Mexico City airport and last month's attack on a US diplomatic vehicle carrying CIA agents -- showing that corruption in the agency could be of equal concern.