The entire police force of Marcos Castellanos, Michoacan state has resigned out of fear for their safety following attacks and threats by criminal groups, highlighting the precarious position of municipal police in Mexico, particularly in small towns.
Federal and state police forces have stepped in after the mass resignation left the town undefended, reported Notimex.
In late December 2012, the police began resigning following a series of violent incidents in the town and the surrounding area, including the kidnapping of an officer and attacks on police patrols that resulted in the deaths of four police. According to Milenio, a curfew was subsequently imposed in the town due to the reported presence of armed groups in the area.
InSight Crime Analysis
In recent years, there have been a number of mass police resignations in Mexican towns. In December 2009, the entire police department of Tancitaro, Michoacan resigned, along with the mayor and town council, due to threats from organized criminal groups. Similar mass resignations have been seen in Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua.
Municipal police, particularly in isolated rural areas, are very vulnerable to coercion or co-option by organized crime, facing the difficult choice of “bullet or bribe.”
Often poorly paid, local police have a reputation for corruption and are widely mistrusted by the population. Furthermore they are often ill-trained and outgunned in the face of violent criminal groups.
The difficulty of building a competent, clean municipal police force and the slow progress of major police reform have led Mexico’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to champion the idea of centralizing all the sub-federal police forces, a plan known as the “mando unico.” While there are obvious advantages to sidelining the notoriously corrupt and ineffective municipal police, Peña Nieto has yet to fully articulate how exactly the “mando unico” would be carried out. Most critically, his administration has not explained how the new centralized police force would eliminate the problems of the existing local police forces: shortages of funds and manpower at the local level, and high incentives for corruption.