The majority of police officers across Mexico have been found unfit for duty three years after the government established a firm timeframe to reform the entire institution, showing a lack of political will to improve a force in dire need of rehabilitation.
Today, 75 percent of Mexico’s 330,776 active local and federal police officials are not certified for duty after the government in 2016 agreed on a three-year window to certify all such forces for police work, which ended in early September, Animal Político reported.
Under the country’s National Public Security Law, more than 246,000 police officers lacking official certification shouldn’t even be working at all.
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Of Mexico’s 32 states, just five reported that more than half of their police members were certified: Querétaro and Durango (75 percent), Colima (60 percent), Guanajuato and Campeche (between 50 and 55 percent), according to Animal Político.
The police force in the capital, Mexico City, was among those with the lowest certification rates, with around nine percent of officers meeting the required criteria for active duty. In southwest Guerrero state, just 8.3 percent of officers are certified, while in the small state of Tlaxcala just east of Mexico City, a shockingly low 20 of more than 3,200 officers were fit for duty.
Mexico’s police force has long been underinvested in and extremely vulnerable to targeted attacks. The latest report comes amid an unrelenting wave of violence. In August of 2019, nearly 80 people were murdered every day across the country.
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The continued failure to reform Mexico’s police force comes at a time when insecurity has spiraled out of control and citizens are again opting to take up arms in the absence of an effective security force to protect them.
But issues with Mexico’s police force are deeply rooted and did not begin with the current administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. However, instead of allocating resources for professionalization, training and equipment to the existing security forces in need of reform, the head of state opted for the creation of a militarized National Guard force that has been unable to stem the violence or protect citizens.
As the body count through the first half of 2019 soared to over 17,000, putting Mexico on pace to log yet another record-setting year of violence, citizens in areas wracked by organized crime have taken matters into their own hands.
In Tepalcatepec, a municipality sitting on the border between Michoacán and Jalisco states where the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación — CJNG) and a rival group are battling for control, locals have armed themselves in the absence of government protection.
“We’re not criminals. We’re producers, business owners, parents who, although it hurts, are doing the government’s security work,” one local day laborer told El Universal.
The security situation is so dire that not only are Mexico’s police officers ill-equipped to protect the country’s most at-risk communities, but also themselves. At least 272 officers have been killed so far in 2019, and in 2018, one officer was killed every day, according to the non-governmental organization Causa en Común.