New statistics on Mexico’s police paints a picture of an overworked, underpaid and understaffed force that is not concentrated where there are the most public security threats.
According to a new breakdown of the country’s police from Mexico’s National Statistics and Geography Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía – INEGI), police officers in Mexico work on average 65.4 hours per week, with 70 percent of officers working more than 48 hours per week.
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Mexico’s police officers also earn 31.3 pesos ($1.78) per hour, or 250.4 pesos ($14.27) per standard eight-hour work day, a little more than triple the 80.04 pesos ($4.56) daily minimum wage, the report found.
Mexico’s police forces are also largely understaffed, which has forced them to log more hours and skip essential training procedures. The report found that the number of police officers patrolling the streets was below the national average in 22 of Mexico’s 31 states. This was also the case in many of Mexico’s deadliest states in 2016 (Guerrero, Baja California, Chihuahua and Sinaloa, among others).
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The problem with police in Mexico may start by overworking and underpaying them. For comparison, in the United States police are paid an average of $61,600 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is about four times the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour paid in the United States.
The difference in pay may generate differences in the profile of the job applicants. In Mexico, just over 54 percent of police have obtained a high school education, while just 8.9 percent have obtained a university degree. In the United States, 47 percent of officers have high school diplomas, 28 percent have university degrees, and 12 percent have a master’s degree.
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The INEGI data also pointed at another hole in policing in Mexico: distribution of resources. Mexico has 331,000 currently active police officers, representing an average of 231 officers for every 100,000 Mexican residents. But Mexico City recorded the highest rate of police officers per 100,000 residents with 678.4, while Tamaulipas recorded the lowest with just 82.7 police officers per 100,000 residents. Not surprisingly, those two areas are on different ends of the spectrum as it relates to crime trends.
With a lack of manpower, Mexican police are forced to work more hours to compensate. The report only reveals the hours being logged. As officers work more, training is often brief or absent all together. A 2015 report revealed that 90 percent of officers were not adequately trained and approved to operate under the new accusatory criminal justice system, and in 2016, some 28,000 police officers who had failed polygraph tests, drug screens or ability tests were still on patrol.*
* This article has been corrected. An earlier version said that 90 percent of officers were not trained for duty.