Mexico has inaugurated a program to train police in proper evidence collection methods as part of its transition to a new adversarial judicial system, but endemic police corruption will likely prove an enduring obstacle to increasing judicial effectiveness and reducing impunity.
On October 12, Mexico’s Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong kicked off the National Training Plan for Police in the Criminal Justice System, aimed at teaching police how to protect, analyze, and present criminal evidence for use in trial proceedings, reported Cronica.
The training is part of Mexico’s shift from a written, inquisitorial trial system to an oral, adversarial system (such as that used in the United States) following a series of constitutional reforms in 2008. Mexico’s 31 states plus the federal district are supposed to complete the transition by June 2016.
According to Notimex, the training is intended to give police the necessary know-how and skills to perform the task of collecting evidence that can stand up in court once the new trial system is fully implemented.
While Osorio Chong said it is not the role of police to ensure justice, they can help guarantee justice by following proper procedures.
Osorio Chong also noted the immense challenge the training program presents given Mexico’s state and municipal police forces total approximately 350,000 officers.
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Given rampant impunity for crimes in Mexico it is undeniable Mexican police need increased training and expertise in carrying out criminal investigations, especially as the country moves towards a new judicial system. Yet, as Osorio Chong acknowledges, training hundreds of thousands of Mexican police in proper criminal investigation methods will be a daunting undertaking.
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The task is made more difficult, however, given rampant police corruption, with officers not uncommonly collaborating with criminal groups or using their position for personal gain by running kidnapping or extortion rings. This raises the specter of police tampering with any evidence they do collect in order to protect themselves or criminal affiliates.
The reality of these deep rooted structural problems means while anything that boosts levels of professionalism in Mexico’s police should be welcomed, such training alone is unlikely to result in more transparent investigations and effective trial proceedings.