Talk about decisive action. Mexican authorities announced yesterday that one tenth of its federal police force were being dismissed due to failing “trust control exams”. What this means is that 3,200 corrupt or incompetant police officers have been removed from the system. A further 1,020 officers are currently facing disciplinary action, which may also end in their exit.
While the official line from the police spokesperson, Juan Carlos Buenrostro, is that the officers “had not been sacked for corruption, they just failed the tests” (which are largely made up of drug or lie detector tests), it is clear that this mass firing is the latest step in President Felipe Calderon’s war on drug cartels. With more than 23, 000 people killed in the last 3 years as a result of cartels fighting over the lucrative Cocaine smuggling business in Mexico and bungled, corrupt local policing, this is a bold move designed to yet again show how serious the Mexican government is on security and defeating the drug barons causing terror in many poor Mexican towns.
Violence has escalated radically since the crackdown by authorities on the border drug trade. Just days before the announcement of the dismissals, Marco Antonio Leal Garcia, the Mayor of Hidalgo, a new flashpoint town in the violence, was killed, making him the second mayor to be assassinated in August. Both of these deaths have reported police involvement. Just last week in the same town, 72 undocumented migrants were found massacred, and the morgue that their bodies were taken to was bombed.
Clearly, things in Mexico cannot continue as they are. If the drastic step of firing this many police officers has had to be taken, it is certain that the Mexican government recognises this. President Calderon obviously has an uphill battle ahead of him in the drug war and a strong police force is a necessity in being ultimately victorious. However, as a brave a step as it may be, more needs to be done to understand why so many police had become as incompetant and corrupt as they have now been declared. Mexico’s police forces are severely “under-trained, under-equipped and, above all, under-funded.” Simply getting rid of these rotten members will not help unless these root problems are addressed. Along with this, the system itselfis flawed: there are more than 1,600 separate police forces in Mexico and there is little to no information sharing between them, making it an extremely fragmented and inefficient network.
There is no doubt that Mexico is in dire straits with this war on drugs. As the government has upped its ante, so too have the cartels, leading to more and more deaths and violence along the way. Certainly, eliminating corruption in within its ranks is a vital step and the Mexican authorities should be applauded for such a radical and public move. The message is clear: Mexico means business.The question is, can it really do business without sorting out the deeper issues plaguing the force first?