Monday, October 31, 2011

Weeding out corruption is daunting task in Mexico - polygraphs await 500,000

Corruption at the local law enforcement level -- municipal and small town police departments in particular -- is very much at the heart of Mexico's struggle to bring the drug cartels to the mat. The cop on the beat is often the first person to know if something is amiss in town, and if he himself is on the payroll of criminal elements, security will remain compromised.

The cornerstone of president Felipe Calderón's war against the drug cartels, begun in December 2006, is the use of Mexican military forces as the advance guard. Many of his political opponents have been quite vocal in their opposition to this approach, saying that it violates the Mexican constitution, and is turning the country into a police state.

The Calderón administration has a plan for returning primary law enforcement authority to local agencies, but only after their personnel can be thoroughly evaluated. Today he told the National Security Council that Mexico's 31 states and Federal District must "verify" their local and state police forces. Verification includes polygraphing each officer.

"It's critical for our nation's security," said Calderón. "Let's be candid: we don't have (local) police we can trust. That's our number one problem, and it's a problem which affects the safety of the entire country. We can't let a fox into the hen house. Better to have a very young, inexperienced police officer than a corrupt one." He noted that in some communities, officers who have failed polygraphs are still on the job.

Mexico has 458,816 police officers, according to government sources. As of September only about 71,000 of them, or 7.81%, had passed loyalty and honesty tests. Governors of Oaxaca state and the Federal District told the Council that the project of verifying local officers will take a long time to complete. It's unlikely to be finished during Calderón's term, which ends in December 2012. Experts said at today's meeting that Mexico has only about a third of the polygraphers needed

Mar. 29, 2013 - Confidence checks for local police still far behind schedule in 60% of Mexican states
Aug. 29, 2012 - Honesty checks for Mexican local and state police proceed at a snail's pace

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