Cablegate: Gom's Local Police Reform Proposal has Potential, but Not A

DE RUEHME #0053/01 0192118
R 192118Z JAN 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 000053


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/19
CLASSIFIED BY: Gustavo Delgado, Political Minister Counselor; REASON:
1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary. The Calderon government has proposed a new local
police model that would consolidate the 2000-plus municipal police
forces into 32 entities run by the state and Federal District
governments. The proposal enjoys more support from the political
opposition than Calderon's earlier efforts to fully nationalize the
country's police corporations. The initiative has the potential to
ease the implementation of reforms, but reorganization without
meaningful progress on the most critical issues, such as better
oversight mechanisms and the creation of a real career service for
police officers, will be merely cosmetic. End summary.

The Proposal


2. (U) During the November 27 reunion of the National Public
Security Council, President Calderon publicly backed Secretary for
Public Security (SSP) Genaro Garcia Luna's proposal to consolidate
Mexico's approximately 2000 municipal police forces into 32
state-run entities. Calderon said the council would study the
proposal as a potential model that could more effectively combat
crime and make up for the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of the
municipal corporations. The GOM has billed the move as a means to
streamline the unwieldy and fractured local structures
(particularly in states with many municipalities -- Oaxaca alone
has 570) and aid in efforts to professionalize, fund, and clean up
the ailing corps. Such a reform would need congressional approval
at a minimum and almost certainly a constitutional change requiring
the support of two-thirds of the states' legislatures.

The State of the Municipalities


3. (U) The GOM's reform proposal is an attempt to deal with what is
clearly the weakest link in the policing chain -- the municipal
corporations. Counting upwards of 160,000 officers and making up
about 40 percent of the country's police forces, the municipal
police are poorly staffed, underpaid, barely trained, and often
untrustworthy. According to an SSP study released in October, over
half the municipal forces counted under 30 officers, and almost 90
percent have staffs of less than 100, seriously limiting their
resources to fight crime. The same study found local police to be
"easy targets for corruption," with monthly salaries of about only
300 USD. In a study released in 2008 conducted by the Superior
Auditor of the Federation, a budget oversight office attached to
the Chamber of Deputies, over 50 percent of municipal police were
found unfit for service. One in five police had less than an
elementary education, and only three in ten surpassed that level.
The more recently conducted SSP survey mirrors these results,
indicating that 70 percent of municipal officers have below an
eighth grade education and more than 50 percent are above 35 years
of age.

4. (U) A separate, independent study released in December 2009 by
the Justice in Mexico Project that surveyed some 80 percent of
Guadalajara's 6,873 officers shed additional light on the plight of
municipal forces. Respondents reported excessively long working
hours, with 70 percent working more than 50 hours a week with no
overtime, and 20 percent saying they worked extremely extended
shifts. 67 percent of officers feel that raises and promotions are
not based on merit despite civil service protections in the law,
and 72 percent believe that procedures for raises and promotions
are unfair. A third of the force perceived severe corruption
problems, with 40 percent showing little trust in their superiors
and 68 percent saying that corruption is concentrated at high
levels of local departments. Even in a developed urban area,
municipal forces appear to lack the ability to offer officers the
kinds of incentives (such as better pay and more transparent
promotion processes) that would insulate them against corruption.
Corruption in some municipalities is so severe as to prompt
standoffs between federal and local forces, and municipal officers
are often implicated in serious criminal matters. The day after
the Navy's takedown of Arturo Beltran Leyva in Cuernavaca, 35
municipal police officers failed to report for duty and allegedly
"disappeared." Ten municipal officers in Michoacan State were
arrested in connection with the murder of twelve federal officers
in July. Mexico City daily "La Reforma" reported that 90 percent
of the 358 officers arrested in Mexico in 2009 for suspected ties
to drug trafficking were members of municipal forces.

The Benefits


5. (C) Given the myriad deficiencies in Mexico's municipal police
system, folding the 2,000-plus forces into 31 state entities (32
including the Federal District) would offer certain advantages.
First, lack of continuity in local government -- mayors serve only
3 year terms and are ineligible for re-election -- has been an
important obstacle to meaningful police improvement. Security
expert Daniel Sabet noted that constant changes in municipal
administrations mean frequent variations in procedures, priorities,
and even police leadership. Knowledge is lost, and the opportunity
for institutionalization of improvements is minimal. With their
five year terms in office, governors at least have a bit more time
to fully implement changes. Political and economic analyst Juan
Pardinas, who has advocated for the total nationalization of the
country's police corporations, told Poloff in December that such a
reform is the second best option considering the political
impossibilities of creating a truly national police over the next
several years. Combining municipal forces would allow for more
streamlined procedures, more centralized and consistent oversight,
and, proponents argue, more resources for professionalization. In
theory, these improvements, including the regular application of
more reliable vetting mechanisms administered by a more trustworthy
central authority, would also make infiltration attempts more
difficult for drug traffickers and organized criminal groups.

The Drawbacks


6. (C) At the same time, some analysts view the proposal as merely
a sop to Garcia Luna, a sort of consolation prize to compensate for
his push for a national force under his authority coming to naught.
David Shirk, Director of the Trans-Border Institute and professor
at the University of San Diego, told Poloff that centralization is
often a knee jerk reaction to resolving institutional problems
rather than the complete and viable solution. The problem with
centralization in this case, he noted, is that state governments
themselves are often plagued with corruption, and the state police
forces are often nearly as resource-strapped and infiltrated as the
municipal organizations. Moreover, Shirk argued that a more
centralized control structure could simply serve as a more
centralized corruption mechanism -- one-stop shopping for organized
criminal groups. A larger state police force would also
potentially provide governors, who enjoy a great deal of autonomy
in states that function almost as fiefdoms, with a larger political
control mechanism. Shirk pointed out that the precedent for state
control of a municipal force was the 1960s takeover by the
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Yucatan governor of the
Merida police when the National Action Party (PAN) won the
mayorship there.

7. (C) Experts also argue that the proposed model would not change
the fundamental problems plaguing the municipal corporations and
might instead simply distract from these deeply-rooted issues.
Shirk and other experts say that developing a strong community
police model -- which has met with some success in Mexico City and
Queretaro -- is of key importance, and doing so in a meaningful way
with a state-level organization would be more difficult. Moreover,
experts point to the need for better recruitment, the creation of a
genuine civil service for police with the right kind of incentive
system, and more public oversight over security functions as among
the most critical for developing stronger policing organizations
and items at which most states have not excelled. Additionally,
Benjamin Fuentes, Coordinator for Institutional Relations at the
budget oversight agency Superior Auditor of the Federation, told
Poloff that the municipal-to-state move alone will do little to
address the very real budget and funding transparency problems that
impede improvements to local security systems. He noted that both
state and local governments chronically underspend security budget
resources since they can keep unspent money in accounts that are
not audited the next fiscal year. They then use the unspent money
mostly for electoral purposes. State governments are often amongst
the most guilty of such practices.



8. (C) With the Calderon government's proposal to nationalize the
police dead in congress, the municipal-to-state model may offer an
alternative parties can sink their teeth into. Governors reluctant
to cede any authority to federal authorities have already indicated
they are willing to discuss the new proposal. PRI Mexico State
Governor Enrique Pena Nieto told the DCM in a meeting months before
Garcia Luna's announcement that he was considering making a similar
reorganization in his state. PRI governors from Veracruz and
Oaxaca -- who in addition to Pena Nieto command powerful
congressional blocs -- are reportedly warm to the idea.
Nevertheless, the passage of legislation to alter the current
police arrangement will be complicated and time-consuming
regardless of party support, requiring constitutional amendments,
approval by two-thirds of the states, and reforms to the fiscal



9. (C) Folding municipal forces into a single state corporation has
the potential to ease the implementation of reforms by centralizing
the command structure and allowing local officers access to greater
resources. A more central authority at the state level almost
certainly would help correct the problems of ensuring effective
vetting mechanisms and providing for more consistent salaries and
benefits packages -- both of which are mandated through the new
National Public Security System legislation. While such a
reorganization could merely be cosmetic, if it takes into account
the proper execution of internal control measures, the creation of
a stronger civil service system, the appropriation of necessary
resources and oversight of them, and the improvement of civilian
participation in the security process, it could be a real step
toward meaningful police reform in Mexico.

© Scoop Media

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