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Mexico's Police Reform Faces Longstanding Challenges

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Mexico's Police Reform Faces Longstanding Challenges

Mexico's Police Reform Faces Longstanding Challenges

Photo by Peter O'Dowd

State police from Tamaulipas, Mexico patrol the main plaza in the city of San Fernando.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has announced big changes to federal security forces. On Tuesday experts discussed the challenges police reform faces at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute.

In the last decade Mexican legislators have approved policies and funded new technology aimed at reforming federal law enforcement. But the problem has been implementation, according to Juan Salgado Ibarra, a researcher at Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, a nonprofit think tank in Mexico City.

"Even if we have these very highly developed and sophisticated operational standards, they’re not activated in the field," Ibarra said. "And I assume it’s because they don’t have the right incentives."

Ibarra said he’s also concerned about corruption. He said it’s not just getting rid of one rotten apple; there’s a whole chain of command. And he says the judiciary system has been reluctant to deal with corrupt officers and civil rights abuses.

Seven out of 10 Mexicans have little or no trust in police and the criminal justice system. And 90 percent of crimes go unreported, according to the Institute for Security and Democracy in Mexico.

Mexico’s lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish an auditor to keep tabs on the federal police and hold them accountable.

Laurel Morales was a Fronteras Desk reporter in Flagstaff from 2011 to 2020.