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Mexican Law Enforcement

Essay by   •  March 15, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,012 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,272 Views

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Law Enforcement in Mexico has historically been synonymous with corruption. To this day corruption in Mexico, not only in law enforcement but in politics, government, business and social interaction, has tragically destroyed trust between people and their leaders. Law Enforcement, in any country typically acts as the most common method by which a citizen will encounter the government. Ideally, police are expected to serve and protect, but when corruption becomes more prevalent than serving and protecting, vigilantism runs rampant. This paper will explore the types of police in Mexico and their duties. This paper will also examine the challenges law enforcement faces and the importance of eliminating widespread police corruption.

Functionally, there are two types of police in Mexico: Judicial Police (policia judicial) and Preventative Police (policia preventiva). Preventative police are comparable to common street officers in the United States. The primary duty of the policia preventiva is to maintain order and public security. The policia judicial is primarily responsible for investigating crimes and the actual enforcement of either federal or local law. "It is safe to say there are more than 350,000 police officers in the country and about 3,000 different forces at municipal, state and federal levels" (Reames 2).

Federally, there are three predominant law enforcement agencies that represent both the preventative and judicial police in Mexico. The first is the Federal Agency of Investigation (Agencia Federal de Investigaciones), second is the Federal Preventive Police (Policia Federal Preventiva), and the third the Secretariat of Public Security of the Federal District (Secretaria de Seguridad Publica del Distrito Federal). The Federal Agency of Investigation is Mexico's equivalent to the FBI. It was created to deal with drug and corruption problems in Mexico and problems beyond the capabilities of local police forces. The Federal Preventive Police was created to prevent federal crime, however all investigations of federal crime is handled by the Federal Agency of Investigation. Lastly, the Secretariat of Public Security of the Federal District is responsible for public safety and order in the center of Mexico City where public insecurity and crime rates are the highest in the nation (Reames 2).

At the state level both preventative and judicial police perform operations in all 31 states in the country of Mexico. The type of law enforced is local state law (fuero comun). At the municipal level (municipios), only preventative police are employed and are considered local law enforcement in towns and cities. Not all towns and cities maintain a branch of law enforcement. "There are 2,395 municipios; 335 have no police forces" (Reames 4). In larger cities, preventative police agencies are quite complex and may contain numerous specialized divisions.

Police in Mexico battle internal corruption and inefficiency at all levels. Public confidence of police in Mexico is almost non-existent due to such widespread corruption. "A survey in 1999 found that 90% of respondents in Mexico City had little or no trust in the police... Nationwide, only 12% of the population has expressed confidence in the police" (Reames 7). With such a poor public perception, police run into more challenges when faced with legitimately performing their duties. When citizens are likely to be uncooperative with police, efficiency suffers. "The majority of Mexican police officers have completed only elementary school or less. This situation has accelerated the erosion of institutional standards and postponed the modernization of the police" (Reames 8). In addition to postponing police modernization, this dilemma creates inefficiency problems that may ultimately lead to corruption. Combined with a lack of pay and resources, police are sometimes forced to engage in corrupt activities.

The issue of public security is obviously a very important aspect law enforcement is responsible for, however corruption and lack of resources continues to give way to the following problems in Mexico as described by Moloeznik:

* Drug trafficking and organized crime represent some of the most important sources of violence and insecurity for society and threats to Mexico's institutions. They cause corruption, reduced legitimacy

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