MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s top security official on Friday proposed disbanding Mexico’s 2,022 municipal police forces and combining them with state law enforcement agencies to better combat corruption and crime.
Local police have fewer resources to fight crime, and their lower s
alaries make them more susceptible to corruption, Mexican Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said.
“Public safety should be a state policy,” he said.
Consolidating police forces would improve communication among officials, he said, and bring greater security to areas where local police have traditionally lacked the means to fight crime. Nearly 90 percent of the country’s municipal police forces have staffs of less than 100 people, he said.
Garcia Luna spoke at the end of a meeting of public safety chiefs from Mexico’s 31 states and the capital, where officials presented a report titled “A New Police Model.”
The report describes local police as “an easy target for corruption,” with more than 60 percent of them receiving monthly salaries of about $300. Most of them have completed less than 10 years of schooling and are either at basic education levels or illiterate, according to the report.
Incorporating them into state forces would help prevent organized crime from corrupting them, the report said.
Garcia Luna said federal legislators would have to approve any changes to the country’s police structure.
President Felipe Calderon has acknowledged that corruption permeates Mexican police at all levels. He has relied on the army to fight ruthless drug cartels, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers across the country since taking office in late 2006. Gang violence has since surged, claiming more than 13,800 lives.
Crackdowns on police have also become an increasingly common part of the drug war.
In September, Cancun fired 30 police officers in an effort to clean up the image of a force long plagued by corruption. In June, nearly 80 police officers suspected of working with drug smugglers were arrested in 18 towns across the northern state of Nuevo Leon after soldiers found lists of police names in the possession of traffickers.
Mexico’s 159,734 municipal police make up nearly 40 percent of Mexico’s police forces.