MEXICO CITY – Five years and millions of U.S.-supplied dollars later, Mexican authorities are acknowledging they are still a long way from purging and improving local and federal police forces, among the most corrupt institutions in the country.
The deadline for certifying hundreds of thousands of police nationwide — already blown once — is Oct. 29. This week, the government said the process will not be completed by that date and suggested there should not be a deadline at all.
“We will never reach 100 percent; it’s impossible,” Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, the nation’s top security official, said at a forum on public safety. He acknowledged that the system used to evaluate police was itself flawed and would be changed.
Reforming the police is one of the most important components of a nearly $2-billion U.S. aid package. As part of a program created in 2008, Mexico’s half-million police officers are to be tested and vetted based on such criteria as financial information, trustworthiness, family connections and skills.
But officials said more than a quarter of state and local police officers have yet to be examined. And there have been many complaints that the testing, which includes polygraphs, fails to weed out all the bad and sometimes incorrectly entraps the good.
And even where the vetting is nearly complete, as in the federal police force, continued incidents of serious criminal activity undermine confidence in the process.
As of May, fewer than one-third of the 36,000 federal, state and local officers who failed had been fired, as is required, in part because local governments said they didn’t have enough money for legally required severance pay.
It will now be up to the Mexican Congress to extend the deadline for vetting the police, or do away with a time limit altogether.
Although homicides are continuing a yearlong, gradual decline after record-high numbers, kidnappings and extortion in Mexico continue to increase, afflicting thousands of people.