About the Police and the Internal Security Law
I wrote about this a year ago, but the current situation forces reiteration:
1. I am opposed to the internal security law in the terms discussed by the Chamber of Deputies because it generates risks (described profusely by Mexico’s National Commission on Human Rights—CNDH) and it does not particularly solve any specific issue. It fails even its central objective: it does not provide legal security to the elements of the armed forces. Quickly, it will face numerous challenges in the courts prolonging the uncertainty in which military personnel operate.
2. With or without the internal security law, the underlying problem persists: the absence of competent police officers. The question is how to build competence and the answer is not obvious. For almost a decade, there has been a legal framework that forces police reform in states and municipalities and it does not work: police officers do not change.
3. There is no reform from the side of federal operatives. This has generated a political problem that is difficult to solve. This is how I described it a year ago: in the absence of competent local and state corporations, the armed forces cannot retreat in fear of leaving the population defenseless. However, the presence of federal forces reduces the incentives of local and state political actors to build their own capabilities. Bad if they stay, bad if they leave.
4. Perhaps it would be possible to solve this issue with the threat of withdrawing federal personnel in the absence of transformations at the state and municipal levels. The question is how to make the threat credible. It could be legislated, of course, but what would prevent a subsequent legislative change? If a deadline for the withdrawal of the armed forces were established, would it not be possible to extend it when the moment was approaching? With high probability, governors and mayor would bet on that scenario, losing with it the sense of urgency.
5. Single command does not solve the problem. Seven out of ten Mexicans live in states where there is something that resembles single command. With few exceptions, this has not triggered serious processes of police reform.
6. The so-called mixed command might have had better luck. The bill approved in the Senate recognized the need to submit corporations to institutional certification processes. This might have generated incentives for reform. However, it was such a baroque initiative that it never generated endorsement. It ended up buried the day before yesterday in the Chamber of Deputies.
7. A more complex possibility would be to create a national police force. This does not mean having a national police. It means centralizing several administrative processes. For example, police recruitment could be done at the central level. The same for the training: a national academy could be established for all police officers in the country. Governors and municipal presidents would continue to have operational control over the police deployed in their jurisdictions. They would not, however, be responsible for making a police reform. This idea, of course, requires mayor constitutional and legal changes.
8. A more immediate solution would be to resume the process of building a Federal Police (FP). If the FP had continued to grow and had today between 70 and 80 thousand elements, it would have been possible to remove a large part of the military personnel. It was not done and here we are. We must amend that error.
9. Enough patches. Enough with dealing with the issue of security in separate compartments: the police here, the armed forces there, and prosecutor’s offices somewhere else. We need a broad reform to the sector. And we need to start it already.
This article was originally published in Spanish on El Universal.
About the Author
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more