How Mexico Is Improving its Police

Source: Q-Roo Paul

Readers of the blog frequently contact me to ask about crime and personal safety here in Mexico. Until now, I have been answering these on an individual basis; however, I thought it was time to start dedicating some posts to the topic.  I even created a new category called Safety and Security.

I decided to begin with a post about the police here in Mexico. After all, their level of effectiveness will have a direct impact on crime rates and overall safety.

New Standards to Fight Corruption

It is no secret that police corruption has been a long standing problem throughout Mexico. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear expats and tourists talk about being stopped by unscrupulous police officers looking for a bribe.

The good news is that the Mexican government has taken significant steps in recent years to identify and remove these bad apples from police agencies across the nation.

Exámenes de Control y Confianza

One of the most significant steps has been the creation of the Exámenes de Control Y Confianza (Control and Trust Testing) for both new hires and all existing police officers. The testing consists of five areas: psychological, medical, toxicology, polygraph and a socioeconomic investigation.

This is very similar to the hiring process used by many law enforcement agencies in the United States, with one major exception — Mexico now requires its officers to go through this every three years.

The Results

A skeptical person would probably say that this testing was just a ploy to appease the public and that the majority of officers would be “rubber stamped” as passing. Well, that skeptical person would be wrong. Actually, more than 113,000 officers failed, according to el Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SNSP).

To put it in a percentage, roughly 33% of the total number of officers who were tested, failed. State and municipal agencies across the country are currently in the process of replacing these officers with qualified personnel.

Improved Training

In case you missed it, Mexico made radical changes to its criminal justice system and the new system went into full effect in June of this year. Several of these changes can potentially impact expats who live in Mexico, so I will probably do a post on that topic sometime in the future. For now, I will only address the fact that the changes mandated additional training for every police officer in the country.

Officers receive mandatory training in the following areas:

  • Evidence collection and crime scene processing
  • Respect for human rights
  • Defensive tactics
  • Detention and handling of suspects
  • Vehicle operations
  • Firearms

On a local level, most agencies often conduct additional training for their officers throughout the year.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I commend Mexico for its efforts to improve not only its police forces, but the entire criminal justice system. The changes made so far have been positive and will benefit all of us who call Mexico our home.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget. In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Living in Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times and Paul's articles appear in periodicals across Mexico.

5 Comments on "How Mexico Is Improving its Police"

  1. Charles Brown | August 9, 2016 at 8:04 am | Reply

    It is really good news about the police. We were in Riviera Maya in 2008. We were stopped at one of the speed bumps by the police when driving back from Cancun one evening. He told us we were speeding (which is pretty hard to do on those speed bumps). He told us we had to give him $300 or he would put us both in the Mexican jail, take our drivers license and not release us until we paid the $300. We only had $100 in cash which he accepted and let us go. I am staying 2 weeks in Cancun in February. I was hoping to rent a car and drive to Playa del Carmen and visit my friend that started the Carmen Beer Brewery. My partner has been very concerned about driving and being “shaken down” by the police. I will let him know that things have gotten better. Thanks for the information. Also I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your blog and all the information that you share. Keep up the great job that you are doing.

    • Things are getting better in Quintana Roo but Cancun still has some issues with that. Most of the time it is a bluff. Just tell them to give you the ticket. They often get frustrated and just move on. By the way, the ticket would never have cost that much.

  2. Thanks for the detailed information. In his book “The People’s Guide to Mexico,” Carl Franz says that if you’re in a car accident, you should avoid involving the police if at all possible. I was a little surprised by this statement, because Franz is so sympathetic toward Mexico and Mexicans and does much to dispel stereotypical attitudes and biases. For example, he argues that a tourist is much more likely to get hurt by walking on uneven sidewalks than by violence. Thus, his recommendation gave me pause. Do you think it’s advisable to leave scene of an accident?

    • Hi, Shelley. If you leave the scene of an accident in Mexico the insurance will not cover you. You also risk arrest. You can avoid involving the police if the other party agrees, I would avoid fleeing the scene.

  3. April 1st on the main highway from Playa Del Carmen to Cancun, I was driving a Chrysler MiniVan (red flag to cops as a tourist, since no one other than tourists are driving those). In most areas the speed limit is 100 kmh. I was going 102 kmh. I see the Federal Police car (Blue Dodge Charger) sitting in the cut out between the N/S lanes. I pass him, he pulls into traffic and pulls me over. He walks up to the car asks for license and papers. Luckily, I speak spanish and asked him what happened. He says he got me on radar going 122 kmh. Which is not true. He takes the papers and tells me to come out of the car. At the police car he shows me the Radar gun (1990s model). I politely ask him to demonstrate how the radar gun works, so that I know it is accurate. He says “NO! it is correct.” He proceeds to tell me that I committed an infraction and that I will be required to pay a fine. He shows me a book that shows the fine as 5000 pesos for the violation. I say I don’t have that kind of money since I spent it all at the hotel this week. He says, “we can go to a cash machine.” I tell him I don’t have any money in my account since I need to go home and go back to work in order to get paid next week.

    I am no fool, and now I know what he wants (bribe). He wants what ever I have in my pocket. I tell him I only have 60 dollars so I can get home and that my plane is leaving soon. His tiny female partner nods her head yes and he tells me to put the money under his book on the hood of the car. I do and he says I can go. Now take in mind, he didn’t write my name down or anything like that. I get in the mini van and haul ass to the airport.

    Crooked cops are the reason why so many people stay away from Mexico. This incident is extra frustrating since I am also a retired Los Angeles detective. I guess it was turn to pay my dues to the Federal Judicial.

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