Mexico fires 3,200 federal police officers


— About 3,200 Mexican federal police officers, nearly a tenth of the
force, have been fired under new rules designed to weed out crooked
cops and modernize law enforcement, officials said Monday.

The housecleaning is part of President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on drug cartels, which includes overhauling the 34,500-strong federal police force.

An additional 465 federal officers have been charged
with breaking the law, and 1,020 others face disciplinary actions after
failing screening tests, officials said.

Facundo Rosas, a senior federal police official, said
in a radio interview that the 3,200 dismissed officers were removed for
substandard performance.

Rosas said the 1,020 officers who failed vetting
fell short for a variety of reasons, including suspected criminal links
and medical problems. He said failure rates were within “operable

Among the 465 arrested officers were four commanders fired Aug. 7 in Ciudad Juarez after 250 subordinates publicly accused them of corruption.

The new police standards, which took effect in May, are aimed at cleaning Mexico’s
graft-plagued police through lie-detector tests, financial disclosure
statements and drug testing. The government has sought to improve the
caliber of federal officers by boosting wages and requiring that
recruits have college degrees.

Eliminating police corruption is a pillar of
Calderon’s nearly 4-year-old war against drug cartels. Crooked officers
tip off drug lords and often moonlight as hit men.

The problem is considered worst at the local level,
where fear or low wages prompt many officers to help drug gangs. State
and local forces account for the vast majority of Mexico’s 427,000 police officers.

The cleanup is to take place nationwide and began
with the federal police, the law enforcement agency mainly responsible
for fighting the powerful cartels.

The United States
has backed the reform push by helping evaluate officers and supplying
trainers for a state-of-the-art police academy in the city of San Luis Potosi.

Calderon has rapidly expanded the federal police, hiring about 10,000 officers during the last two years.

Experts applaud the cleanup as long overdue. Mexicans so mistrust police that they often refuse to report crimes.

But firing suspect or substandard officers also
carries risks that they might jump to another department or join the
traffickers. Rosas said a new computerized public safety database,
called Platform Mexico, would make it easier to monitor former officers.


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