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Article posted Nov 08 2011, 8:57 AM Category: Commentary Source: Cop Block Print

Mexican Police vs. U.S. Police

by Difster, CopBlock

I currently live in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico (close to Mazatlan). If you havenít been keeping up, Sinaloa is the home to the Sinaloa Cartel which is considered the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico. A few years ago, the President of Mexico decided to go to war with the cartels. They stepped up policing, they sent in the soldiers for domestic patrols, etc. Needless to say, law enforcement activity in Mexico, and especially in the cartel areas is quite pervasive. Before I get in to the comparison, I need to give you a little background information on the hierarchy of Mexican police.

There are basically three types of cops in Mexico.

  • The Federal Police which seem to be concerned primarily with the cartels. They also patrol all the toll roads. Federal Police donít give tickets within the city.
  • The Metro Police who deal with all other non-Federal crimes (and also the drug war). Metro Police also donít give traffic tickets.
  • The Transit Police who are responsible for traffic violations within the metro areas. If the Transit Police have higher crime issues to deal with, they call the Metro Police.
  • The Army, who are there ONLY to deal with the cartels.

  • The one thing that all the cops and soldiers have in common is that they are corrupt to one degree or another. Many are bought and paid for by the cartels. In some cases, the entire police force is in the pocket of the cartel. Just as I said, about American police, in my last article†any ďgood copĒ down here doesnít last long. Whenever you get stopped by the cops down here, itís expected that you will offer them a bribe of some sort to get out of the ticket. And of course, if they catch you with weapons or drugs, the bribe has to be much higher. Generally speaking though, you can offer $200 to $500 pesos (about $14 to $37 dollars) and theyíll either accept it or write you a ticket. To the best of my knowledge, no one gets arrested for attempted bribery. As a gringo living in Mexico, I would almost certainly go to jail for carrying a gun, but I refuse to be completely unarmed so I carry a sturdy frame lock knife. I do expect one of these days to either turn it over to the cops or have to bribe them to keep it, but Iím reasonably certain I wouldnít go to jail for it; itís worth the risk. Being a cop in Mexico is far more dangerous than being a cop in the United States. That being the case, you would think that it would lead the cops to being very abusive and prone to excessive force. So far, from everything Iíve seen in my time here, the police are more polite and tend to abuse people far less than in the U.S. I have had a number of encounters with the police. I had an accident on the Federal highway (toll road) and I suppose they could have taken me to jail for not having a Mexican driver license but they didnít. Iíve also been stopped for speeding a few times. In one case, I talked my way out of a ticket because there were no posted speed limit signs anywhere. Also, I think the cop was just confused on what to do with me since I only had a California driver license. I didnít offer a bribe but I was prepared to. In another case, I was stopped by the Metro Police for running a red light, but they donít issue tickets. I think they just wanted to make sure I wasnít a ďsuspiciousĒ person. I actually had a really good reason for running the red and they let me go without calling the Metro Police. And one time I actually did get a ticket despite an attempt at bribery. All of my other encounters with police have been at random road blocks which occur regularly.

    So far, in all of my encounters with the police, I have been treated with respect. In fact, on a couple of occasions, a truly shocking thing happened; the cop offered a handshake when he walked up to the car! That would be a serious violation of police safety protocols in the US and it would never happen except in a small town where the police know everyone. Imagine getting pulled over by a Los Angeles cop and when he walks up to your car, he shakes your hand and says, ďgood afternoon,Ē it would be surreal.
    • American cops are trained to treat everyone like criminals first, including crime victims. Mexican police actually treat you like a person.
    • American cops will arrest you or beat you just for talking back. Iíve seen people loudly and vehemently argue with Mexican police without getting arrested, shot or detained.
    • American cops seem to think their badges and guns give them super powers, make them super citizens and they are above the law. Mexican cops pretty much seem like regular guys (Iíve yet to see a female cop down here).
    • American cops are more interested in their own agenda than the actual law. Ok, so are Mexican cops; theyíre still cops.
    Here in a country where there is no presumption of innocence (the law changed on that but the practice hasnít), no jury trial and police statements are taken as gospel by the judges, it seems likely that there would be a high degree of abuse of power; that doesnít seem to be the case though. I can speculate on several reasons for this. First, there is the fact that Mexico is by far, a more family centered culture than the U.S. Extended families tend to live in the same neighborhood and frequently in the same house. That gives rise to the idea that everyone is someoneís son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister. We are people instead of quotas. Mexico is also far more religious than the United States. I would define Mexico as being a secular, Catholic country. Although the vast majority of people consider themselves Catholic, most regularly practice it; but Catholicism is preeminent in the culture. While I am not a Catholic myself, I can appreciate the effect that it has had on family values.

    Having said all of that, if †Mexican cop has something against you, itís likely that youíre going down for it. †Because of the justice system, itís much easier to plant evidence, bring false witnesses, or whatever else gets the job done for them. Cops are still cops and where there is opportunity to abuse authority, it will be abused; but when it comes to routine interactions with the police, Iíd much rather deal with Mexican police as there is far less risk of getting beaten, tazed, shot or unjustly imprisoned than there is when encountering a cop in the United States.

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    Comments 1 - 3 of 3 Add Comment Page 1 of 1

    Posted: Nov 09 2011, 8:00 PM

    752 Really?

    Here is a rebuttal to this article:

    Posted: Nov 14 2011, 1:12 PM

    With many years of experience as an American citizen living & working in Mexico, I'd like to offer my point of view on this article:

    -A person (especially a person driving a vehicle cherished by the Mexican Federal Police; such as a V-8 4-WDrive) driving alone must take great precautions. Carry papers w/ raised notary stamps (it impresses the Mexican Fed Police) that have been translated by the U.S. Embassy or by your Congressman/Senator's office stating you are a known person to them and are in good standing. T

    his makes the "'Narco'' Police (Fed. Police that put up road blocks on all Mexican highways) hesitant to plant evidence (so that your vehicle can be summarily confiscated).

    -In the 1970's, the 1980's & the 1990's, the Federal (Narco Cops) Police were the worst criminals in the country. They would stop people at desolate road blocks and without the slightest provocation detain you (handcuffed, sitting on the side of the road, facing away from your vehicle) or in the back of one of their trucks until they decided what to do.

    -I was fortunate to always carry papers from my U.S. Senator and from my U.S. Congressman (both in English & in Spanish; both with raised seals of both the office of the Congress/Senate and of a notary). These papers saved my life, I am certain - more than once.

    -As an engineer/businessman who flew hundreds of thousands of miles and drove hundreds of thousands of miles w/in the Rep. of Mexico, I will say that what is written in the above article (that U.S. cops treat everyone as a criminal first), in general, the Mexican police - especially the 'Metro' & 'Transito' cops do tend to be friendly & kind (even when taking your "propina" or bribe).

    -When pulled over by a cop, I do suggest always having a non-transparent folder/wallet where you keep your vehicle (only photocopies, in case the cop tries to keep them) documents. When passing the documents to the officer, discretely place the peso equiv of $15-$20USD in the folder with the documents, then hand it to the officer. If he hands it back to you, then asks for the documents again, repeat, until he goes away.

    -Paying a "tip"as it were, to the officer who pulls you over is far more judicious and efficient than having to follow the cop to the court, wait all day and perhaps part of the next day (that's right - you have to stay there & so does the "State's Witness"; the cop) - only then to pay a larger fine.

    -As a whole, I believe what the author writes about Mexican cops v. U.S. Cops is true, in my experience. U.S. Cops, in the past 20 years have become an almost Stasi-like behaving group of thugs. Power-hungry, willing to bully and even beat law-abiding citizens just to have a little fun in their day.

    Sadly, I've lost my (once very high) respect for the average uniformed police officer in the United States. That is a sad (perhaps even tragic) statement; but I can no longer hold them in high esteem after what I have seen and experienced in the past 15 years.

    The United States of America is becoming a police state (as East Germany once was) that is run by the politicians who are the proxy for the 1% rich & powerful.

    "For the People by the People" is just a quaint notion now. Not 1 of 100 U.S. Police beat cops have read the U.S. Constitution. Of those cops who even know of its existence and have read it end-to-end, I doubt that half understand what they read.

    That is the other problem; police officers (some are bright & intelligent) are generally not given nor do they receive a broad education on the law nor the Constitution upon which all fundamentals of law in this country is based. The police force of today is taught by their superiors to treat arrests as a salesperson treats a sale. A tally to keep track of "how effective" they are as an officer.

    Citizen remedies to "bad apple" cops are purposefully made to be an expensive, multi-year, multi-complaint based maze. So much damaging information must accrue on one single officer before any acknowledgement of that officers shortcomings are addressed.

    It is sad what is happening in our country today. I was taught to instinctively trust any police officer in uniform and to rightly obey any command given to me by a uniformed officer of the law. With great lament, I do not offer that same advice to the youth alive today. It could cause them great harm and/or put them in the path of great danger.

    My "Experience" From Which I Quote:
    I lived in Mexico (Guadalajara, Jalisco) for more than 8 years. I went to high school, undergraduate and graduate schools there (for 1 semester in each case; 1975; 1978 & 1983). I worked, based in Mexico from 1985 through 1992. During those 8 years, I traveled (by company car) to 26 of the states in the Republic of Mexico; typically driving an average of 50,000 miles per year. In total, I drove more than 400,000 miles (4 different company vehicles).

    Posted: Nov 14 2011, 3:50 PM

    Thanks for sharing your perspective GatoMaritimo, very enlightening read!

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