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Curbing Mexico’s Violence Requires Unique Effort, Say UT Professors

Published: July 06, 2009

In Mexico incidents of drug cartel-fueled homicide, kidnappings and violence are increasingly common, as are political promises of reforming the corrupt police forces.
But, reforming law enforcement and effectively combating the drug cartels is not going to work without both a “top-down” and “grass-roots” effort, according to two University of Tampa researchers.
As part of their continuing research, criminology professors Tony LaRose and Sean Maddan found overwhelmingly that Mexican citizens feel combating the drug cartels should be Mexican law enforcement’s top priority. However, due to the pervasiveness of corruption in law enforcement, and the feeble, misguided attempts at reform, Mexico has ushered in an era of no public trust in law enforcement and pervasive violence “with no consequence.”
“In essence, Mexico needs its own professional era in which government authorities and citizens substantively address the past entrenchment of institutional corruption,” at both the federal and municipal levels, the researchers state in the report.
Mexico and its citizens are clamoring for solutions. LaRose and Maddan’s answer is three-fold:

  1. Purge police agencies of rampant corruption;
  2. Instill important civil service reforms in hiring and training, and;
  3. Show a willingness to combat the violence and disorder wrought by the flow of drugs through Mexico.
“They’ve done the right thing in the short term, bringing in the military and declaring martial law,” LaRose said. “But, they’ve got to stop the violence, get control of the threatened area, and reform the law enforcement agencies.”
The researchers used Italy as an example, which capitalized on strong political and social will to aggressively combat organized crime. LaRose and Maddan see this political and social will missing in Mexico.
“Corruption, particularly bribes and drug trafficker influence, permeate Mexican policing and are fueled, at least in part, by a political and social culture that participates and implicitly and explicitly accepts corrupt activity.”
LaRose and Maddan based their conclusions on interviews about past and current police reforms with Mexican academics, journalists, politicians and current and former law enforcement personnel (both from the U.S. and Mexico).
The interviewees solidly stated that the current era of policing is ineffective and the reforms have had little or no effect on policing practices.
“This will not be easy and may call for what one citizen called a ‘complete deconstruction of the police, its reconstruction, and redefine their relationship with society,’” the researchers said.
LaRose and Maddan’s research was published in the February 2009 issue of Police Practice and Research: An International Journal.