Published: April 20, 2009
In Mexico, drug cartel-fueled homicides, kidnappings and violence are as
common as political promises to reform corrupt police forces.
Drug-related crime is such a hot topic in Mexico, President Barack Obama
met with Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon in Mexico City last
Thursday to show his support for the fight against drug cartels, just
hours after a shootout between Mexican troops and a group of gunmen left
But, reforming law enforcement and effectively
combating the drug cartels are not going to work without both a
“top-down” and “grass-roots” effort, according to research by two
University of Tampa professors.
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.”
For instance, a 2003 law
enforcement consultation from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani
was highly publicized, but the suggestions went largely ignored.
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 solution 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.
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
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.”
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
The interviewees solidly stated that the current era of
policing is ineffective and the reforms have had little or no effect on
“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
LaRose and Maddan’s research was published in the February 2009 issue of
Police Practice and Research: An International Journal
a comparative criminologist, said he has seen Mexico’s violent crime
rate rise exponentially, both statistically and anecdotally.
night on the news in Mexico there’s a report of a homicide,” he said.
LaRose is hoping to secure funding to produce a documentary about the
most recent waves of crime and corruption in Mexico City and the border
LaRose, who has been researching crime in Mexico for more
than a decade, said student participation in the research has been
“Right now, we are working
on several research projects with students including scholarship on
student attitudes towards crime in Mexico, the effects of a cultural
immersion program on U.S. police officers, violence against women and
the influence of social science in the decisions of Mexico's supreme