Police Corruption: A Mexican Perspective

Jorge Martínez
4 min readJun 15, 2020

The moment we see police officers protesting in the streets, we will know the anti-corruption fight in Mexico was successful.

In Mexico, police bribery is not only normalized, but also culturalized. Mexicans not only transmit this corruption culture through generations, but happily benefits from it. Mexico is a dirty-cop culture.

Without corruption, the Mexican police wage is simply not enough to support their families. When the anti-corruption fight wins (someday soon, hopefully), we will see them riot and protest for a better salary.

According to the Coneval (the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, in Mexico), it is necessary an income of 11,146 monthly pesos to maintain the basic needs of an average Mexican family.

45% of the police receive a salary of 10,000 pesos. They lack 1,146 monthly pesos to support their family. Ironically, corruption is the only thing that keeps them getting food on their families’ table.

Mexican police. External Source

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has defined a living wage as a basic human right under their conventions and recommendations to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.

The Mexican police are victims of a precarious and unequal economy. For a great amount of officers, the only option to access a living wage is to be corrupt.

The figures are overwhelming. Almost half of the police officers would be unable to support their families if they did not have “additional income” such as bribes.

Guided by the facts, we are left with a very simple analysis:

  1. 45% of the police in Mexico earn 10,000 pesos.
  2. Considering that the average family of the police has 4 members and, according to Coneval, satisfying the complete needs of a family of that size would at least cost 11,478 pesos.
  3. Then, 45% of the police would lack 1,478 pesos (739 fortnightly) to support its family.

Thus, the facts are clear: The Mexican police system is a circus. A circus in which an army of unreliable workers, the police, go out to risk their lives to “protect and serve” citizens who despise and distrust them.

However, this comes by the hand of the fact that they receive a very poor salary in exchange. Then, with it, they are cornered to take one of two options: either have their families starving, or complement their salary through bribes.

That is why we will know that corruption ended the day that nobody wants to be a police officer and, those who are, go on strike.

It is wrong to say that the police are the ones who create corruption. In fact, the police model that we have decided to have is the one who create it. This is since it is based on unreliable wages, poor police officers, and inhuman work, costing us little in taxes.

Thus, the most effective solution to reduce corruption within the police forces will not come only from force, but from compassion.

There are at least three conditions necessary to reduce corruption within the police forces:

1. Create decent working conditions

No salary shall be less than necessary to support the police and their family.

It is unforgivable that, as the survey also mentions…

  • 41% of police officers have had to pay for their own boots and uniforms;
  • 32%, their stationery;
  • 26%, their patrol repairs, and;
  • 20%, their own cartridges.

Under current conditions, we are sending our policemen to war without cartridges. Not even without enough money for them to buy.

2. Dignify the police career

To reduce the incentives that exist to be corrupt, police officers must want to keep their jobs. This will only be achieved by improving the treatment they receive from their superiors.

The “Causa en Común” survey also showed that…

  • 15% of police officers are asked by their superiors to do personal orders (9% send them to pick up trash and uncover drains);
  • 30% have accepted that they are humiliated or discriminated against by their superiors, and;
  • 25% report having been subjected to sexual harassment or physical abuse.

Under the current conditions, we are creating police officers who will become imitators of the superiors who humiliate them today.

Implementing professional service and evaluations for superiors is essential to create working conditions that motivate police officers.

3. Citizens’ respect toward police

The citizen must also do its part. The “Causa en Común” survey shows that almost 7 out of 10 police officers are discriminated by citizens.

Shouting loudly at traffic police is a common practice among Mexicans. Not to mention making fun of their appearance or their way of speaking.

Citizens must put respect first, in order to contribute on creating a police that feels dignified and acts with dignity.

Reducing corruption requires not only a heavy hand, but also decent work conditions.