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Police protest purge of the force as one in three fail evaluations

January 9, 2013

With their careers at risk due to ongoing evaluations, metro-area officers marked the Day of the Policeman on Monday with protests instead of celebrations.

Having been informed only that they were unfit for service – with no explanation given as to which test they failed or why – fifty municipal officers from Zapopan demonstrated outside the municipal palace in the Plaza de los Caudillos.

“We’re policemen, not criminals,” shouted over 100 municipal officers from Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque, Tonala and Zapopan the following day, as they marched to Guadalajara’s municipal palace via the Minerva and Niños Heroes glorietas.

Of the 416 municipal police tested in Guadalajara to date, 137 have failed (33 percent) the five assessments, which include a drug test, lie detector, medical and psychological tests, and a socioeconomic lifestyle examination. Of the 1,650 officers tested in Zapopan, 380 have failed (23 percent), while in Tlajomulco 182 of the 600 officers tested so far have failed (30 percent).

Across Jalisco, 4,357 of the 12,500 municipal and state officers tested so far have failed (35 percent). While this seems a considerable proportion, it is way below the national average, with 60 percent of the state and municipal police tested across Mexico having failed the tests. In some states as many as 80 percent of those tested have failed, according to the State Public Security Council (CESP).

With the examination process for the 19,000 municipal and state police officers in Jalisco way behind schedule, the deadline for completion has been extended from January 3 to October 2013. The CESP has blamed the slow progress on the fact that three out of every ten officers miss their appointments – many of them purposefully, knowing that they would fail the tests.

The examination process has drawn strong criticism from many quarters, with state police chief Luis Carlos Najera stating on Monday that the tests violate certain rights under the Mexican Constitution, and that some officers have complained to Mexico’s Human Rights Commission.

“I think they should make some changes to the confidence tests because not all are good,” Najera said. “We’re running out of cops and now we’ll see if we can we deal with the criminals.”

While the Guadalajara municipal police have 200 prospective replacements awaiting examination, Zapopan Mayor Hector Robles expressed concern over shortages in personnel this week, noting that “if we are going to cut 380 officers form the force, when there is already a deficit of 500, then we’ll need to hire between 800 and 900 police officers this year.”

Robles also questioned the evaluation process, noting that 60 percent of those who failed have been serving in the force for over 20 years and many failed only because they were overweight or suffering from heart problems or knee injuries.

However, Ricardo Salas Torres, executive secretary of the CESP, retorted this week that the most common reasons for failure, are “one: that they are drug dependent; two: that they are not psychologically fit to carry or fire a weapon; and three: that they are linked to organized crime.”

Not all of the officers who fail the examinations will be fired outright; depending on the area of the examination process failed, many could remain on the municipal payroll but would be relocated to other areas of civil service and might suffer salary reductions. This would help prevent laid-off officers from filing lawsuits for unfair dismissal, Guadalajara Mayor Ramiro Hernandez said last year.

Hernandez clarified his comments this week, explaining that his government will not be finding new positions for officers who failed the drug test or were linked to organized crime. The authorities are currently deciding upon the terms of their dismissal and there will be “no room for negotiation,” Hernandez said.

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