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The Mex Files police blotter

20 November 2009

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke
You gotta understand
It’s just our bringin’ upke
That gets us out of hand

Two thousand, four hundred and seventy-five posts ago, The Mex Files  started life as another one of those “my life in Mexico” blogs … but I got over it.

I seldom mention my private life, not just because it’s rather dull, but because I don’t think it’s all that instructive or enlightening when I’m talking about the politics, culture and history of a  “normal” country not my own, but usually misrepresented in my own.

That said… I seldom deal with the police at any time.  I did get a traffic ticket from a transit cop for not wearing my seat belt (and settled on the spot) a few months back, and once translated for a tourist needing police assistance in Mexico City after being taken by the infamous “Mexico City scammer“, but in the course of my rather mundane existence, today was the first time  in my life in the allegedly dangerous Republic of Mexico I’ve ever had to call a cop.

Yeah, I know… Mexican police are represented as being — by definition — a bunch of sleazy, overweight, lazy, crooked bastards.  I’m not one of those pro-police guys by nature, but it’s worth noting that … in my experience… Mexican coppers — like cops everywhere in the world — mostly just do their job.

At least a couple hours a day, I’m in the bookshop that supports the small publishing company that pays the pittance on which I eke out my modest living.  Because the bookshop depends on the tourist and expat trade, a good part of mi patron‘s day is spent answering questions or posting comments on the various bulletin boards.

Some guy posted about his appearances in a local bar, making a deal of the fact that he was a foreigner, and should be supported on the basis of that alone.  Which is fine, I guess  — ya gotta have a gimmick —   but with one of the people who steers business to us regularly being the wife of a local musician who doesn’t eat if the tourist places are hiring non-union, non-legal performers, it’s an issue for El patron of personal, as well as local interest.   El patron posted something about how he boycotted — or suggested boycotting — those places that hire “under the table” foreign entertainers.  The upshot was the guy who plays in the bar sent threats suggesting he had “friends” to take care of the situation (what situation?  Damned if I know) to both the wife of the Mexican musician and el  patron.

Of course, its idiotic to claim one has criminal “friends” in a foreign country, especially as our homegrown Sinaloa criminal class deals rather harshly with wannabes cutting into their trade.  Much more so than the musicians union or the immigration folks (and, anyway, there’s an amnesty for illegals, if the guy is illegal, and all he has to do is pay the fine and prove he’s the required person for that particular job).  Ni modo… while I once had a cyber-stalker and was advised to take even emailed threats seriously,  Mr. Wannabe-scary-dude in a rather… um…. “testicularly-challenged”.

Although, if he is legally working as a musician, the theoretical boycott wouldn’t affect him, and — while its true that damaging ones business reputation is actionable in this country, there was no harm, no foul until the dude sent in his wife to DEMAND an apology for… apparently her inability to read English and making her mother sad… her mother I guess owning the bar where Mr. Not-so-tough performs (badly, if the youtubes of his act are reliable).

… Which mission she undertook by walking in on a Thursday afternoon during the tourist/snowbird season.  And — screaming about the need for apologies.  Out of control people are not conducive to business at any time… especially when a foreign client of the publishing house is also on the telephone.  Especially when they’re talking to a guy with a hearing aid (el patron… I could hear Señora Sin-huevos just fine… from the back room where I was sorting paperbacks.  And, it did make me a tad testy when she tried to claim I was an illegal alien that could be deported… that would seem to be an attempt to damage El Patron’s business reputation, but then, I’m not a member of the Mexican Bar, so wouldn’t make assumptions).

When, after asked to leave three times (in English and Spanish… and very loud Spanish, too) by two people, and about twenty repetitions of her same “demand” (though by now it was difficult to figure what the demand was for),  it was about time for an intervention.

So, I sauntered down to the corner kiosko, where the young, healthy, fit, trim, clean-cut officer was briefed on the situation, mounted his bicycle, rode down to the shop and did — surprise, surprise…  what cops are supposed to do:  placed himself between Señora Wannabe-bad-dude and El Patron (who has a minor physical condition that makes it hard for him to stand up), patiently tried to explain to the Señora that this was neither the time, nor the place for making a scene, and … as everyone had said… if she believed she had a legal case, it was a matter for an attorney.  And on and on and on the Señora would have gone (getting more melodramatic and teary with each verse), as the officer slowly eased her towards the door, calmly reviewing her “evidence” (a printout of the allegedly offensive email) and — at least getting her to the point where a customer could walk in, shop and do business.  And get her the heck out without swearing at her, or whacking her with his baton or tasering her (though that fashion in police dispute resolution has yet to catch on here).

Not really a big deal, but worth posting just as a reminder that Mexico is as normal as any other place.  People can be dicks (and some dicks are missing a standard complementary pair of accessories and have to send their wives to pointless confrontations)  anywhere, and cops are called out all the time everywhere to deal with them.  And do their job.

On a “meta level” (or, maybe in a standard Mex Files post), I’d add something about how this just illustrates my contention that focusing crime prevention and police resources on the “drug war” and stinting on normal, every day police work is a mistake;  how dangerous it is to send young soldiers to act as policemen;  and how much better it is to have local policemen (familiar with local weirdness, like disputes over expat message board posts) working out of your local kiosko, and with a handy-dandy mountain bike, than a national police operating out a distant capital.  But, then, this is just a post about my boring daily life.  So I won’t talk about that.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. otto permalink
    20 November 2009 6:16 am

    oh noes! Mexico is normal!

  2. buddenbooks permalink
    20 November 2009 8:59 am

    Glad you posted this. Our experience with Mexican police has, with two exceptions, always been good to better-than-good, and those exceptions weren’t so bad. I’ll mention one of the exceptions first.
    When we were driving through Tampico, on our way to live here in two cars, I got ahead of my husband after a left and turn just as the light was turning yellow. I pulled over to wait for him. The cop at the crossroads noticed and came running over on foot, mind you. If I’d thought, I could just have driven away. He started to accuse me of driving through a yellow light. I said it wasn’t yellow when I started, blah, blah. He started in with how much more it would cost to go to court….and then my husband drove up behind me. The cop ran over to him. It became clear my husband didn’t speak so much Spanish so he ran back to me. I started to cry. We had after all been driving with all this stuff and with our pets for what seemed like forever.. I had pulled out my wallet and he realized I had a fair amount of money. But my tears just totally discombobulated him. He took 150 pesos with relief and left.

    The other exception occured here on the main Xalapa-Coatepec road and was quickly resolved when the police realized we weren’t turistas and they could only go so far.

    Every other interchange with police has been fine. We’ve even done things wrong, and they’ve just warned us. They have been extremely helpful at times for absolutely no money at all, and always, always polite and friendly. I could write and write about this, but I won’t now.

    I would add that we are driving with Mexican drivers permits at this point and I think it has definitely been in our favor.

    I agree, the drug war sucks and these cops need to be paid decently because for the most part they earn it.

  3. 20 November 2009 9:54 am

    Two nights ago I watched two drunks fight in the streets of Peru from my girlfriend’s balcony. Another drunk came up and pulled out a gun and aimed it at another’s face. A cop came around the corner, swatted the gun out of the guy’s hand, forcibly made him sit while he dispersed the other two, and then marched the former gun-toter to jail.
    I was impressed. No violence on the cop’s part besides a few stern words, and he controlled the situation masterfully.
    In the states, there would have been at least one body cooling on the ground.
    Not to say that all LatAm police are the same–of course not. But community policing, as common here, with police on foot on the street, all with their own little neighborhood beats, whistling at each other throughout the night, beats the SWAT-like mentality of the states.
    (I also figure it had to be a toy gun, as I don’t think pistols are that available here. Still, that’ll get you summarily executed in the USA.)

  4. Mazbeach permalink
    20 November 2009 12:39 pm

    I’m a local who is well aware of the forum exchange. In my time in Mazatlan I have come to realize just how arrogant and rude so many of the gringos are. Too many seem to think they own the place and that the law doesn’t apply to them.

    Tell D we’re with him on this one. M too, if you see her before I do.


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