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Danger, excitement… paperwork

4 April 2011

This photo, by Terry Ketron (Rombic Sky Images), was published in the Nogales International last Friday.

Border Patrol Officers, when you come right down to it, are just bureaucrats with guns. Ketron’s photo captured something we often forget, but which actually speaks well of U.S. police forces, and suggests what is sorely lacking in the rush to “reform” police forces, or create any sense of trust in the police in this country.

From the note accompanying the photo, the men on the ground were being detained for unauthorized entry into the United States. Of course, on this side of the border, that isn’t a legal reason to detain a person, but that’s another issue.  This is the important part — although there are horror stories of illegal detentions and bureaucratic errors (and rampant abuses) by the Border Patrol, and they are a paramilitary unit — they document what happens and there is a way to check.

Short-circuiting procedures, and sloppy record keeping, more than anything else, seems to be at the heart of the problems with Mexican (and U.S.) policing.  Throwing more policemen and more weapons (and more and more paramilitary police forces) or integrating local police into state police doesn’t mean much if there is no record of the actions undertaken.

As we saw in “Presunto cupable” one can’t rely on a policeman’s memory, nor should we.  In that instance, it’s clear the investigating officer lied,  and the judge erred in not regarding a witnesses’ oral testimony (in which a witness recanted his previous testimony), but simply relied on an unreliable report.

Or, as in the murder of Juan Francisco Sicilia Ortega, without proper investigation, there’s a tendency to rush a high profile crime to a conclusion, whether the conclusion is logical or not.

And, as Gancho mentioned this weekend, the number of disappearances in this country is startling.  I tend to agree with Gancho that the figures may be high (a good number of disappearances may be from people who want to disappear for one reason or another, or the numbers may be just wrong) , but without good record keeping, there is no way to check.

Rather than bring in soldiers, or hiring hard-ass “shoot first and ask questions later” ex-generals as police chiefs, or giving drug tests, or anything else, maybe the first step in creating confidence in the justice system is the simplest.  Show policemen how to keep records of what they do.  Records that can be checked.

Of course, that means educating police officers… not just showing them how to fire a gun, or upping the numbers by drafting unemployed youngsters as cannon fodder, and hoping that the sheer number of forces will somehow create a just and peaceful society.  This means  teaching police officers that their job is more than just chasing bad guys, but also working with stressed out civilians… it means treating them as educated civil servants… and paying them as such.

Not that rounding up undocumented entrants is necessarily justice… but justice unrecorded is justice denied.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Juan Santos permalink
    5 April 2011 9:42 am

    What I see here is a Field Training Unit. “Trainees” are with a senior agent that teaches them how to work in the field for several months. Normally it’s one agent and 20 illegals.

  2. El Chismoso permalink
    7 April 2011 1:02 am

    “Short-circuiting procedures, and sloppy record keeping, more than anything else, seems to be at te heart of the problems with Mexican (and U.S.) policing. ”


    Sloppy record keeping of mordidas and payoffs received by the mexican cops is definitely a problem.

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