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Who watches the watchers?

6 April 2014

How many unsuitable officers or infiltrators slipped through before the polygraph program was implemented or beat the test is anyone’s guess, though the bureau has tried to address the question.

The polygraph program in question is part of the hiring process for applicants for positions as Border Patrol agents. Only instituted six months ago, polygraph tests on would-be agents have turned up murderers, rapists, child molesters, kiddy porn producers, one pig-fucker, and a lot of former marijuana smugglers and more that a few people with serious substance abuse issues. How many future problems slipped through during the Border Patrol hiring frenzy that has been on-going since 2006 is anyone’s guess. We’ll probably start finding out about 2015:

One internal study on corruption, completed in December 2011, found that corrupt agents had been on the job an average of almost nine years before they were caught.

(Quotes and source: Andrew Becker, “On Polygraph Tests, Would-Be Border Patrol Agents Confess to Crimes,” Daily Beast, 4 April 2014)

Throwing more agents at the border (not the Canadian border, mind you, but the Mexican one) was more political grand-standing than anything else, and one area where the a government “make work project” was salable to conservatives on the argument that “THE GOVERNMENT MUST DO SOMETHING”, even if the “something” was as likely to cause more problems than whatever problem it was that the government was supposed to do something about ever did.

indexIt’s not that “corrupt” policemen are unique to Mexico, of course… the corrupt police officer (think of Claude Raines as Lieutenant Renault, in “Casablanca” who describes himself at one point as “just a corrupt police official”) and the cop who plays both sides of the law have been staples of fiction (and real crime news) everywhere. But, here in Mexico, it seems that our government MUST DO SOMETHING about police corruption.

The easiest way, and the one that gets the most attention is simply to hire new cops.

One is constantly seeing in the news that some police department or another is being completely replaced. When I read that, I wonder what happens to the ex-police officers, Is there any sort of career placement service, or are the left on their own? I suspect the latter, or that career placement has been outsourced to the same people who “corrupted” them in the first place. Every time some kidnapping ring, or hitmen are arrested, it seems at least one or two of them are described as a “former police officer”.

indexRecently, with the turn-about by the Peña Nieto administration on the “self-defense groups” in Michoacán… from potential “terrorists” to would be rural police, there have been… um… “issues”… with self-defense groups that may or may not be on the side of law and order, or have personal agendas… or, are operationally no different than any police they supposedly replace.

Where I have seen improvements in policing, it’s not been where there are just more cops, more trucks and more guns but where someone has gone to the effort of asking what a police officer should be: an unpaid peon, keeping the poor away from the rich?; a hired thug to be unleashed when there is a threat to the established order?; a collector of “human garbage” (as more than one cynical cop has defined his job)? Or a civil servant?

While I am afraid that all of the above are a policeman’s lot, where I have seen genuine improvements have been in places where questions have been asked about why the officers are of such low quality and what can be done to find better officers. Paying a decent livable wage was one answer. So was better physical training; and — what seems to have been most effective here — raising the educational requirements for recruits.

And polygraphs. They aren’t perfect by any means, but the better departments are at least weeding out some who never should be given a gun and a badge anywhere. Whether this means less “corruption” in the future, it’s hard to say.

BUT… and this is what I notice about both the Border Patrol and our “new” police. No one (or almost no one) asks the basic question… why do we need new officers? Is there a better way to handle immigration than throwing enforcers at it? What social needs are unmet, that police officers are needed to prevent unrest? Should the rich hire their own thugs (and should society as a whole be protected from them)? Can we recycle “human garbage” in some less wasteful manner?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Melvoin permalink
    6 April 2014 11:48 pm

    Excellent observations.
    Should be sent to every police agency in North America.

  2. 10 January 2015 4:13 am

    Who watches the watchers? | The Mex Files


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