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Federal Judicial Police
(Policia Judicial Federal)

A number of federal, state, and local police and law enforcement organizations exist to provide for internal security. Their responsibilities and jurisdictions frequently overlap, a factor acknowledged in 1984 when the government created a national consulting board designed to "coordinate and advise police forces" throughout the country. A number of smaller law enforcement bodies exist at the state and local level. Each of the country's thirty-one states and the Federal District has its own judicial police--the State Judicial Police and the Federal District Judicial Police. State police are under the direction of the state's governor; the Federal District Judicial Police fall under the control of the Federal District attorney general. The distinction between crimes investigated by State and Federal Judicial Police is not always clear. Most offenses come under the state authorities. Drug dealing, crimes against the government, and offenses involving several jurisdictions are the responsibility of the federal police.

Cities and municipalities have their own preventive and municipal police forces, which are responsible for handling minor civil disturbances and traffic infractions. The Federal Highway Police patrols federally designated highways and investigates traffic accidents. Highway police are assisted by military personnel on national holidays.

The senior law enforcement organization in Mexico is the Federal Judicial Police, which is controlled by the attorney general. The plainclothes force acts as an investigative agency with arrest power for the Office of the Attorney General. The foremost activity of the Federal Judicial Police is carrying out investigations and making apprehensions related to drug trafficking. Espionage, arms trafficking, and bank robberies also fall under its purview. The Federal Judicial Police serves as the government's liaison with the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). Its role can be compared to a combination of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The jurisdiction of the Federal Judicial Police encompasses the entire nation. For control purposes, its jurisdiction is divided into thirteen zones with fifty-two smaller detachment headquarters. Under the coordination of the local federal prosecutor, each zone is headed by a second commandant of the Federal Judicial Police, who in turn directs the group chiefs in the outlying detachments. Individuals arrested by the Federal Judicial Police are placed at the disposition of the local federal prosecutor, who appoints subordinate attorneys to assess each case.

Although it remained one of the smaller law enforcement agencies, the Federal Judicial Police tripled in size between 1982 and 1984, from 500 personnel to an estimated 1,500. In 1988 an assistant attorney general's office for investigating and combating drug trafficking was formed with an additional 1,500 Federal Judicial Police agents. In 1990 the office was expanded and given interagency coordinating functions in the battle against narcotics.

A number of unofficial paramilitary groups incorporating various police officials have existed in the past to deal with rural and urban guerrillas and illegal groups. The most notorious paramilitary group was the White Brigade (Brigada Blanca) whose existence was officially denied, although it was known to be active from 1977 until 1980, when the government dismantled it. The White Brigade consisted of a group of officers from the army and the police forces that used illegal tactics to destroy guerrilla movements. Published reports held that the White Brigade was responsible for the "disappearance" of several hundred leftists, most of whom the government claimed were killed in fights between rival leftist groups. Politically motivated "disappearances" tapered off sharply during the 1980s, but were once again being reported in the mid-1990s in connection with the unrest in Chiapas.

The government has repeatedly denounced abuses and corruption by the Federal Judicial Police and other police forces. Numerous reforms have been announced, personnel shifted, and codes of procedures adopted. Allegations of police brutality have declined, but torture, wrongful arrests, and involvement in drug trafficking have not been eliminated because abuses are so deeply rooted in the police agencies, and violators for the most part have been able to act with impunity.

Both President Fox's and President Calderón's responses to the deteriorating security situation in Mexico were focused on the federal level. Fox increased the role of the military in countertrafficking and preventing organized crime while at the same time pursuing a long-term strategy of institution and accountability building at the federal level. The Fox administration started attacking corruption early on its first term. Because the Federal Judicial Police were known to be highly corrupt, in 2001 Fox's administration dissolved the organization and created a new one, the Agencia Federal de Investigación [AFI - Federal Investigative Police], under the Attorney General. In addition, Fox signed the first national freedom of information law in June 2002 in order to increase government transparency and thus complicate large scale corruption.

In 2001, the PGR restructured the Federal Judicial Police (Policia Judicial Federal), and renamed it the Federal Investigation Agency (Agencia Federal de Investigación, AFI). According to the Prosecutor General's AFI inaugural speech in June 2002, the former Policia Judicial Federale was inefficient due to its lack of structure and coordination. It was also known to be more reactive than proactive, undoubtedly affecting the quality of its investigations. Furthermore, the PGR itself has clearly recognised that the Policia Judiciale Federale was rife with police corruption, giving rise to constant human right violations and impunity, causing, in turn, a lack of trust by citizens in the police. Therefore, the authorities considered as crucial the restructuring as well as a name change, thus hoping to give the AFI a better image in public opinion. However, AFI's image, although better than its predecessor's, is not yet entirely satisfactory.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:53:54 ZULU