MEXICO CITY – From 2018 up through January 2020, at least 953 police officers were murdered in Mexico, a reflection of the wave of violence the country is experiencing, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Causa en Comun (Common Cause) organization.
“From the statistics we were able to get from press reports that tell us the number of murdered police officers and the reports of people murdered in Mexico, being a police officer implies a risk four times greater than being a citizen doing any other activity,” the president of the NGO, Maria Elena Morera, told EFE.
The murder rate in Mexico is 31.1 per 100,000 civilians, while the murder rate for police officers is 115 per 100,000, according to the report.
The only Mexican municipality where civilians run the same risk of being murdered as a policeman is Chilapa, in Guerrero state, a town that was in the news recently due to its training of children as community police officers to combat organized crime.
Causa en Comun researcher David Blanc said upon seeing the report that “in Mexico it’s very easy to kill a policeman and it almost never has any consequences.”
Although the number of murdered police was very similar in 2018 (452 killed) and in 2019 (446 killed), in January 2020 the figure shot up.
In the first month of this year, 55 police were killed, compared to 28 in the first month of 2018 and 27 the next January.
The report may not include every single murder, since it was prepared using information from local media after the authorities refused to provide any information on the matter, Morera said.
“The authorities didn’t even give us the (employment) records. It’s a shame that they don’t even acknowledge the number of people working with them,” she said.
To put the figures into context, independent researcher Julio Rios Figueroa provided the number of police officers killed in other comparable countries.
In Argentina, Rios said, the year with the highest total of murdered police officers was 1999, when 25 were killed. In Colombia, according to figures reported in a newspaper of officers killed from January through October 2018, 78 police lost their lives.
In the United States, 167 police officers were killed during 2018 and 135 were murdered during 2019, a number far below the Mexican figures, despite the fact that the US has about 200 million more residents.
“In Mexico, we invest 0.9 percent of the GDP in security while the developed countries invest an average of 3 percent. In Mexico, we invest a third amid a very high security problem,” Morera said.
“What we’re seeing is that police end up being second class workers for the Mexican state,” she stated, noting that the average salary for a police officer in Mexico is 10,000 pesos per month (about $535) and that some have to pay for their own equipment.
In addition, she said, the families have great difficulty collecting the appropriate indemnities for police officers who are killed and, if the murder occurs while the officer is off duty, “often they don’t receive anything.”
To deal with the problem, the NGO has demanded salary revisions, an improvement in equipment and training for police forces, better investigative work and more certain punishment for murders and indemnities for the families of fallen officers.
“Society doesn’t want them and the institutions abandon them. Really, we don’t pay much attention to the police and it’s not important to us when we have an incident. We’d like them to behave like Scotland Yard, but we don’t treat them like that,” Morera said.
Mexico reported a total of 34,582 murders in 2019, the highest annual official figure in 20 years, although the upward trend does seem to be slowing or stabilizing.