Mexican city fires 25 percent of traffic police

AP News
Posted: Nov 11, 2009 6:06 PM

Mexico's third-largest city has fired almost a quarter of its traffic police for failing tests designed to detect corruption and ineptitude.

And half of Monterrey's traffic cops were ordered to undergo more training after performing poorly on the tests. Only a bit more than a quarter were found to be completely fit for the job.

The purge of traffic cops in the northern Mexican city is the latest step taken to clean up its police force. More than 100 Monterrey police officers have been detained this year on suspicion of links to organized crime.

All 1,142 traffic cops in the city were pulled off duty for 10 days starting Oct. 31 to take medical, mental aptitude and drug tests. The city also investigated whether the officers were living within their means.

Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said Tuesday that 276 officers and administrative officials were fired for failing the exams, 526 officers who performed poorly were ordered to undergo more training, and 340 were determined fit for the job.

The city did not give a breakdown of how many of the five exams the fired officers failed, although Larrazabal said only six failed anti-doping tests. He also said 65 percent of officers were found to be overweight.

President Felipe Calderon has acknowledged that corruption permeates Mexican police at all levels and has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers across the country to lead the fight against drug cartels.

In Monterrey, troops have found officers referred to in lists seized from drug traffickers detailing who was receiving bribes.

Monterrey police have been banned from setting up sobriety checkpoints because officials say the officers routinely use them to extort motorists. They also have been prohibited from sitting in parked cars or using cell phones because of concerns that some officers may be acting as lookouts for gangs.