Reposted from Animal Politico: Arturo Angel
With little more than six months to implement the new adversarial criminal justice system in Mexico, nine out of 10 police officers are not prepared, although they are the first link of its operation.
MV Note: The Mexican Constitution was amended in 2008 to change the trial system from an inquisitorial one–in which prosecution and defense submit evidentiary documents to a judge who decides, in private, on the accused’s guilt or innocence–to an adversarial system of public, oral trials in which prosecution and defense present their respective arguments and witnesses testify. There are no juries. Judges continue to decide cases. By law the adversarial system is to be implemented by June 2016; to date, however, it has been implemented to varying degrees in about half the states.
In June 2008, when the penal reform was approved, a time table of eight years was set to implement it, so that the country could prepare its police forces for a system where respect for human rights, appropriate custody of evidence, preservation of the scene of a crime and justified arrest of a suspect are fundamental. These are issues where the police are the main protagonists, as they are the first to have contact with a possible criminal act.
After seven and a half years, the federal government can confirm that they have properly trained and certified only 1 in 10 police. The rest have not received training or adequate courses on the new penal system.
The Technical Secretariat of the Coordinating Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System (SETEC) is the body authorized to monitor the smooth transition to the new system. Its head, Maria de los Angeles Fromow, told Animal Politico that the Council has trained 17,000 state and municipal officiers, as well as just over half of the federal police. But that figure represents only a little more than 10% of all public security forces of the three levels of government [federal, state and municipal].
Therefore, the federal government has designed an “emergency plan” to train the police, which will begin November 16, Fromow confirmed. The plan is to conduct express workshops of 40 hours in each state.
Maria Elena Morera, president of the organization Common Cause, which has followed police development over the past four years, predicted that the strategy will not work because it is reducing the minimum of 240 hours that would be required for preparation to one-sixth that time.
“The police are not ready to face the new criminal justice system; it is a dissimulation to say they are. They want to do in six months what was not done in eight years,” the activist said in an interview.
Trained and not trained
In Mexico there are approximately 267,000 members of public security agencies [police departments] at the state and municipal levels. De los Angeles Fromow explained that, through the grant given to the SETEC, they have now trained 17 thousand of those local agents.
Agents in the states of Baja California, Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon [all in the north] have made the greatest progress. They are the states that have managed to implement almost all the new penal system before the deadline. The problem today, according to official data, is that only 6 of the 32 federal entities [31 states and the Federal District (Mexico City)] operate 100% in this system.
As for the remaining 250 thousand policemen, Fromow explained that there are states where other federal grants have been given to do their own workshops or courses, although it is not known whether they were updated or completed.
“Each state had to design its own plan, because there are states that will have to train their entire force again; there are states that have partially done it or that will have to give updates,” she said.
As for the Federal Police, which has nearly 40,000 members, Fromow said slightly more than half are fully trained, i.e., in the final six months of the eight year period almost 20 thousand officers will have to be trained as well.
The head of the SETEC recognized that the [preventive] police being prepared is key, because they are what are technically called “first responders”, that is, they are the public servants in the entire public security and justice systems who are the first to have contact with a possible criminal act.
According to the guidelines of the National Code of Criminal Procedure, poor preservation of the scene, poor preservation of evidence or an arrest which is not conducted properly may be sufficient to annul the evidence or even cause a crimial proceeding to fail.
The emergency plan
The National Security Council, under the guidance of the SETEC, has designed a strategy that aims, in the coming months, to provide a basic, general course on performance under the new system to all agents in the police forces. This plan aims to complete 100% of the training by May 31, 2016, less than two weeks before the deadline.
Fromow explained that the emergency plan consists mainly of 40-hour workshops that will be practical, prioritizing the teaching of basics like police response to a blatant offense, reading the book of human rights, the chain of custody of evidence and the proper use of force, among others.
“The truth is that we have a challenge ahead, and therefore, we designed this emergency program (…) We have already trained 90 instructors who will be training the trainers in the states, who are police with certain profiles that enable us to accelerate this training,” she said.
The training will start on November 16, when the ninety instructors will begin to train one thousand police around the country, so that that these are then converted into replicators of the knowledge they have acquired.
“They will be trainers of trainers and will work full time until May for each of them to train groups of thirty police at a time.” said Fromow.
But before they can start workshops, each state will have to complete a diagnosis of each police force to verify if any of its officers have received some kind of course and what the content of these were, with the aim of establishing whether the workshops need to begin from scratch or be a supplement. To do this, 32 state committees are gathering all the information as quickly as possible and the strategy will be based on that.
“Funding for this obviously comes from federal funds for implementation of the system. It is also important to note that we already have protocols ready for first respondents, such as safeguarding the scene and other fundamentals critical to the performance of the police,” explained Fromow.
Maria Elena Morera, an activist who has specialized in tracking issues such as the development of police, said security forces in the country are not even minimally prepared to act under the standards of the penal system, and in the time remaining, it will be difficult to achieve.
“It is true that the federal government is making a great effort to give a course to the police, but that does not mean they will know the subject; we will need to evaluate them,” she said.
The problem with 40-hour workshops that are to be taught, explained the activist, is that it is a truncated course, as the appropriate time needed for basic training–according to specialists–is 240 hours [six weeks if done full time]. The reason for cutting the time is to be able to finish the delivery of workshops to one hundred percent of the police by the end of May.
Morera recalled that there were eight years for this to be done. However, there were governors who waited until the end of their administrations to begin to implement the necessary actions. The result is that today there is not enough time for evaluation or testing.
“Many of the governors left this to the end, and today we have a lot of police who are not ready. We will begin to see the consequences of this in the middle of next year when the new system gets under way. (…) The police are definitely not prepared,” said the activist.
See also: Mexico State and Municipal Police Departments Full of Administrative and Structural Dysfunctions, Nov. 10, 2015. on Common Cause’s report.