I currently live in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico (close to Mazatlan). If you haven’t been keeping up, Sinaloa is the home to the Sinaloa Cartel which is considered the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico. A few years ago, the President of Mexico decided to go to war with the cartels. They stepped up policing, they sent in the soldiers for domestic patrols, etc. Needless to say, law enforcement activity in Mexico, and especially in the cartel areas is quite pervasive. Before I get in to the comparison, I need to give you a little background information on the hierarchy of Mexican police.
There are basically three types of cops in Mexico.
- The Federal Police which seem to be concerned primarily with the cartels. They also patrol all the toll roads. Federal Police don’t give tickets within the city.
- The Metro Police who deal with all other non-Federal crimes (and also the drug war). Metro Police also don’t give traffic tickets.
- The Transit Police who are responsible for traffic violations within the metro areas. If the Transit Police have higher crime issues to deal with, they call the Metro Police.
- The Army, who are there ONLY to deal with the cartels.
So far, in all of my encounters with the police, I have been treated with respect. In fact, on a couple of occasions, a truly shocking thing happened; the cop offered a handshake when he walked up to the car! That would be a serious violation of police safety protocols in the US and it would never happen except in a small town where the police know everyone. Imagine getting pulled over by a Los Angeles cop and when he walks up to your car, he shakes your hand and says, “good afternoon,” it would be surreal.
- American cops are trained to treat everyone like criminals first, including crime victims. Mexican police actually treat you like a person.
- American cops will arrest you or beat you just for talking back. I’ve seen people loudly and vehemently argue with Mexican police without getting arrested, shot or detained.
- American cops seem to think their badges and guns give them super powers, make them super citizens and they are above the law. Mexican cops pretty much seem like regular guys (I’ve yet to see a female cop down here).
- American cops are more interested in their own agenda than the actual law. Ok, so are Mexican cops; they’re still cops.