Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Sheriff in town

Ciudad Juárez, a town tortured by internecine warfare, poor wages, lack of infrastructure and opportunities for it's youth (whose only “succor” seems to be drugs and gangs) has a new sheriff in town (literally), Lt. Col. Julian Leyzaola Pérez (see the Los Angeles Times “Ciudad Juarez's top police official accused of rights abuses” http://lat.ms/eFBi3s). Leyzaola, a former army man (as indicated by the Lt. Col.), made his reputation in Tijuana, a brutal reputation of human rights abuses against suspected criminals as well as police officers in his own department whom he suspected of being corrupt (see The New Yorker article “In the Name of the Law” http://nyr.kr/hYYBO7). Human rights activists are concerned about Leyzaola and his methods, and rightly so. Security, or the perception of it, always seems to push human rights and freedoms to the background whenever a community feels threatened (or rather the elite of the community), who willingly sacrifice the rights and freedoms of it's powerless members in the name of being tough on crime/gangs/drugs/etc (on a worldwide scale we can see what happened after the 11th of September 2001).

There are several problems with this picture especially as it relates to Juaréz's new lawman (an ironic term). The main problem has to do with the installation of military personnel (current or retired) in police agencies. Even though both police and soldiers wear a uniform and carry weapons, they are not the same; their mission is not the same; their objectives are not the same; their ethos is not the same. And, because it appears that few politicians realise this, it is important to point out the differences between soldiers and police officers. It is not that difficult to understand and, without getting too deep into this, we only have to look at the ethos of the military: namely, the very existence of an army is for a country to defend itself or to attack an enemy (whether real or perceived). The soldiers are recruited (based on such traits as: fitness, team-players, obedient and, above all else, loyalty), trained and equipped for this function, that is, to defeat an enemy using as much force as possible in as short a period of time (see “The Principles of War” an essay by Carl von Clausewitz)--this, of course, presupposes the presence of the “other” or the “not us”.

To the astute reader, this ethos will immediately be seen to be the opposite of what is expected of a police officer, that is, someone who can be approached for assistance, someone who knows and understands the community and its concerns, someone who is a MEMBER of the community (which means there is no “other”), someone who observes the “rule of law” (as opposed to acting under the “rules of war”). Bearing this in mind we can see that the background of Leyzaola, and his actions as police chief in the last 4 years, is the opposite of community service and of the rule of law: he acts on suspicion, he endorses torture and curtails free speech (see La Prensa San Diego “High Noon along the U.S./Mexico border?” http://bit.ly/fkZq09). Although Leyzaola, and his supporters, credits his tactics with reducing violence in Tijuana, there are others who argue that his successes are more the result of good timing rather than of his efforts (see Proceso “Tijuana El héroe falso ” http://bit.ly/epyngH). What his tactics do achieve, though, is that the community has another “gang” to fear (aside from threats from various gangs, the army and it's abuses, rogue police officers etc). This fear was recently emphasized with the forced disappearance of 4 young men by uniformed men last week (see Human Rights Watch “Mexico: Investigate Enforced Disappearances in Ciudad Juarez--Police Accused, Torture Allegations Against Chief” http://bit.ly/gxF8mk).

Hiring people like Leyzaola and the militarization of policing, of communities, of society, will not stop, or even slow down, organized crime (think Russia or China). What is needed are domestic police agencies that adhere to the rule of law and that respect the human rights and freedoms of all community members. As opposed to the militarization of policing, these factors will, at the very least aid the police in the investigation of crimes because, as they gain the trust of the community they will receive more cooperation as well as credible information concerning illegal activities, rather than the creation of  an army, a wall, a "we vs they" mentality which can only work in the favor of organized crime (as recent history has emphasized).

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings
Website: WM Consulting

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1 comment:

  1. One of the biggest problems with the standard issue military mindset is the belief that crushing brutality is the only successful means to an end. That "the only thing they understand is violence, so dammit, we will fight fire with fire. Since they torture, we will torture, since they rape, we will rape, since they steal, we will steal."

    Again, this is why they end up in those waterless burning pits with the very people they hate so much. "Thank God we're not like those sinners who torture good people, when we torture, we only torture bad people."

    Hey Barack H. Obama, Kerlikowski, etc… you too will be joining them unless you end prohibition. NOW!


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