A division of the Federal Police is going to broaden its focus by deploying officers with specialized knowledge in areas including archaeology and art history in order to protect Mexico’s cultural heritage.
The National Gendarmerie was created in 2014 to provide security in high-crime areas and was expected to grow to 40,000 officers. But three years later the special unit remains just 5,000 strong, the same number with which it was launched.
But that has not stopped it from carrying out more than 500,000 operations — one every three minutes — or from expanding into new areas of police work.
In an interview with the newspaper El Universal, Gendarmerie chief Benjamín Grajeda Regalado said the division is preparing for its new mission.
“What we are seeking is . . . to contribute to [efforts] to preserve and guarantee the security of [national] heritage.”
Grajeda said that training of officers has already begun in conjunction with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA) and that the new roles allow recruits to combine their passions for archaeology or art with their desire to be a federal police officer.
Asked what results are three years after the force’s creation Grajeda referred to its strengthening in preparation to serve the public. He said it was ready to carry out a variety of missions including those related to agriculture protection, border regions and the environment.
Grajeda indicated that operations have been carried out across 22 states and that the force currently has a presence in 15 including tourist-oriented states that have seen a rise in crime such as Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo.
He cited crop protection in Tamaulipas, missions to combat train robbery in Guanajuato and Querétaro — which he says has been reduced by 95% — curbing logging in monarch butterfly habitats and participation in operations to put an end to illegal totoaba fishing as specific examples of operations the Gendarmerie has worked on.
Thirteen officers have been killed in the line of duty: an ambush in March 2015 left five dead in Ocotlán, Jalisco. Grajeda said ensuring that officers are as best prepared as possible is a priority.
“The Gendarmerie division was formed with initial training from the French Gendarmerie and the Colombian National Police . . . . We have courses to update knowledge in order to always be at the forefront in terms of human rights and the use of force.”
The division has also completed training with police forces from the United States, Ecuador and Bolivia.
Despite its limited numbers, Grajeda said that the division had so far achieved its objectives but indicated that improvements could still be made.
“We are working every day and seeking to grow in order to provide better service. I think the balance is very positive, society has rated the Gendarmerie and the Federal Police as the most trustworthy police force.”
National Security Commissioner Renato Sales yesterday praised the Federal Police as Mexico’s best force, and said public confidence in it has risen 10 percentage points since 2013 and 2017. Perceptions of its efficiency have risen seven points in the same period, he said.
Sales also claimed it is one of the best police forces in the world.
“We should be very proud; it is a great police force, an excellent police force . . . .”