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Zacatecas could lose half its 2,000 police

Officials are scrambling as the state could lose 1,000 officers by tomorrow

Having failed to pass or complete evaluation tests, nearly half of Zacatecas’ 2,000 police officers could well be dismissed by tomorrow, leaving state and municipal officials scrambling to fill the gap.

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Today is the deadline for all police — federal, state and municipal — to complete the performance and trustworthiness evaluations, a date that has already been postponed three times since the process was introduced in 2009.

But it doesn’t appear that another postponement is going to happen.

The onus falls on municipal presidents, or mayors, for ensuring that the evaluations of municipal police are completed by today’s deadline. If they’re not, those mayors face possible jail time of two to eight years. So their only alternative at this point is to lay off police.

And that presents another problem, this one economic.

There is no money in municipal budgets for the severance payments that will have to be made.

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Today, officials are making plans to use the resources of Mando Unico, or “unique command,” a system being introduced throughout Mexico to unify local police command structures.

It was introduced by former President Felipe Calderón and was originally intended to replace municipal police with state forces, but the latest model is a somewhat watered-down version in which the municipal forces remain intact.

Layoffs have already begun in some places: in the municipality of Guadalupe, where the Gulf Cartel has been blamed for violence during the past year, 70 of 120 police have been laid off.

The evaluations consist of polygraph exams, background checks and physical aptitude tests.

There are two more problems in Zacatecas today: there are worries that the laid-off police might present a security risk, and the other is that no one knows exactly how many officers will be dismissed.

The answer to the second ought to be clear tomorrow.

Sources: Express Zacatecas (sp), Mexico Gulf Reporter (en)

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