Fake news may or may not be a problem in Mexico, but fake police apparently are.
A joint operation by state and federal police and the military yesterday rounded up 45 “fake” officers who had infiltrated the municipal police force of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero.
For more than seven hours the operation took over municipal police headquarters and detained officers in order to check their identities and weapons.
The revision identified three people with suspected links to organized crime who were working as officers within the force as well as 27 men wearing police uniforms and boots and having weapons and badges despite not being accredited police or registered on Plataforma México, a national police database.
A further 15 officers who continued to work despite having failed confidence tests were also detected.
State security spokesperson Roberto Álvarez said the presence of the unauthorized elements was detected two days before after a tip-off from Mayor Gustavo García.
“Given the infiltration and usurpation of functions in the Zihuatanejo municipal police force by individuals linked to crime, the federal security cabinet . . . took the decision to carry out the disarmament of those elements,” Álvarez said.
The 45 arrested officers were transported to the offices of SEIDO, the special prosecutor for organized crime, and Cereso Acapulco, a state prison.
The police who were arrested described their detention as a kidnapping and complained that they were not given anything to eat or drink and were not permitted to leave even after having their weapons checked by police and military.
An officer who identified himself as Marco Pérez climbed to a police watchtower and shouted to reporters gathered outside that “they’ve kidnapped us” and “they are not beating us up but they are getting aggressive and even checking our pockets. That’s against the law.”
Family members of the detained officers also protested outside the police station and demanded that they be allowed to see them.
Shortly after 4:00pm, police and soldiers withdrew and family members rushed into the command post to confront public security director David Nogueda, whom they blamed for allowing the detention to occur.
Nogueda, described by the newspaper El Sur as being “visibly shaken,” showed the disgruntled family members a state Public Security Secretariat document that indicated a weapons revision would take place. But he also informed them he was surprised by what had happened and did not agree that the officers should be taken away.
But Nogueda assured the family members that evidence that proved they really were police officers would be presented in Acapulco. He also indicated that the officers were not actually arrested.
This morning, Governor Héctor Astudillo said the government had received information indicating that the person who was really in charge of the police in Zihuatanejo was a criminal operating within.
He said state police and the Army have assumed responsibility for providing security in the municipality.
The raid comes on the back of an incident in Zihuatanejo on April 25 in which gunmen dressed as police officers attacked a police station, leaving three officers dead and another three wounded.
Rising levels of violent crime in the region have had a negative impact on the economy with a reported 15% of businesses closing down this year and a 40% reduction in sales.
However, Zihuatanejo is not included in a special operation focusing on the 50 most violent municipalities in the country, ranking behind the Guerrero municipalities of Acapulco, Chilpancingo, Chilapa, Iguala and Coyuca de Benítez.