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International Journal of Comparative and Applied


Criminal Justice
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Citizen satisfaction with police services in Guadalajara,


Mexico
a

J. Michael Olivero & Rodrigo Murataya

Central Washington University , Ellensburg, Washington


Published online: 01 Jun 2011.

To cite this article: J. Michael Olivero & Rodrigo Murataya (1998) Citizen satisfaction with police services in
Guadalajara, Mexico, International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice, 22:2, 305-310, DOI:
10.1080/01924036.1998.9678625
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01924036.1998.9678625

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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE AND APPLIED CRIMINAL JUSTICE


FALL 1998, VOL. 22, NO. 2

Citizen Satisfaction with Police Services


in Guadalajara, Mexico

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J. MICHAEL OLIVERO
RODRIGO MURATAYA
Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington

In the summer of 1997, we undertook a research project concerning community satisfaction with police services in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco. Guadalajara is located northwest of Mexico City, roughly a 500 kilometers drive. The estimated population of this
urban area is 12 million.
We undertook this project to answer three primary questions:
1) Is the nature of Mexican police services appropriate for internships with students from
our law and justice program? Our departments recently obtained a grant in which our
students live in Mexico, become fluent in Spanish and knowledgeable of Mexican culture,
1
as well as perform internships in social services in Mexico. The idea is to equip our students with the wherewithal to assist the Hispanic community in the United States after
graduation.
2) What are the crime-related issues that impact Mexican citizens relative to police services? The U.S. is known for having a high crime rate comparatively on the international
level, and significant problems related to domestic violence (Committee on the Judiciary of
the United States Senate, 1991). Furthermore, it has been our suggestion and those of
others that the War on Drugs in the United States and high drug consumption demands
have had a negative impact on the Mexican people (Olivero, 1991). It is of interest to
assess Mexican citizen concerns in this regard.
Lastly, 3) Can we apply U.S. standards for police services to those of the Mexican police?

Police Services in Mexico


For the past several years we have researched crime and justice in Mexico.
In the course of this research, we have found very few academic studies on the
nature and behavior of the police in Mexico, both in the U.S. and Mexico. We
are able to find official portrayals of the police in Mexico, as provided by
various media sources. However, we approach these renditions with great
skepticism. We believe that official portrayals may reflect propaganda devices
held under the control of the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party (PRI),
which has dominated Mexico for the past 70 years. The PRI holds a history of
corruption, including enmeshment with corrupt police practices.
According to human rights workers, police abuse of the average citizen is
seen as the most pervasive and chronic human rights abuse in Mexico.2 Researchers have found that arbitrary detentions and torture by local, state and
federal police agencies were so widespread as to go unremarked upon. Additionally, they stated that the Federal Judicial Police was responsible for the

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most serious human rights violations in the country, and that they enjoyed
enormous autonomy and impunity in their work despite the illegality of their
actions (Americas Watch, 1990; 1991; MLIHRC, 1990).

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Authors Personal Observations and Experiences


While in Mexico, the present authors have been stopped by the FJP at these
checkpoints. In 1989 one of the authors went through a checkpoint located on
the highway midway between Reynosa and Monterey, in the state of Tamaulipas. The checkpoint in Tamaulipas was run by men wearing black jump suits
holding automatic weapons who barked out orders.3 It was apparent that these
individuals had little concern for public relations or complaints by people
moving through the stop. A halt was placed on these roadblocks due to bad
publicity associated with abuses (U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1991).
We again experienced these practices in the summer of 1993, where we
were stopped on the highway between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta,4 as
well as between Nogales and Guadalajara. We inquired as to the multiple stops
between Nogales and Guadalajara, and we were told that they were associated
with the accidental shooting of a Catholic Cardinal at the international airport
located in Guadalajara (June 1993), during a shoot-out between drug traffickers. We were somewhat put off by the answer in that we were heading toward
Guadalajara, not away, and the individuals involved were known to be from
the Tijuana area of Mexico (which is where they were captured). (Reuters,
1993)
This past summer, 1997, one of the authors was stopped at the Mazatlan
checkpoint, en-route to perform this study. He was arrested for possession of
legal caffeine pills purchased in the United States. Police claimed that they
were psychotropic drugs and that he was obviously an addict. If he did not pay
500 dollars they were going to send letters to the police department and university where he is employed to inform them that he was an addict and introducing illegal psychotropic drugs into Mexico. He paid the mordida (the
bite to be explained below) and was released.

Method
We began by translating into Spanish, the instrument developed and used
by the Department of Political Science at Washington State University, to
assess citizen satisfaction with police services in cities in the U.S. We did not
impose demographic data out of concern that respondents would not agree to
participate in the study due to anxieties and fears of police retribution. The
instrument does outline U.S. citizen concerns surrounding police services.
Finally, the survey instrument allows for check lists, likert scale, responses
and open ended statements for clarification.
We hired six research assistants and trained them to administer the instrument. These assistants were citizens of Guadalajara. The instrument was
disseminated in San Juan De Dios marketplace, the largest in the city. We felt

CITIZEN SATISFACTION WITH POLICE SERVICES

307

most citizens of Guadalajara and people of all walks of life would frequent this
marketplace, allowing social class diversity in response.

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Results
We began by assessing the percentage of citizens in the sample who had
recent contact with Mexican police. Our concern was to focus upon how often
Mexican citizens in urban areas have contact with the police. Out of our
sample of 185 citizens, 49 or 26.5% had contact within the past 12 months.
We wished to analyze whether citizens were not contacting the police
because they felt unsatisfied with police services. Unfortunately, an item
concerning this issue was not provided in the questionnaire instrument. In
order to get as close as possible, we examined citizen satisfaction with police
services and cross-tabulated this with contact with the police. In this fashion
we attempted to assess satisfaction with police services among those who had
no contact with the police. It would appear that only two subjects who had no
contact with the police answered the item concerning satisfaction with police
services. Among subjects who had contact with the police, 21.3% were not
satisfied with police services, and 4.3% of the subjects indicated being very
satisfied.
An issue developed as we discussed police services with the subjects. It
should be noted that part of the decision to indicate satisfaction with police
services might stem from the ability to pay mordida, instead of pay a fine,
or paying off the police, etc. 5 That is to say police corruption can benefit
police community satisfaction when the ability to pay a bribe outweighs the
costs of paying fines. As such, it could be that citizens support some forms of
police corruption.
Only 2.2% of the contact was citizen initiated to report a crime or to request a service. This finding lends support to the conclusion that police
community involvement is typically something citizens wish to avoid, or they
feel that police involvement is futile. Several subjects felt that if they contacted the police concerning a problem, the individual with the most money to pay
mordida would carry the day. Typically, problems are solved between disputants, or fighting may ensue.
With this in mind, the next concern is whether there are crime-related
issues that go unreported to the police. We analyzed several issues as a means
to both assess whether there are problems that go unreported to the police, and
to pinpoint the issues that face Mexican citizens. Interesting to note is that on
every law enforcement item, with the exception of loose animals, the modal
response was very concerned, the most significant response on this scale.
Percent Believing the Problem Is of Very Significant Concern
Abandoned Cars 32.4%
Alcohol Consumption 67%

Gang Activity 62.3%


Juvenile Delinquency 59.3%

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OLIVERO AND MURATAYA

Assaults 47%
Child Abuse 84.2%
Auto Theft 61.6%
Noise Pollution 42.4%
Bicycle Traffic 35.7%
Parking Problems 47.5%
Burglary 73.5%
Rape 76.6%
Drug Deals 80.5%
Robbery 78.3%
Drug Users 89.1%
Theft 76%
Domestic Violence 59.6%
Vandalism 77.5%
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol 69.9%
As is provided above, the top three concerns are drug users, drug dealers
and child abuse.
We then examined the perceived need for more police on the streets.
Despite the large number of citizens who appear to hold concerns about violent crime, it would seem that very few would support having more police. In
the present sample, 47.7% felt that there should be more police on the streets.
We feel that this belief stems from poor support for the police and police
services, which may in part rise from corruption.

Conclusion
Is the nature of Mexican police services appropriate for internships with
students from our law and justice program? At present, we feel that students
would benefit from other forms of social services and that the police would be
a poor choice for obvious reasons. This is not to say that students should not
know the system in Mexico. For example, police officers in Yakima, Washington report that Mexicans are automatically defensive when approached by U.S.
police, producing a reluctance to utilize police services and intensive efforts to
avoid contact. Students going into law enforcement occupations would have a
better understanding of responses of Hispanic citizens granted their experiences in their home countries. Not the least of which would include a willingness
to pay mordida in a country which holds significant contempt for such practices.
What are the crime related issues that impact upon Mexican citizens relative to police services? These data were surprising granted the many decades
that Mexico did not appear to have significant indigenous problems with drug
use (Franco, 1980), and drug dealing was seen as a result of the demand in the
United States (Olivero and Mounce, 1991; Olivero, Mounce and Morgado,
1991; Olivero, Clark, Morgado and Mounce, 1992).
These data indicate that citizens were concerned with both drug dealers and
drug users. In reference to drug dealers and the police, the attitude may be
linked to the death of the Roman Catholic Cardinal mentioned above. The
Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Posadas Ocampo, was slain in a

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CITIZEN SATISFACTION WITH POLICE SERVICES

309

bungled assassination attempt on Joaquin Guzman Loera, head of the powerful


Sinaloa drugs cartel at Guadalajara International Airport in 1993. Seven
Mexican police officers were arrested on corruption charges as part of the
investigation, along with four Federal Judicial Police Officers and three local
police officers. One Federal Judicial Police officer was charged with making
sure police did not hinder the attack on Guzman and with helping gunmen
from the Tijuana cartel escape from the airport afterwards (Reuters, 1993).
In reference to drug usage we were surprised. It was our experience that
most of those in Mexican prisons for drugs were there for drug trafficking
(Olivero, 1991). However, from time to time we have found literature that
indicated that there were drug addicts in Mexico (Price, 1973; Teran, Schnass,
Vargas and Belasso, 1974; Vega, 1974; and Olivero, Clark, Morgado and
Mounce, 1992). The issues of problematic drug dealers and users in Guadalajara continues to be an area inviting further research.
With regard to child abuse, we believe that respondents were concerned
about children who are used to manufacture goods and are widely involved in
the sale of goods and services in the streets to support their parents. Children
also suffer from physical abuse from untrained parents. Children are struck
with boards and other objects which are not considered appropriate by U.S.
standards. Older children are expected to care for the younger and are pulled
from educational pursuits.
Can we apply U.S. standards for police services to those of the Mexican
police? We feel that we cannot. The U.S. just started its move towards professionalization and standardization in the early 70s as a result of the establishment of the Law Enforcement Administration Association. The United States
is itself still going through an evolutionary process. Mexico is a third world
country and therefore we can reasonably expect it to be a couple of steps
behind U.S. standards.

NOTES
1. Fund for Improvement of Post secondary Education (FIPSE).
2. While living in Morelia, Michoacan, one of the present authors personally observed police
corruption and extortion attempts by street police. We have also observed the same behavior by
police in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and the state police of Sinaloa and Sonora.
3. In 1991 one of the present authors observed these checkpoints near the Guatemalan/Mexican border. We found that it was the practice of bus drivers heading toward Mexico City to stop a
few miles previous to the checkpoints and allow refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador to
disembark. Further, similar groups were allowed onto the bus following the checkpoint. The checkpoints were manned by members of the FJP and the Mexican Army.
4. In June of 1993, we were told by our travel agent not to go into certain areas by bus or train
due to the checkpoints. Further, a touring group of students from Weber State University (Utah)
attempted to charter a bus to Ixtapa, and were told that the trip would take two days, because the
driver did not wish to travel through the checkpoints at night.
5. See Wilkinson (1990) for a discussion of la mordida in Mexican criminal.

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