In the face of mounting challenges from criminal activity and citizen demands for improved public safety, Mexico has undertaken significant efforts at police reform. Those efforts would presumably enhance the capacity of police forces to fight and deter crime. This paper explores the quantity and quality of police in Mexico, a federation where multi-tier government makes incentives for police professionalization more challenging than in unitary systems. The paper calculates, the true size of police forces, comparing them to all legal specialists in the use of violence, including private security guards at homes and businesses. It then estimates the implicit wage incentives given to experience and human capital formation in the different types of police corporations during the Calderón and Peña Nieto presidential administrations. Finally, we use a municipal cross section to gain further insight into the effects of police professionalization on interpersonal violence, as measured by homicide rates. The overall findings suggest that improving policing in Mexico is not merely a question of adding manpower or spending more budgetary resources, but of changing career incentives for greater professionalization.
Alberto Diaz-Cayeros joined the FSI faculty in 2013 after serving for five years as the director of the Center for US-Mexico studies at the University of California, San Diego. He earned his Ph.D at Duke University in 1997. He was an assistant professor of political science at Stanford from 2001-2008, before which he served as an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. Diaz-Cayeros has also served as a researcher at Centro de Investigacion Para el Desarrollo, A.C. in Mexico from 1997-1999. His work has focused on federalism, poverty and violence in Latin America, and Mexico in particular. He has published widely in Spanish and English. His book Federalism, Fiscal Authority and Centralization in Latin America was published by Cambridge University Press in 2007 (reprinted 2016). His latest book (with Federico Estevez and Beatriz Magaloni) is: The Political Logic of Poverty Relief Electoral Strategies and Social Policy in Mexico. His work has primarily focused on federalism, poverty and economic reform in Latin America, and Mexico in particular, with more recent work addressing crime and violence, youth-at-risk, and police professionalization.