Federal and state agents detained over 150 policemen in the Mexican state of Durango on Friday, on allegations of collusion with Mexico’s infamous organized crime syndicates, the BBC reported. Officers from the northern cities of Lerdo and Gomez Palacio are accused of protecting and sharing information with drug traffickers, according to Al Jazeera. Detainees told prosecutors that they knew of officers working for the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and participating in criminal activity, including kidnapping, prompting an investigation. Prosecutors have three years of evidence linking the police and criminal organization, the Khaleej Times reported.
The state prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying that federal and state police will be responsible for policing the two cities until all remaining police officers undergo training and background checks to ensure no further links to organized crime remain.
The arrested officers have had their weapons confiscated; the use of the firearms in past crimes will be investigated.
The link between drug gangs and police reflects the worst stigma of Mexican law enforcement, albeit one that the government is trying to change. In November, 145 Gomez Palacio policemen were fired after failing vetting procedures, according to Al Jazeera. State prosecutors continue to target corrupt practices, but they face major obstacles, including low pay which makes the allure of corruption even greater. The arrests highlight the continued struggle between a Mexican government that has made fighting corruption and organized crime one of its top priorities, and powerful criminal organizations with the money and power to influence and corrupt the very system meant to fight them.