'The Federals' - Mexican Federal Police & its International Standing

Mexico's police forces operate on three levels: the federal, the state, and the municipal. The policing functions are generally divided into crime prevention and crime investigation divisions. There are two federal police forces (the PF and the Federal Ministerial Police, state police forces associated with each of the 31 states plus two for the federal district in Mexico City), and several police forces at the municipal level. Before the 2008 amendments, the investigative powers were solely granted to investigative officials and prosecutors. The responsibility of crime prevention and control was bestowed upon the Federal Preventive Police (Policía Federal Preventiva). At the same time, the Federal Investigative Agency (Agencia Federal de Investigación) was responsible for the investigative duties of the state.

2008 Reforms

Mexico's Constitution provides that investigating crimes is the duty of prosecutors and the police. The police must act under the direction and command of the prosecutors in investigative responsibilities. This constitutional provision was enacted in 2008 to grant investigative powers to the police.

Mexican law now permits the Federal Police to conduct investigations under the directive command of federal prosecutors while investigating crimes to bring admissible evidence to light.

2009 Reforms

The Mexican police reforms enacted in 2009 reorganised the federal law enforcement structure to correspond with the change in duty allocation brought about by the 2008 reforms. Under these reforms, the Federal Police, which acted as a successor agency to the Federal Preventive Police under the purview of the Secretary of Public Security, was created. This 2009 reform transferred the investigative powers from the Federal Investigative Agency to the Federal Police. The Federal Investigative Agency was renamed as the Federal Ministerial Police, and this body, along with the Federal Police, was responsible for the state's investigative functions.

In addition to the aforementioned powers, the Federal Police has broad preventive policing powers surrounding intelligence operations, data security, and public security.

International Standing of the Mexican Police

To assess the level of development of the Mexican Police, mere vertical analysis with their past performance will not suffice, as it also needs to be ensured that the development of the Mexican policing functions matches the pace of development of the police of the other nations.

For example, unlike the Mexican Police, which has centralised its policing functions in a few bodies, the Afghanistani Policing functions are managed by Afghan Border Police, Afghan Uniformed Police, Afghan Highway Police, and the Afghan National Civil Order Police. Similarly, Algeria has divided its policing functions horizontally instead of opting for a federal structure into the Gendarmerie, Sûreté Nationale (National Security), Sécurité Militaire (Military Security), and Police Judiciaire (Judicial Police).

Not all nations have opted for a horizontal division of policing duties. Countries like Argentina and Canada maintain a federal structure when it comes to policing. Mexico is transitioning from a purely federal system to a structure that combines both a federal and a functional division of duties. This structure is used by several nations that have proven that it is the most stable form of policing system. These nations include Bosnia-Herzegovina and Netherlands, which have opted for combining federal and regional divisions and incorporating functional divisions. This structure has proven to be stable for these nations. Hence, Mexico recognises that for the policing functions in their country to be stable, they need to expand horizontally within the ambit of the vertical divisions.


Mexico has come a long way concerning policing functions and has a long way to go in this respect. The police functions are plagued by a history of corruption cases within the force exacerbated by high unemployment rates, high prevalence of drug trafficking, and low wages.

Dividing the authorities responsible for investigative functions may help cushion the blow of corruption within the forces. However, the root cause of the problem needs to be addressed before the state's police forces can function to the best of their abilities.

This move of horizontal division has been greatly appreciated by superpowers like the United States of America. Both nations joined arms against the deeper causes of criminality and organised crime. They initiated the Mérida Initiative (Plan Mexico, about Plan Colombia), a security cooperation agreement among the United States, the government of Mexico, and other nations of Central America, with the declared aim of combating the threats of drug trafficking, organised crime, and money laundering.

With international backing and a progressive attitude towards change, Mexico is taking the battle against criminality in stride.


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