Institute for Security and DemocracyMexico City, Mexico Published March 29, 2007
Reforming police, strengthening democracy in Mexico
In the midst of the country’s worst safety and violence crisis in the last fifty years, an upstart organization is helping to revolutionize Mexico’s law enforcement. The Institute for Security and Democracy (Insyde) has quickly become one of the country’s most prominent watchdogs for public security.
Insyde is taking on a daunting set of challenges. Half of Mexico’s citizens say they feel unsafe. To make matters worse, seven out of ten say they don’t trust law enforcement. Such sentiments are little surprise in light of the weak state of Mexico’s police, which experts say lacks the institutional support, expertise, operating procedures, training, and equipment needed to secure such a complex and diverse society.
Seeking to counter these sobering trends, a handful of Mexican experts joined forces in 2003 to launch Insyde, the first non-governmental organization in Mexico to focus exclusively on public security concerns. Since then, the organization has initiated an unprecedented level of dialogue with police commands in the country, focusing on new models for holding police officers accountable, democratic policing and police practices that respect human rights.
The organization has assumed a unique pair of roles: monitor of and partner with Mexican police. The result is wide recognition and respect by groups in civil society and the government alike. Police commands in Venezuela, Ecuador, and other countries are seeking the group’s help.
Insyde engages in three primary areas of work to enhance public security. It evaluates the systems that police forces use to track performance and respect for human rights, accountability, making and helping to implement recommendations for reform. It seeks to expand and support the number of organizations working on public security issues. And it trains journalists to cover such issues more accurately and thoroughly.
After four years of work, Insyde is poised to embark on a new chapter—in its work and in the evolution of Mexican law enforcement. The organization identified police force accreditation as a key means of instituting broad systemic changes. A planned accreditation center will work to help law enforcement institutions achieve professional standards of police management and respect for human rights. Studies suggest that such accreditation procedures accelerate the professionalization of law enforcement and improve security by holding police forces accountable to high public service standards.
Observers believe the accreditation project has to potential to significantly elevate police performance in Mexico and build popular support for law enforcement in a country with significant skepticism about security.
Insyde's $500,000 MacArthur Award will be used to create the first center for police accreditation in Mexico.
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