Photo: Police officers from Tijuana suspected of having ties to narco traffickers
On July 29th, 62 active and former Tijuana police officers and Baja California agents were targeted for allegedly having ties to organized crime. Now, 8 months later, the case against most of them has fallen apart due to lack of evidence.
About 40 of the suspects, who were held at a penitentiary in the southern Mexico state of Veracruz, were ordered to be let go by the Mexican federal magistrate. Many are heading back to Tijuana.
Shortly after his release, one suspect, José Francisco Castillo Fermín, 38, said, “More than anything, I felt humiliated. They treated us like criminals. Despite his ordeal, he said he still wants his job back.
The arrests were made after an investigation by the organized crime unit of the federal Attorney General’s office, SIEDO. Recently, Mexico has been trying to clean up its corrupt police force; the country’s violence continuing to spread as the drug cartels fight for control.
The arrests and now releases of these officers is similar to those that occurred in 2009, when three dozen public officials were accused of collaborating with drug traffickers in the state of Michoacan. None were convicted, and the final suspect in that group was released last Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, it’s another example of the deficiencies of authorities in investigating and proving such serious accusations against public servants,” said Guillermo Zepeda Lecuona, a researcher at the Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara, known as Iteso.
Georgetown University professor Daniel Sabet, said that such significant cases falling apart exemplifies the need to verify information obtained from informants before any suspects are arrested.
“Rather than use information from protected witnesses and confidential informants to conduct further investigations and build a strong case against suspected officers, the informant becomes the entire case,” Sabet said.
Before arriving in Tijuana, the recently released suspects held a news conference.
Sergio Díaz Santiago, 35, who was on the police force for 12 years, said, “This was a defamation of my character.” He added, “I have never belonged to organized crimes, and I would never hurt my country. I want my good name restored.”
Unfortunately, though they were cleared, those wishing to go back to work, cannot, as Mexico’s law’s ban reinstatement of officers who have been dropped from the police force.