24 April 2009

New 'Federal Police' approved

The News

The Chamber of Deputies on Thursday approved the creation of a new federal police force that lawmakers say will eventually take the place of the military in the war on organized crime.

The Bill converts the Federal Preventive Police, or PFP, into a new force known as the Federal Police, which will remain under the management of the Public Security Secretariat, or SSP. It will have expanded investigative and intelligence gathers powers.

Proponents say that the new force resolves a major challenge facing the PFP, which lacks the ability to carry out investigations and gather intelligence and is unable to employ surveillance techniques such as placing wire taps and having undercover agents infiltrate organized crime groups.

“In Mexico, police don’t have the powers of investigation to anticipate crimes,” Deputy David Mendoza of the Democratic Revolution Party, told The News.

“We’re now giving them the ability to investigate, under judicial controls.”

President Felipe Calderón proposed creating a new Federal Police as part of a series law and order reforms that also include an overhaul of the Attorney General’s Office, or PGR, and anti-kidnapping laws.

The Federal Police Law gives the new federal force permission to use plain clothed and undercover officers and creates a database for information gleaned in intelligence operations. Police may also employ wiretaps and cellular phone companies are obligated to turn over geographic information on where calls are originating.

Previously, only the investigators under the PGR’s umbrella could employ wiretaps.

Even with the creation of the new Federal Police, the Federal Investigation Agency, or AFI, and a force of investigators known as the Ministerio Público will remain intact and under the management of the PGR. The original proposal called for the merger of the AFI and PFP, but opposition lawmakers objected to placing too much power in the SSP.

The bill passed with approval from the three main parties, but a small group of left-wing lawmakers voted against the measure due to concerns that the wiretap provision could be abused – even though it can only be done with a judge’s order.

“Only in Mexico do they want the police to have this amount of power, which means giving them the ability to extort businessmen, politicians and journalists, among others,” PRD deputy Claudia Cruz Santiago said from the podium.
The bill now goes to the Senate for approval.

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