Saturday, April 22, 2006

Border Corruption Runs Amok: New cash for border cops should go to Internal Affairs

The pattern is obvious to anyone paying attention, but I seldom hear public officials discuss it. Police corruption has cropped up along the Texas-Mexico border at a head-spinning pace in recent months. Here are a few cases on the US side that caught Grits' attention:
  • McAllen, October 2005: Immigration Customs Enforcement inspector arrested for allegedly taking bribes to let drug shipments through his lane at a border checkpoint.
  • McAllen, October 2005: Three Rio Grande Valley City cops arrested for allegedly taking bribes to escort drug runners through their jurisdiction.
  • Brownsville, December 2005: Cameron County Sheriff convicted of accepting bribes and using deputies to escort drug runners through the county.
  • Laredo, March 2006: Senior Border Patrol Agent and his brother sentenced to 20 and 17-1/2 years respectively for accepting bribes to allow drugs through a border checkpoint.
  • Harlingen, March 2006: A state corrections officer (prison guard) was caught at a border patrol checkpoint with 21 pounds of marijuana in his spare tire.
  • El Paso, March 2006: US authorities announced they will extradite rather than prosecute an informant who murdered 12 people in Juarez while working for Immigration Customs Enforcement.
  • Zapata County, April 2006: Deputy commander of the Laredo Multi-Agency Narcotics Task force was indicted for allegedly directing agents away from trafficking routes, helping smugglers store drugs, and giving out confidential police information.
  • El Paso, April 2006: Former Special Agent in Charge of the entire El Paso FBI division (2001-2003) indicted for allegedly taking bribes from a cartel-affiliated Juarez racetrack owner who was his informant.
  • Edinburg, April 2006: Five brothers including one current Edinburg police officer and a former McAllen police officer arrested on drug trafficking charges.
On the Mexican side, 1/3 of the Nuevo Laredo Police Department was fired last year for corruption, and the NL police chief (the last one was assassinated), just quit his job after eight months citing high stress. No kidding! They've had more than 70 murders already in Nuevo Laredo this year, including cops. Elements of state and local Mexican police and even the military have fallen under control of the Mexican drug cartels, who are openly feuding over control of the prime distribution routes.

On both sides of the border, drug traffickers have corrupted law enforcement officials from small-town cops all the way up to the head of an FBI division.
Maybe this much corruption always existed and authorities are only now investigating it - one hopes things are getting better. But on the assumption there's more where that came from, it's safe to say from these examples that drug traffickers have successfully purchased influence at every level of US law enforcement on the Texas-Mexico border.

So how will throwing more money at those same agencies help the problem? Until police corruption is under control, new spending on border law enforcement agencies like Operation Linebacker should start with money for Internal Affairs units, not foolhardy immigration raids.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the two Air Marshals who were arrested in February 2006. One of them was a former DEA Agent who transferred from DEA to another federal law enforcement agency.

That's two Air Marshals and the head of the FBI office in the saem state in the same year. So what internal affairs do you suggest to clean up a LOCAL, STATE, and FEDERAL problem. If the federal agencies with oversight have the problem where are you going to get competent oversight to oversee.

Drug law enforcement is seriously broken and the average public is just now beginning to see publicly just how bad.

Writer said...

Thanks for the update.

Anonymous said...

Border corruption has always run amok. Sheriff Marmolejo, Chief Deputy Bob Davis, Deputy Fernando Cuellar...and there were several who got away just in Hidalgo County.

But they were weak. Don't blame the WOD.