Friday, January 26, 2007

La Mordida in Houston?

Those who think the practice of "la mordida" just happens in Mexico should check out this Houston Chronicle article. The accused cop allegedly accepted $200 (from an undercover officer in a sting) in exchange for releasing a motorist without giving a ticket. He faces felony bribery charges.

In Mexico "la mordida," which means "the little bite," is typically a small bribe paid to get out of a traffic ticket, or sometimes to bureaucrats in exchange for quicker or better service. A lot of people I've spoken to in Mexico view the practice as odious but acceptable or even justified because of the extreme low pay for Mexican cops. (I've even heard the practice compared to tipping for service at a restaurant.)

My friends south of the border tell me that the typical Mexican mordida on the highway runs around $15-20. The mordida in Houston, apparently, costs ten times that.


Anonymous said...

Even US law (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) makes a distinction between a "facilitating payment" (e.g. slipping a clerk $20 to process a form where no discretion or judgment is involved) and an actual bribe where a decision is to be influenced or an act illegal in and of itself is suborned (like in the Houston case).

"Facilitating payments" are part and parcel of the mordida, and US law countenances them when done by US citizens in foreign countries, though in large part that's simply out of a recognition of the reality.

Jason said...

How many Mexican cops face the trial this Houston officer is going to face? We take our integrity just a little bit more seriously.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good question, Jason.

The converse question is how many officers do this who aren't targeted for "stings"? And its corollary: What happens in departments without HPD's resources to investigate?

I don't know the answer to any of those questions. I don't think this happens near as often here as in Mexico, but neither is this the first such case I've seen in Texas, either. Quien sabe?