In the Journals

In the Journals, March 2019

Blog Pic Low Intensities

From: Diane M. Nelson, “Low Intensities,” Current Anthropology 60, no. S19 (February 2019): S122-S133.

 

Welcome back to In the Journals, a brief look at just a few articles that have been published in previous months on policing, law, and governance. These particular articles were published in their articles between January and February, 2019.

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In the Journals

In the Journals – May 2016

Mine Warning

Summer is here and that means that most of us will no doubt be undertaking fieldwork of some sort. But fear not, as we here at In the Journals will continue to provide monthly round-ups of the latest articles regarding surveillance, governance, and policing for the entirety of the summer.

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Dossiers

Order by the Books: Suicide crime scene investigations in southern Mexico

The editors of Anthropoliteia would like to welcome a special guest post from Beatriz Reyes-Foster as part of our series of anthropological reports From the Field

Abstract

The complex and contested relationship between representatives of a Mexican law enforcement agency and the citizenry it claims to protect is visible in the documents it produces. Ethnographic material further deepens our understanding of the ways in which law enforcement agents and common citizens form relationships based on negotiation and distrust.

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Blotter

Follow up: women police chiefs in Mexico

On Monday Hermila García Quiñones, who on October 9th 2010 became the first female police chief of the city of Meoqui in Mexico, was shot and killed after leaving her home, which she shared with her parents, whom she supported, on her way to work. García Quiñones was one of four women who have recently taken on leadership roles in police departments in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, in the face of drug-related violence the government has been unable to control.

I wrote in October about the 20-year-old criminology student, Marisol Valles Garcia, who became chief of police in Praxedis G. Guerrero. Her youth and determination to prevent violence with “principles and values” rather than guns, were headline news for a brief moment, and quickly inspired two more women to become heads of security of their towns, also in the Juárez Valley – Verónica Ríos Ontiveros, of El Vergel and Olga Herrera Castillo, of Villa Luz. Both are small hamlets in Samalayuca, south of Juárez City, and since there are only a few officers and one patrol car,  they will mostly take crime reports.

Although Hermila García Quiñones started before the other women, and led a much larger force of 90 officers, she didn’t receive quite as much publicity. She was unmarried and did not have children, and although criticized for her lack of experience in police work, she was at least an attorney and had worked in city government before. Her situation was similar to that of Silvia Molina, who in 2008 was the top administrative official of the police department in Ciudad Juarez and was also killed.

The media’s interest is greater for more exotic cases, the very young student with an infant, the two housewives she inspired. They would all seem to be part of the same trend, of women taking on security posts, and the death of García Quiñones, and Molina before her, make it doubtful that female gender provides any protection from the violence of the cartels. Maybe the other women’s inexperience and motherhood will make a difference, and maybe this is what they are hoping.  So, this is just an update; if anyone has any thoughts, please do share

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Blotter

Criminology student becomes the chief of police

It’s a remarkable turn of events that Marisol Valles Garcia, a 20-year-old criminology student, has taken on the position of chief of police in Praxedis G. Guerrero, a small town in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, bordering Texas. Praxedis G. Guerrero is located in the Juarez Valley, 35 miles southeast of Ciudad Juarez, called “the bloodiest city in Mexico”, with a reported 2,500 people killed in cartel-related violence so far this year. At night, drug gangs take over, and most of the police buildings in surrounding towns have been abandoned.

Marisol Valles Garcia was the only applicant for the job according to most news outlets, although the UK Guardian reported that the town’s mayor, Jose Luis Guerrero, said she was the most qualified of a handful of applicants. The Guardian added that in many parts of Mexico, it is “considered tantamount to a death sentence”. Valles Garcia’s plan is to have a dozen or so mostly female, unarmed officers “out there going door to door, looking for criminals, and (in homes) where there are none, trying to teach values to the families”. This plan is both touching and pragmatic, as the force currently consists of “13 agents, nine of them women, with one working patrol car, three automatic rifles and a pistol”.

Valles Garcia told CNN en Español, “The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention” and “[o]ur work will be pure prevention. We are not going to be doing anything else other than prevention”.

According to CNN, Valles Garcia “aims to establish programs in neighborhoods and schools, to win back security in public spaces and to foster greater cooperation among neighbors so they can form watch committees”.

I wonder how the reported plan for an unarmed, mostly female patrol was developed. Yes, it is pragmatic, but since Valles Garcia has also been assigned two body guards, and there’s been a fair amount of media attention, presumably other resources could have been appropriated for the town. So let’s say it is a choice. There’s a long history of unarmed patrols of course – does anyone have those references handy? In March 2010, there was the “Female approach to Peacekeeping” article in the NYTimes, about an all-women United Nations police unit from India, in Liberia. I did a quick search for precedents as well and saw that Manila had an “all-women mobile patrol” group that monitored malls during the Christmas season. Actually, most of the stories on women police officers were from India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

That an untested college student was the best option, considering the crime and violence in the region, surely says something – about her stunning bravery, about the failure of traditional approaches, about the desperate conditions there. There’s nothing to say that Valles Garcia didn’t just decide to do this on her own though. Maybe she is drawing on ideas from her criminology classes.

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