Recently, Praxedis G. Guerrero, Mexico, has been under international scrutiny for a reason other than drugs and violence. Last week, Marisol Valles Garcia, a 20-year-old criminology student and mother of one, was named the newest police chief in this violent, drug ridden Mexican town.
Her limited experience in criminal justice outside of her college classroom makes her a controversial and unqualified person for the job. Her prevention-based approach that centres around visiting citizens and promoting peace does not seem fit to deal with the aggressive criminals that have invaded her town.
Garcia was one of a handful of applicants for the job and impressed the mayor, José-Luis Guerrero, so much that he granted her the position. She has 13 officers under her authority, the majority of them also women. Her resources include one police car, three automatic rifles and one pistol.
This position is not only dangerous based on the violent tone of the town, but the history of recent authorities in the town. The previous police chief was abducted and beheaded, leaving the post of chief unoccupied for over a year.
Garcia claims that her approach will be entirely prevention-based. Her force will be visiting homes, interacting with citizens of all ages and attempting to reduce fear in the town. They will not carry any weapons and she will have to proceed with the limited resources that she has been provided with. According to Garcia, the police force may just need a “woman’s touch.”
Garcia told CNN that “the weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention. Our work will be pure prevention.” She acknowledges that she is afraid but that she aims to overcome her fear and the fear of the citizens to bring peace to her community.
Much of the media attention Garcia has received has been largely attributed to her gender. The issue, however, is that this appointment is naïve and irresponsible not because of her gender, but because of her lack of experience and her approach to crime control.
The story sounds similar to a bad made-for-TV movie based around hope and overcoming violence. Unfortunately, this is reality and there is no script that ensures Garcia’s success. With only an unfinished college degree under her belt, her knowledge of real crime prevention is limited.
In a town that is paralyzed by fear, a police force led by an inexperienced 20-year-old college student will do anything but relieve that fear. Garcia may believe she has the knowledge she needs, as many university students believe within the safe walls of the classroom, but this knowledge may not be enough when faced with the real dangers of the town.
The work that Garcia plans to provide hardly seems appropriate to be performed by the limited police presence in the town. Her plans to visit homes and interact with citizens to relieve their fears are desperately needed, but should not be the sole focus of the police force. Social services, as well as some police officers, should carry out this task but this is not and cannot be the entire basis for crime prevention. Police are meant to protect a town through the leadership of a police chief who has worked his or her way to the top.
Her inexperience is not the only worrisome aspect of this story. The media attention she has received presents a major threat to the town. Organized drug crime is a constant presence in this area, and the attention the police force is receiving through Garcia’s employment may bring the town, and Garcia herself, under severe danger. Advertising the fact that Praxedis G. Guerrero has an inexperienced, weaponless police chief may cause drug traffickers to use this town as a more consistent route due to the lack of a police presence.
Garcia’s objectives to relieve fear and bring peace to her town are noble and necessary. The media has even named her “Mexico’s bravest woman.” This may be true, but her practices may prove ineffective in a town faced with such knowledgeable and experienced criminals. The officers in charge should be the ones with the knowledge and experience necessary to match the criminals. Garcia has no previous criminal justice experience to draw upon in times of conflict and stress. Her classroom knowledge will only get her so far if her town faces severe danger.
One can only hope that Garcia will be successful and that violence and fear will be eradicated from Praxedis G. Guerrero. One can only hope that real life will, in some miraculous way, follow the Disney movie stereotype: that good overcome evil. Let’s hope that Garcia will prove all of the skeptics wrong and that her noble approach will be successful.
Rachel Wood doesn’t believe that murderous criminals can be stopped with Disney scripts.