Assassins or police officers? The ultimate “meat-eaters” among cops.

Posted: January 28, 2013 by paul552 in Food for Thought, Police Corruption and the 'War on Drugs'

Police corruption in its narrow, legalistic sense generally refers to: an officer knowingly doing or not doing something that is against his or her duty for some form of financial or material gain or promise of such gain (Punch 2009). The roots of police corruption can be traced back to the early 1750’s and has evolved into a growing epidemic not only in third world countries but also in developed countries such as the U.S and Canada. Rampant police corruption is an important widespread concern in various countries such as Russia, India, Mexico, Brazil, etc.,

Police officers can engage in various forms of corruption such as accepting bribes to facilitate certain crimes, turn a blind eye to certain illegal activities and openly disregard the official police “code of conduct” to secure convictions. These are the most commonly prevailing forms of police corruption. Very rarely do police officers themselves systematically take part in organized crime activities. On August 24 2012, Mexican federal police agents attacked and opened fire on a United States embassy vehicle, resulting in the injury of two U.S Embassy employees and a Mexican navy official. 12 federal officers are being investigated in relation to five charges which includes attempted murder, making false statements and accusations of covering up the attack. The accused officials claim that it was a case of mistaken identity and they fired upon the wrong vehicle while pursuing a kidnapping case but circumstantial evidence put forward by Mexican prosecutors prove otherwise. The U.S. Embassy has called the attack an “ambush” as photos of the grey Toyota SUV, a model frequently used by DEA agents and other U.S. Embassy employees working in Mexico, showed it to be riddled with heavy gunfire. Prosecutors have said that the police officers were wearing civilian clothes and driving private cars during the attack and afterwards they changed into their uniforms and used their patrol cars before driving to the police station, which strongly lends credibility to the fact that it was a planned attack rather than a duty operation. Though this brazen daylight attack might come as a surprise for many viewers among the public, systematic police corruption have reached epidemic proportions in Mexico. The recent sacking of more than 150 police officers in northern Mexico for having links with “organised crime”, highlights the extension to which corruption is embedded within the broader Mexican police organisations.More on this issue can be found at

According to the three-level typology of police deviance/corruption explained by Maurice Punch, this would represent a classic example of “police institutional failure”, which comes under the broader context of System failure. Prosecutors opened an investigating into whether the U.S embassy car shooting was a targeted assassination made on behalf of the Beltran Levya Cartel operating in the area. Officers in the Mexican police are often offered bribes or threatened by the country’s powerful cartel’s to work for them and tip them off about upcoming raids while many of them moonlight as “hitmen” carrying out extrajudicial killings for the cartel’s. According to the typology of officers based on the Knapp Commission testimony, these officers can be classified as the worst form of “meat-eaters” as they are out to make profit illegally through a myriad of methods such as through mutual benefit, extortion, enforcing, offering protection and removing competitors on behalf of criminal enterprises. One can argue that they are mere criminals in a police uniform. The typologies of police corrupt practices based on the work of Barker and Roebuck, can be used to classify this example as “direct criminal activities”, as the officers are committing a crime in clear violation of criminal norms. It can also be considered as “protection of illegal activities” as the officers were protecting the interests of the cartel’s that were involved in drug-dealing. By trying to cover up their actions in-order to avoid being detected they were involved in a corrupt practice known as “the fix”. The overall issue can be analysed from a socio-economic perspective. As the average wage of a police officer in Mexico is $350, many officers supplement their salary with bribes. Many of the states are directly under the cartel’s grip which gives them immense power to influence the local officials either by bribes or through intimidation. Hence “police institutional failure” is prevalent with officers from all ranks engaged in systematic corruption and deviance. Due to these reasons the public have lost faith in the Mexican police which has led to the mobilization of the Mexican army to fight the cartels. The attack on the embassy car can be considered as an extremely deviant form of “meat-eating” as it involved assassinating foreign diplomats on Mexican soil which could jeopardize international relations and the credibility of the Mexican government, causing overall tensions with the U.S. Though the perpetrators tried to cover up the attack, such a high risk operation mounted in broad daylight depicts the extremely corrupt practices adopted by the notorious “meat-eaters” present within police organizations.


Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

Pair wounded in embassy car shooting were CIA, officials say. (2012, Aug 30). Kamloops Daily News. Retrieved from

Attack on U. S embassy car in mexico likely targeted. (2012, Oct 03). Prince George Citizen. Retrieved from

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    An interesting and serious case. Your analysis is effective. Situated in the broader context of the Mexican drug conflict, this does appear to represent system failure. You have noted the socio-economic factors that contribute to police deviance in Mexico. Are there any additional forces / factors that help us to explain the current state of affairs?

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