So, What’s It Take To Be A Cop Here?

Don’t expect to get rich at it, but here’s how you get there
BY: CALEB HOOGLAND

If you’ve visited Los Cabos recently, you’ve probably noticed how many police officers are in town – it’s hard not to notice them and their giant guns. But not all of them are from these parts because a shortage of personnel has forced Los Cabos to bring in outside reinforcements. We’re short because half the force was kicked off because they were found to be corrupt. About 300 federales (federal police) are pinch hitting for us now, helping on a short-term basis while the new local recruits are being hired and trained.

So, what exactly does it take to become a policeman around here? For starters, the potential cadet must be a Mexican citizen by birth who doesn’t have citizenship in any other countries. (Sorry, dual citizens and immigrants, you can’t fulfill your lifelong dream of law enforcement in Mexico). The candidate must also be a high school graduate and have lived in Baja California Sur for at least three years.

Obviously, candidates need to be good citizens. There aren’t many specific guidelines as far as having a good reputation, but criminal backgrounds are checked and must come back clean (no criminal record or charges pending). Gang related tattoos are not allowed and other offensive ink must be covered by the uniform. Just what is an offensive tat? Naked ladies? Slogans like “born to steal”? The requirements are pretty vague.

The potential recruit must also be in good health, mentally and physically, and between the ages of 19 and 35. Males must be at least 5 feet 3 three inches tall and females must be 5 feet 1 inch. Obviously there’s no rule against a big belly.

The most important requirements are the series of evaluations that candidates have to pass while in the police academy. The first is a physical evaluation, which is conducted here in Los Cabos. New recruits go through a series of exercises to prove they can handle all the physical requirements of the job.

The second type of evaluation is known as the “confidence test.” This is the toughie. Testing is very extensive and has five different parts to it: social/situational, psychological, polygraph, medical and toxicological. The first part is a situational test that helps determine if the recruit makes choices that adhere to department policies and procedures. The test helps verify that the police officer would make the right choice depending on each situation.

The next part of the test is a psychological evaluation. This test reveals more about the personality traits, intelligence, and competence of the candidate. The third part is a polygraph test, performed to find out if the candidate tells the truth. The candidates’ responses are very important and can result in disqualification from the program. Next, the recruits go through a series of medical exams to verify that they are in good health and not suffering from any hidden sickness or ailment. Finally, the police officers are drug tested to confirm they have not taken any illegal substances. This week.

While taking these exams, police cadets simultaneously go through the classroom portion of the police academy. Here they are trained in all the things that they will need to know before they are put into the field. Some basic subjects they’re taught are laws, regulations, and the procedures when pulling someone over, making an arrest, etc. They’re also taught basic self-defense, hand to hand combat and firearms training.

At this point, new recruits are assigned job positions and find out if they will be a traffic cop or patrol officer. Their training from that point on differs, based on their positions.

All in all, the classroom portion and the evaluations last about eight months. During that time, the cadets make half pay. Depending on how many cadets are in the academy at once, the training is either conducted locally in Los Cabos, or in La Paz if there is a large class.

Once a candidate has passed all the requirements, they officially graduate from the police academy and become police officers. You will generally find three types of police officers here. The first is municipal; these are your city/county police (the local guys). They are found anywhere in the Los Cabos area, from Cabo all the way to Los Barriles. The second type of police officer you will find is estatal, which is your state police officer. The last type of policeman is federal, your nationwide policeman.

Along with different types of police officers, there are also four levels of paygrade for officers. The entry level position is the local police officer and they start fresh out of the academy making $600 USD per month. From there, a policeman can move up in rank to Level 1 ($800 per month), Level 2 ($900 per month), and Level 3 ($1000 per month) which is the highest rank. The head of the state police is currently lobbying for more compensation, if not in money, at least benefits such as help in housing.

Moving up in rank depends on exam scores and evaluations on a yearly or multi-year basis. Periodically, officers are given refresher courses or sent back to week long classes depending on any new laws or material that needs to be learned.