“Everything in This Job Is Money” Inside the Mexican Police

by Nelson Arteaga Botello and Adrián López Rivera

For the first time in Mexico, a peaceful transfer of power is about to
occur from one political party to another. On July 2, voters ended 71
years of uninterrupted rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI). Unsurprisingly, confirming the Actonian dictum that power
corrupts, Mexico’s police forces have become legendary for their
corruption. President-elect Vicente Fox Quesada (profiled in “The Next
Mexican Revolution,” fall 1996) has vowed to tackle the issue head-on,
beginning with a reorganization of the federal police, when he takes
office December 1.

But as the following study of a typical police force on the outskirts of
Mexico City demonstrates, corruption in Mexico is by now thoroughly
institutionalized and operates at the local and state as well as federal
levels. The authors, sociologist Nelson Arteaga Botello of the
Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, and sociology student
Adrián López Rivera came up with an ingenious way to document the
mechanisms of corruption. Adrián López Rivera enrolled in a police
academy and after graduation joined a municipal police force. To his
colleagues, he seemed to be just another recruit. But behind the
disguise he was carrying out his vocation as a social scientist,
documenting every interaction and conversation in copious notes.

In collaboration with his professor, he wrote up his experiences for the
Mexico City monthly magazine Nexos, which published them in two
installments in April and August 1998. The following translation,
excerpted to unify the installments, offers a graphic portrait of a
situation in which corruption is the norm and honest performance of
one’s nominal duty is treated as deviant behavior. The problem lies not
with a few rogue cops but with the entire political culture. This study
suggests that despite the best intentions of President-elect Fox reform
will not occur overnight.

—Andrew Reding

The reasons a person decides to become a police officer, at least in the
cases we analyzed, are the following: to accumulate capital to start a
business; to recover a loss (home, savings, land); to make easy money;
and, in only a very few cases, a genuine interest in law enforcement.

The life of those who aspire to become police officers is unquestionably
difficult. Most have had a personal history involving law breaking,
violence, bitterness and resentment, and drug consumption, and few have
gone beyond a primary or secondary education.

A large number of applicants are immigrants from other Mexican states
who are in search of a better life or have legal problems that lead them
to leave their place of origin. In the city, they find work in the
informal or semi-informal sectors. A few of them have a skill—carpentry,
metalworking, radio and television repair, chauffeuring—which affords
them an opportunity to find employment. Others with ties to narcotics or
stolen-goods distribution rings see police work as a chance to expand
their distribution and sales networks. There are also persons who have
been police officers most of their lives, and have gone from one police
force to another, after being discharged for violent behavior,
corruption, or links to drug trafficking and consumption.

In what follows, we describe a few representative life histories. It
should be noted that when these men were asked why they chose to join
the police force, the typical response, given in the company of peers
and usually under the influence of marijuana, was “for money,” to which
they would add a brief life history, in which certain facts stood out.

My Own Bus

Alejandro sees police work as a way to build up savings to establish his
own business. He’s originally from a rural part of the state of Mexico,
is 23 years old, has been married three years, and has a child. He
graduated from secondary school and worked as a bus driver before
applying to become a policeman. He was persuaded to apply by four
friends. He wants to be a policeman “for three years, because that way,
between pay and bribes, I’ll be able to purchase my own bus.” Alejandro
is among the few applicants whose past is not scarred by violence.

Miguel’s case is different. He joined the police to make money and to
“recover what destiny and the police” took away from him. His first
daughter was born when he was 18. After working in a slaughterhouse,
Miguel joined the fire department. But within a year, he was detained
for possession of drugs. In the prosecutor’s offices, they asked for his
voter identification card and other personal information.

The last name and address coincided with the person they were looking
for; all that was missing was to find out whether he was “El Mosco.”
That was his brother’s nickname. He did not give his brother up, and
instead said he was the person they were looking for. He was
incarcerated in the Reclusorio Norte, charged with possession of drugs,
robbing residences, and a holdup at a clothing factory. His brother
visited him from month to month, for the sole purpose of persuading him
that it was best to keep on assuming his false identity.

Miguel comments:

My brother and his gang would come and tell me they were working on
getting the money an official requested to obtain my freedom, but the
months kept on passing. As an inmate, I had acquired a reputation for
being violent. Ten months passed, and I finally got out after my mother
sold her house to obtain the money to free me. My job as a fireman
awaited me, thanks to the chief, but I didn’t return to it because only
as a policeman could I recover the lost money and my mother’s home.
That’s what I was told by my cousin Roberto, who is a patrolman.

Rodrigo is originally from Veracruz. He’s 22, single, and left school in
the first semester of training as an electrical technician. He killed a
person in his hometown:

I went to his house and with five machete slashes I killed him, and for
no more than fucking around. Because one day, drunk and halfsmothered
with mezcal [a Mexican alcoholic beverage distilled from agave] in the
town bar, my brother came looking for me to help me get home because I
was in bad shape. But there was still a lot of mezcal in the bottle, and
since we kept on drinking, my brother kept coming back, awaiting the
moment I would stop drinking with Carmelo, who now rests in peace.
Carmelo was looking at my brother, when he made the comment that cost
him his life: “Hey Rodrigo, your brother seems like a fag, the way he
moves, and when I look at him he smiles; they say in town that he likes
to go out at night in your sister’s clothes in search of a husband.”

Rodrigo left his hometown and moved in with his sister. He worked in the
Gillette factory for a year, and his wages enabled him to rent a room.
Then he was laid off and applied for a position with the Municipal
Police, after being encouraged to do so by a neighborhood friend: “As a
policeman, no one will come looking for me for killing Carmelo.”

There are those who make police work a way of life, passing from one
department to another, as in the case of Alberto. He’s 29, separated
from his wife, with one child. He’s been a policeman since he was 18. In
1988, he became a police officer in a municipality of the state of
Mexico; a year later he joined the Preventive Police of the Federal

Because his beat included part of the capital’s central plaza, his
relationships with street vendors, prostitutes, and homosexuals were
part of his daily routine. On one occasion, while on patrol in the
center of Mexico City, he ran into two prostitutes taking drugs. He made
them get into the patrol car, and negotiated: he would let them go free
if they would have sex with him and his patrol partner. The two couples
shared a hotel room. “Moments later, there were knocks on the door, and
my commander entered the room with other policemen.”

Alberto was arrested, and discharged a few days later. A few months
later he was charged with rape, and moved elsewhere, joining a state
police force. He remained with the state police for three years until
being discharged for alcoholism and drug addiction. He then decided to
accompany his brother to the United States, but he didn’t make it at
first. He stayed in Tijuana for a while, working as a bouncer at a bar.
After six months he made it across the U.S. border and worked as a
kitchen aide in a restaurant. But alcohol, drugs, and venereal disease
interfered with his work record, and two years later he went back to
Mexico with the objective of returning to police work.

Javier was a member of the motorcycle transit police of the Federal
District. He says the best location for extortion is the intersection of
Reforma and Insurgentes Avenues, because many wealthy adolescents pass
through there at night, drunk and speeding. But better yet than
detaining them for those reasons is to wait until they’re involved in an
accident or hit someone, and then have to place a telephone call. “In no
time their relatives arrive with loads of cash.”

According to Javier, his dismissal was provoked by ambition. One day, in
the early hours of the morning, he waited for “the juniors” to emerge
from the discotheques. He and his partner had already gathered a
considerable sum of money, rings, a gold medallion, and a woman’s
overcoat, “one of those heavy, soft ones.” All of a sudden they heard a
big noise coming from a neighboring street, which they immediately
investigated. A person had run his car into a pole. He was still alive,
but that didn’t matter. They stole his wallet containing 800 pesos,
rings, gold chains, a watch, and a suitcase with clothing. But when they
opened the trunk and found a small bag full of dollars, the man began to

My partner...began hitting the individual, who was already bleeding to
death, with his pistol. My partner, who was going crazy, ended up
disfiguring his face. We had thought he was unconscious, or at least
unable to recognize us. We left him that way to slowly bleed to death.
Then the neighbors reported the accident and they picked up the dead
man. All was well until the relatives started asking for the belongings
of the deceased, and one of them discovered that the taco vendor two
blocks away was wearing the dead man’s ring. That’s when the
investigation began, and it was discovered that those were our favorite

After Javier was fired, he started looking for work, but as soon as he
told anyone he had been a policeman, they turned him away. That’s when
he decided to join the police of a nearby municipality.

Learning How to Mine Gold

Like any other social organization with a defined structure, the police
creates an order, a hierarchy, and above all values that make possible
the reproduction of certain attitudes and behaviors. Though the academy
trains cadets not only to carry out their job but to extort as well, the
street is the true school of police life. It is there that the cadet
puts into practice what he has learned and modifies it to suit reality.

In their first days of active duty, new police officers learn behaviors
and attitudes that allow them both to extort and survive, because the
danger of losing one’s life is always a possibility. The novices become
integrated into the life of the zone to which they are assigned, where
experienced police officers teach them how to go about doing things. In
this sense, the process of integration has two distinct phases. First,
there is the development of an esprit de corps between the upper ranks
and the novices. Once this is accomplished, the rookies are prepared to
handle themselves in a manner that makes possible the systematic
reproduction of corruption.

In one case, a zone commander welcomed new officers in an office, in a
corner of which stood an altar with images of saints and the Virgin of
Guadalupe, while a sign on the wall proclaimed, Discretion Is the Virtue
of Every Good Police Officer:

We need young people in the zone, enthusiastic folk with a calling for a
police career; capable men strong enough to handle long and difficult
days. In 1977, when I joined the force, almost all the men were older,
but, in spite of that, they had spirit, they knew police tactics, they
exercised control over the zone. Nothing and no one escaped from them;
they were like hunting dogs, police officers who perished in the line of
duty, who could not be surprised or frightened by anything.

The commander spoke to the novices about his own life as a policeman,
perhaps to help them identify with him. He said he was 48 years old and
married, with six children. He had no more than a fifth-grade education.
In 1977, he joined the municipal police, and three years later was named
zone commander, thanks to a friend who was a municipal official. But
that very year the municipal government changed hands, and the incoming
government took note of rumors about protection money the commander was
said to be collecting from businesses, stores, and stall-holders in the
town marketplace that were within his jurisdiction. He was removed, but
after a restructuring of the upper ranks—with the advent of another
administration—once again became zone commander.

Once each of the cadets had concluded a brief biography—concealing of
course the real reasons for joining the police force, and any dark
secrets—the commander used his radio to issue an order to the zone’s
patrol cars to come to his office, while giving notice:

Today, because it’s your first day in the zone, you will make the rounds
of the neighborhoods, you will see the boundaries of the zone, together
with its most problematic points. It’s important that you keep in mind
that we are dealing with one of the most troubled zones in the municipio
[equivalent to a county in the United States]. The zone has serious
problems with alcoholism, drug addiction, homosexuality, and
prostitution; with more localized problems of youth gangs, street
vendors, and organized crime.

Here, young men, there are no entres [payments up the chain of command,
to share the take in bribes]. You have no obligation whatsoever to your
commander, nor to the shift officers. Yours truly does not tolerate
extortion, let alone any kind of corruption. However, the zone can be
characterized as a gold mine, and all it’s missing is some good miners.
You will answer to the head of the first shift, who will explain to you
his arrangement. Finally, I welcome you and wish you good luck, hoping
you will fit in with the rest of the group, a group that functions as a

When the patrol cars arrived, the commander directed each novice to pair
off with an experienced police officer. Though the commander had made
clear that there were no entres, the reference to the zone being a gold
mine and that all that was lacking were good miners, combined with the
fact that the shift commander was in charge, led the new police officers
to understand that it was precisely to him that the entre was to be
given. Their suspicions became confirmed during the first tour of the
zone. On the street, the novices learn from the veterans, and what they
learn depends on the teacher; and in fact a novice can have several
guides who show him the peculiar ins and outs of police life. In what
follows we present the case of a newly enrolled police officer who had
the chance to be a student of three prominent officers with lengthy
careers in public service.

The Lessons Begin

Jorge gave Eduardo his first lesson on how to be a good police officer:
the orders of superiors must be obeyed without the slightest hesitation
or doubt. “Don’t question the commanders, shift officers, officials or
even senior officers, because authority is always right. If one of them
gives you any indication or suggestion, just obey him, even if it seems
contrary to what you think or want. Authority is always right.”

The second lesson was given out: you must let veteran police officers
teach you that extortion is an art that must be learned from them and
must be carried out with caution. “Another thing: it’s better to work
with an experienced fellow from the zone, a senior police officer, who
is familiar with the zone and the methods of extortion. A recent
graduate often wants to rob or extort without understanding the
consequences. Money must come in little by little, without forcing
anything, without affording any opportunity to get caught. Do you know
that there are cases in which, after just two months of service in the
zone, police officers are discharged for trying to become overnight

As Jorge was giving his lessons, Eduardo inspected every inch of the
patrol car, inquiring about the purpose of this or that colored button.
The automobile stopped in front of a small fruit stand, where the
veteran officer asked to be given two of the largest and juiciest
apples. As they got underway again, the novice, following Jorge’s
advice, observed with great care each neighborhood they passed through.
Come nightfall, the patrolman explained to the rookie that it wasn’t
just a matter of working the streets, that there were also ways to have
a good time in a zone bathed in prostitution. “Okay now, partner, if you
want a woman to quench your fire, what you need to do is get out of the
patrol car and pick out the woman you want. And if she doesn’t want to,
force her into the patrol car and take her to the station. Try it out
and you’ll see.”

The zone was full of prostitutes and homosexuals hurriedly crossing the
street on their way to the bars. Mouths with red lipstick and short
skirts incited passersby to discover what was hidden behind a curtain of
smoke and red lights in each bar and cantina. With dawn, the shift
ended, and the patrol car returned to headquarters.

On the next shift, the rookies were introduced to the rest of the zone’s
police officers. There were shouts: “We welcome you.... Now my boots
will take on a new shine.... You’re being baptized.”

Once the commander had called the roll, the formation dispersed and the
“baptism” got under way. The rookies were doused with pails of cold
water, then whipped with wet towels, and finally kicked around a bit.
Everyone laughed as they watched the travails of the newly baptized
rookies. As Gustavo puts it: “The baptism is the way we receive and
welcome each of the new companions; you will have the same opportunity
with the new arrivals, once they leave the academy.”

The First Shift

Following the initiation ritual, the commander returned to make
assignments for the first shift, seeking to pair novices with
experienced policemen. The parameters for determining who would be a
patrolman or an escort (sidekick), or who would be assigned to a
watchpost, were related to the ability to drive a patrol car—possession
of a driver’s license—or in the ability to memorize and interpret radio

Thus, for example, Alberto and Heriberto were made escorts because they
did not know how to drive. Heriberto teamed up with his brother, who was
in charge of a patrol car. Octavio, with his experience as a truck
driver, was trusted with the steering wheel of a patrol car; he was
accompanied by El Chango, a veteran of the zone. Because of their
military experience, Pedro and Raúl were assigned to watchposts in the
most difficult neighborhoods.

The shift began at nine in the morning. The police were assigned their
destinations, the patrolmen checked their vehicles, turned on their
radios, and gave the signal that informed the commander that they had
begun their patrols. The patrol cars pulled out into the street. Last to
leave were José and Eduardo, who walked to the market nearby.

José: “Have you had breakfast, partner?”

Eduardo: “No.”

José: “Well go for it, because otherwise the donkey doesn’t walk.”

Breakfast at a taco stand lasted more than an hour, after which the
patrol got under way. José began giving the rookie his first tips on
what a police officer does, which would become the third lesson—the
importance of money to survival in the police force:

Look, partner, we are here to get all the money we can, and if you come
at this with other ideas you won’t fit into the group, and will
therefore be of no use as a police officer. You’re here because you want
to get rich overnight. Don’t trust anyone here, neither your companions
or citizens; don’t bend to anyone.

Here in the zone, as in all of the police force, don’t inform about what
is done and what is heard. There are no names, nor attributes of
companions and commanders. Never doubt anything that seems suspicious to
you, because it is doubtless suspicious-go check it out, because it’s

You should always be alert to what is happening around you, don’t let
anything or anyone surprise you. Search, sniff, observe, and discover.
Everything in this job is money. After you get experience as a sidekick
and then as a patrolman, you’ll realize that what I’m telling you is
true. Everything inside the police force is handled with money. No favor
from companions, commanders, or the upper ranks is by good will.
Everything must be paid for.

The two policemen continued their rounds. Turning a corner, they
surprised two people drinking beer on a bench. That’s when Eduardo got
his fourth lesson—and his first practical one: a police officer’s proper
form of extortion. They detained the youths and took them to the patrol
car. After a long drive, they pulled over on a quiet street.

José: “All right now, boys, would you like me to alleviate your problem
of drinking in the public right of way, or would you like to spend 36
hours locked up?”

Detainee #1: “No, officer.”

José: “Well, what are you going to do?”

Detainee #2: “All we’ve got on us is ten pesos.”

José: “No way, what do you mean only ten pesos? What I want is money,
but not ten pesos. I suggest you guide me to your home.... In all
likelihood your relatives have a little more money.”

The two individuals accepted the proposal. Before arriving, the
patrolman told Eduardo to cover up the patrol car number with his body,
by leaning against the car door. Just as soon as the family members were
informed of the problem, the father shouted to the mother to give the
policeman 50 pesos. When the latter received the money, he bid the
family a friendly goodbye, reminding them of the importance of keeping
an eye on the children to keep them from breaking the law, above all
when there are police officers who are doing everything possible to
enforce it.

The policemen continued on their rounds, as the patrolman explained—in a
fifth lesson—the importance of covering oneself as best as possible
while engaging in extortion: “Be careful to hide the patrol car number.
One must create as much confusion as possible in case people decide to
complain. You can use your cap to cover your face. When the accuser is
unsure of the patrol car number and of the police officer who engaged in
extortion, then everything favors the police officer, and that’s when
you screw ’em.”

With nightfall, the two policemen hung around a bit, awaiting the
beginning of the rounds by convoy, that is, in the company of other
patrol cars that, in single file, make the rounds of a section of the
zone. The objective is to put on a show of force in the streets, to show
people the police are watching over their neighborhood. Nevertheless—and
here’s where the sixth lesson began—the convoys also serve to extort
from groups of youths who drink alcoholic beverages in the streets and
in front of their homes. José says:

On weekends, and even more so on warm nights, many people, especially
young people, hang out with friends in front of their homes. They talk
while drinking beer and listening to music. So there is much to do.
First one detains one or two of these persons who are having a good time
outside the door to their home. The others come to their friends’ aid by
collecting money to release them. Second, as all of them run off, they
forget the tape deck and everything else they were entertaining
themselves with. That’s where the sidekick comes in. You must take all
you can. Things that have value, obviously—don’t pick up pieces of shit.
And immediately cover the patrol number to avoid any complaint.

This type of operation yields a lot. If you afterward add up the
monetary value of the things you’ve picked up, you’ll see that in very
little time you can acquire your own business. But that is something you
need more than two police officers for. We must await the arrival of
additional patrol cars, because this business occurs in low-income
neighborhoods where they are real sons of bitches.

With about half a dozen of the zone’s patrol cars gathered together, the
convoy got under way, consisting of some 16 police officers. Heavily
armed, they entered the lowestincome areas. The caravan was organized by
a leader, with the following characteristics: 1) seniority; 2) knowledge
of the territory and persons in each neighborhood; 3) precise knowledge
of the organized social groups in the zone; 4) experience in dealing
with the municipal administration.

The leader organized the work in the following manner: first, he decided
how the patrol cars would station themselves; second, he decided who
would use shotguns and who would use handguns; third, he indicated who
would search those who were detained; fourth, who would bring them to
the station for booking, and in case that should happen, who would
accompany them; fifth, advised on what to steal, and what not to steal;
sixth, indicated who to detain, how to detain them, and how to extort
from them; seventh, collected and divided up the money and other
articles obtained in the process.

The Most Eloquent Lesson

But without a doubt the seventh lesson Jorge gave him was the most
eloquent for a novice. One day, Jorge accidentally fired his weapon
while involved in a dispute between neighbors. The bullets struck a
19-year-old student and a 46-year-old worker. Jorge and his partner were
arrested and turned over to a judge from the public ministry for
investigation. Thanks to a bribe, the investigation was inconclusive.
Nevertheless, from that point on they could not return to that zone and
police force.

For 300 pesos, José’s patrol car was transferred to another patrolman.
Eduardo was assigned to a police post in the zone, where he had to
patrol three neighborhoods by foot. With his new assignment, Eduardo had
to do the rounds of marketplaces and small shops, collecting along the
way the offerings of the shopkeepers. He returned to his post at noon.
But the nights were terrible. Beggars, prostitutes, and street children
wandered about and made love under cardboard boxes in out-of-the-way
spots. The nights became unbearable. Being relieved from the police post
became his priority. Fortunately, another patrolman doing his rounds in
a police car visited Eduardo and told him how he could get out of that
post. In so doing, he reminded him of the lesson about the policeman’s
purpose, which he had apparently forgotten: “You’re here for one simple
reason, which is because you have not paid off the commander. José must
have told you that, shift after shift, you must pay off the commander.
If you don’t do that, you’re not a good policeman. Whether a policeman
gets assigned to a post depends on the zone’s shift supervisor, and the
posts get occupied by those who do not turn in the daily entre.”

A New Teacher

Eduardo offered 100 pesos to the shift supervisor, and was reassigned to
a patrol car as an escort. Eduardo’s new teacher, Mario, a four-year
veteran of the zone, explained his work style: “I like money but don’t
like to fuck people over.... I don’t like to spend a lot of time talking
to people.... I don’t like to have to deal with soldiers.... I don’t
like dealing with prostitutes and homosexuals.... I believe in the
saying that if you want to become an old policeman, make like you’re an

Mario went about gathering rents from stores, home-brew wine shops, and
pulque vendors {pulque is a home-brewed alcoholic beverage made from
fermented agave juice}, concluding around noon. At 1:00 P.M., he went to
sleep for his siesta. He woke up four hours later to make the rounds of
the zone. They ran into two individuals fighting outside a cantina, but
the patrolman paid no attention. On the zone’s principal avenue, they
came across two soldiers drinking beer and arguing, but passed them by.
In the secondary avenue, they got a report of two individuals holding up
a beauty shop, but didn’t answer the call. At about 8:00 P.m., a woman
approached, crying, her clothing soiled, complaining that her husband
had beaten her. The police officer didn’t pay her any attention either.
About 9:00 P.M., a taxi driver reported that he had been assaulted. The
officer responded: “If they assaulted you, it was for being an idiot!”
At 11:00 P.m., the patrolman went to sleep. At about 7:00 A.M., he got
up to watch over the Liconsa dairy products stores; five minutes in each
of them were enough to gather several bags of milk. At 9:00 A.M., he
turned in the patrol car...and the entre to the commander. Then he left
with his bags of milk in hand.

On the following shift, Mario again explained to Eduardo the first, and
apparently basic, lesson for every policeman—collecting rents
{protection money]:

You must have a really good idea what the rents are; José must have
explained it really well to you. Rents are how the policeman collects
from persons who sell beer, pulque, and wine without a permit. It’s how
the policeman gets money for offering security to shops, winestands,
cantinas, bars, pulque stands, butcher shops, beauty shops, barber
shops, etc. It’s an arrangement between the owner and the policeman. One
doesn’t just work for the sake of working. You will assist those places
that pay for service; those who don’t cooperate can go to hell.

Patrolmen collect the rents at the very beginning of the shift. The
important thing is to earn them. At first, people distrust the police
officer they do not know. It’s important for you to note carefully the
people who cooperate, so that they come to recognize you, and that way
you alone collect the rents.

But he gave another lesson—the eighth in less than three weeks—that
explained the discretionary power a policeman acquires if the shops in
the zone decide not to pay their rents:

Many people know what the rents are, others don’t. In that case you must
explain that it’s the way the commander collects in order to let them
sell within the zone. Obviously once store owners become accustomed to
paying the rent and then stop offering the customary cooperation, they
become liable to being disturbed, and in the case of cantinas that
resist cooperating, they render themselves liable to having the police
rape the prostitutes. As you will see, everything in this business is
reciprocal. People give money so that the honest policeman carries out
his duty in the best way possible. You’ll see that now.

The patrolman continued his rounds, stopping in every store and bar. As
he did so, he again told the rookie to be careful not to ask too much in
the way of rents, because otherwise it could set off a spiral of
confrontation between policemen and the owners of certain businesses,
especially those dedicated to prostitution. Just before 1:00 P.m., Mario
took a break, taking a nap in the patrol car, while Eduardo monitored
radio communications.

That’s how Mario works every day. He’s not interested in extortion, or
anything that involves direct contact with people, and that complicates
his life. But Mario does understand that one has to provide the entre,
and that it is obtained by collecting payoffs from each business in the
zone. For that reason Eduardo decided to change partners, to be with a
more experienced patrolman, with greater expectations, who would work
with the intention of being a good miner.

The Final Lesson

Eduardo then gave his shift officer a 100 peso entre to be reassigned to
a different patrol with a different kind of partner. The transfer
occurred without any problem. The next teacher gave him more lessons.
His reputation transcended the boundaries of the zone and even the
police force. His alias was “El Simpson.”

El Simpson—Ricardo, to anyone who wasn’t a friend of his—is without a
doubt an extreme case. For him, collecting rents is more than a
competition with his fellow officers. It’s a struggle against time. He’s
always impatient, especially when entering or leaving each store,
cantina, or moonshine joint. Spending the least possible time is his

It is from Ricardo that Eduardo learned the ninth and final lesson about
being a police officer: by wearing a uniform, anyone can enjoy as much
impunity as his imagination and avarice will allow.