This is like the fourth notable interaction I’ve had with police in Mexico. I had to go to the Procuraduría General de Justicia aka Ministerio Público aka the police station to report my handbag stolen. Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I had to in order to get my FM-3 replaced, per immigration requirements. While undramatic, the experience is my most extensive yet with Mexican police, so I am going to go ahead and write it down.
The answer to the question “¿Por qué viniste a México?” changes on an ongoing basis. I have recently been supplementing it with the anecdote of the first time I got pulled over in Mexico, when I was here on vacation in January 2009. The punchline of the story is that while the car was pulled over, Tyrrell and I and two other passengers got out and the cop didn’t shoot us, or even tell us to get back in the car. He just let us go. That cop is part of the reason I give for por qué vine a México. Others I have encountered, including the ones I met at the police station on Thursday, have been similarly human in comparison to gringo cops.
So the police started off on a good foot with me here. I know also that they perhaps treat me better for being a foreigner, for being of European descent, and possibly as a subconscious response to the sense of entitlement I exude as a gringo.
My local cop shop is a block away. I had never noticed. I went over and there were these people hogging the receptionist with what he seemed to be telling them was a civil, not criminal, matter. He interrupted them after about ten minutes to turn to me and the line that had formed behind me, seemingly relieved for the break. He happily gave me the good news that I could file my missing document report online and then have the “virtual” police station affiliate at the Cuauhtémoc municipal building print it out.
So I did that first thing the next morning, but when I rolled up Cuauhtémoc told me that since the loss I had described was due to theft, I would have to file a criminal report. Understandable, and the responsible thing to do for statistics’ sake I guess. But I realized immediately that I should have just said I lost it, if I was interested in saving myself a few hours.
But I hadn’t done that, so back to the sala de esperar I was sent, to wait for a bureaucrat from the crimes department. I hung out for about an hour, dozed, drank some 7-peso coffee from a machine that spat out the cup, coffee, and stirrer all from the same hole.
Then around 10:30 a.m. I was called back by a middle-aged man, who had apparently just arrived, to fill out the report. That was easy enough since it was all based on what I had already written. When I told him the reason I was filing a report to begin with, to reposicionar my FM-3, he asked me if ‘my FM-3’ was my telephone. Then he made me tell him the story again vocally. Then he started wanting to dictate something to me to write on the form. He started off, “escribe ésto: Yo no puedo…” (“I cannot…”) and I stopped him. “Look, please can you tell me what I am writing before I write it?” He was telling me how to write that the crime happened too fast (a guy distracted me while his buddy swiped the bag) for me to describe the appearance of the culprits. Okay, fine, and we finished that. Then we did my demographics/identity stuff, which was fun for me because I got to deliver my “I’m not Catholic” zinger. He was a little disconcerted by that. “Puedes poner Protestante,” I told him. And we moved on.
The theft happened in a gay bar in the Centro Historico. I don’t know the name of it, but I know it is across the street from a well-known one called Marrakech. I figured any police officer would be familiar with the place, so I had included that information in my original report, including its description, “antro gay.” So after me and the bureaucrat finished up, he turns to me and starts talking about he had a very different idea of me because of the “gay bar” thing. I think he was trying to tell me something, but I acted like I didn’t pick up on it. He also helpfully told me he had removed the detail that the bar was “gay” from my report.
As we wrapped up, he couldn’t let me go just yet, he said, because the police treat robbery as a very serious crime and I was going to have to talk to some investigators. So back to another office, though this time I didn’t have to wait. The investigators were all sitting around chatting in this room with a fan going. All taller, healthier, more professional-looking than the bureaucrat. As I enter the room they all stand up quickly and half of them leave, leaving two to talk to me.
One was taking notes and asking questions, and the other was sort of just sitting there listening as I told the story again. They sort of made fun of me for not knowing the name of the bar nor really knowing how to describe it, other than “it looks like a club.” But then another came in the room and said he knew the place. As I left he told me he would go to the bar and have a look around. I was kind of like, “really?” But who knows. Maybe he will.
As the one who had been taking notes escorted me out, I stopped by the bureaucrat’s desk to pick up my copy of the report. The bureaucrat stood up to shake my hand and told me it had been a real pleasure. I said goodbye and thank you to them both.