The poet Philip Larkin famously declared, "Books are a load of crap," but for Luis Sanchez, mayor of Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, books are the key to better police work and crime-solving. All 1,100 of the city's flatfoots will be required to read one book a month. The reading list ranges from light (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince) to heavy (Carlos Fuentes' Aura), to physically heavy (Cervantes' Don Quixote) to job-related (the crime fiction of Paco Ignacio Taibo II).
Sanchez believes that too many cops are rude to citizens and that by reading, they will become better mannered, more communicative and thus more welcome in the neighborhoods they patrol.
"Reading makes us better people, more sensitive, more able to express ourselves," said Sanchez, a bibliophile who belongs to the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. "Better persons give better service."
Police will be tested and graded on their reading each month — as they will be on six traditional proficiency standards, such as physical fitness, ethics and arrests, the mayor said.
"The majority of us are confused because other mayors have come and made promises that haven't been fulfilled," patrolman Jose Luis Avila objects. But before you scoff, The Los Angeles Times points out that under Sanchez, the crime rate in the felony-ridden Mexico City suburb has dropped by 20 percent. (The city's former chief of police is now doing hard time after being convicted of heading a local drug syndicate).
My favorite quote from this Guardian story:
Mexico's police officers are often portrayed in the media as ineffective good-for-nothings who munch tacos on corners and demand bribes for minor offences.
What the Guardian is afraid to report: Mexico's civilians are often portrayed in the media as swift, fast-talking mice who wear sombreros and rescue their lazy, siesta-addled amigos from predatory cats.