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Mexico City Police Chief Resigns Amid Criticism Over Police Behavior

Jesus Rodriguez Almeida oversaw a police department confronting growing evidence of abuse and excessive use of force during recent demonstrations over the 43 missing teaching students.
December 5, 2014, 9:40pm
Photo by Daniel Villa

Mexico City police chief Jesus Rodriguez Almeida resigned abruptly on Friday, ending his stint just two years after taking the helm of a department that has faced mounting reports of abuse during recent demonstrations over the 43 missing students in Guerrero state.

Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera released a short statement saying he received Rodriguez's notice of resignation on Friday morning.

Mancera made no other comment about the police chief's tenure, adding only that he would submit a new candidate for police chief to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, who must confirm the head of public-safety in Mexico's Federal District.

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There was no previous alert about the resignation to staff at police headquarters, an official spokesman told VICE News on Friday. "It was a complete surprise for us," said spokesman Julio Cárdenas.

Mexico City's police department has been at the center of ugly headlines in recent weeks after videos surfaced that confirmed long-held citizen suspicions that plainclothes police have contributed to scenes of rioting and property damage during a wave of largely peaceful demonstrations over the missing 43 students.

The city's police is also accused of arresting people at random, including children and diners emerging from restaurants, as its anti-riot forces cleared out the Zocalo central square, violently beating protesters and bystanders.

In photos: Here's what the big protest for the missing students in Mexico City looked like.

Rodriguez is a career cop in Mexico with a string of security posts held in different regions of the country, according to his official bio. He's served as warden of the Ciudad Juarez central jail, security intelligence chief in the state of Mexico, and jails chief in Cancún, the resort city in Mexico's Yucatán peninsula.

After human-rights officials in Mexico heavily criticized the work of Mexico City's police during a protest on the Zocalo on November 20, in which anti-riot forces rushed through crowds after another demonstration, Rodriguez defended the officers.

"I congratulate my staff for their great courage, responsibility, and most of all for re-establishing public order, no matter who likes it or not," Rodriguez told an interviewer.

Mexico's president called for reforming Mexico's police forces during a national address on Nov. 27, in response to swelling public demonstrations across Mexico and around the world against state violence and official impunity in the country. But just this Monday, on December 1, Mexico City police once again were filmed pummelling demonstrators and innocent civilians during a mostly peaceful march on the central Paseo de la Reforma boulevard.

It was not yet clear who Mancera would recommend to replace Rodriguez. The police department spokesman who confirmed the resignation to VICE News on Friday said that a deputy chief, Luis Rosales Gamboa, would step in as interim chief in the meantime.

Watch the full length documentary, The Missing 43: Mexico's Disappeared Students.

Follow Daniel Hernandez on Twitter @longdrivesouth.