A Force for Change: Nuevo León Bolsters Police Capacity in Tough Times, 2011-2015


In 2010, the government, private businesses, and local universities in the northern Mexico state of Nuevo León forged an unusual alliance to design and implement sweeping law-enforcement reforms in a challenging context. At the time, powerful drug cartels were fighting increasingly bitter and bloody wars to control their turf—which intimidated an existing police service already hampered by low pay, weak morale, corruption, and disorganization. Public confidence in the state’s ability to maintain order had evaporated. During the next five years, the public–private partnership oversaw the creation of an entirely new police service that, in tandem with other reforms, significantly strengthened the state’s capacity to ensure public safety and helped rebuild public confidence.

Patrick Signoret drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in March and April 2018 and on earlier research carried out by Ariana Markowitz and Alejandra Rangel Smith in October 2014. New York University’s Marron Institute helped support Alejandra Rangel Smith’s participation. Case published July 2018.


public-private partnership
police reform
criminal violence
countering organized crime
creating new organizations
Focus Area(s)
Accountable Policing
Civil Service
Critical Tasks
Building inter-agency cooperation
Civil service recruitment
Corruption in the Civil Service
Internal accountability
Organization and staffing
Ranks and grades
Core Challenge
Credibility (trust)
Institutional traps (spoilers)
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Patrick Signoret