Uneasy Partners Against Crime: The Ambivalent Relationship Between the Police and the Private Security Industry in Mexico

Logan Puck, University of California, Santa Cruz


Legitimation is a fraught process for private security companies operating in Mexico and other countries in the Global South where the police have a poor reputation. Mexican private security companies have an ambivalent relationship with the police, which causes firms to engage in two seemingly contradictory practices. Companies attempt to gain legitimacy by aligning with the image of the police to earn a sense of “symbolic stateness” while simultaneously distancing themselves from Mexico's actual police forces so as to disassociate from the institution's poor reputation. Consequently, collaboration between public and private security is limited, despite official attempts by the Mexican state to foster positive contact between them. Overall, this study contributes to the growing literature on private security by providing novel insights into the strategies private security firms utilize to navigate within states possessing delegitimated security forces, and the resulting lucrative political economy landscape.