Thirty Mexican police officers recently returned to their departments in Sonora and Chihuahua — states that border the U.S. — with new skills to fight global crime.

Over a two-week period in Miami, the Mexican police officers worked with their U.S. counterparts on advanced training with firearms, including techniques to reduce the risk to law enforcement officers and innocent citizens. Also on the agenda: best practices for searching for suspected criminals in buildings and vehicles, as well as rescuing victims of violent crime.

Uniformed man carrying another uniformed man (© Sergeant Oscar D. Pla, Miami-Dade Police Department)
Honduran and Guatemalan police officers train to save victims of violent crime. (© Sergeant Oscar D. Pla, Miami-Dade Police Department)

“We took the visiting officers with us on live SWAT [special weapons and tactics] operations,” said Sergeant Oscar Pla, who oversees the International Training Unit of the Miami-Dade Public Safety Training Institute. “They observed the entire SWAT process, from pre-operation planning to the actual assault, where they observed from an armored vehicle, and then we debriefed afterward.”

The Mexican officers were part of a broader group of police officers from around the world who have received training in tactics and community policing from the Miami-Dade police since 2013 in a program supported by the U.S. Department of State. To date, 700 officers from Haiti, Colombia, Honduras, Egypt and Guatemala have completed the high-level training.

The program helps stop transnational crime and disrupt drug cartels around the world, Pla said.

The personal relationships that develop among the Miami-Dade officers and their counterparts from around the world are another benefit. The U.S. instructors remain in contact with their former international students via social media, and they also travel to provide follow-up training.

“Those contacts can be useful when solving transnational crimes,” Pla says.

Also, because of the bonds they formed in Miami, members of the Mexican class from Sonora and Chihuahua are better equipped to unravel crimes committed across state lines in Mexico.

Group of people in uniform standing under palm trees (© Sergeant Oscar D. Pla, Miami-Dade Police Department)
Haitian National Police officers complete Miami-Dade’s advanced tactical training program in 2013. (© Sergeant Oscar D. Pla, Miami-Dade Police Department)

“Police work is the same no matter where you are in the world,” Pla said. “We laugh the same, cry the same and bleed the same. The bonds we make last for years.”

Miami-Dade instructors admire their visiting counterparts. Pla says his officers tell him they’re inspired by the “dedication, heart and pride these professionals exhibit in serving their countries and communities — often with limited resources in extremely dangerous places.”