Novel Ideas

A police chief in Mexico has found a novel way to improve his officers’ manners and make them “better people.”

Starting this month, [Luis Sanchez] the mayor of [Nezahualcoyotl] is requiring all 1,100 members of his police force to read at least one book a month, or forfeit career advancement. The cops will get reading lessons if they need them and can select the literature from a list of recommended books at a new library, ranging from “Don Quixote” to the latest crime novels by Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

Why the emphasis on literature for police officers, 70% of whom have no more than eighth-grade educations? 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 with the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. “Better persons give better service.”

Frankly, so many methods have been used to try and improve police work in Mexico that I think trying literary education can only help (though I disagree with the compulsory aspect.) You can read the rest of the article, and some statistics on whether the program is working, here. If you hit a subscription wall, just go to and get a login and password from there. (Thanks to Dan Olivas for the link.)

A propos of compulsory education, the only example that comes to my mind at the moment is how Saddam Hussein received an award from UNESCO in 1982 for dramatically improving literacy rates in Iraq. Of course, the punishment for not attending literacy classes was three years’ imprisonment, so I can see how that was a huge incentive.