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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June 2005, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Mexico police take novel approach
Police study Don Quixote in bid to improve image and skill base
Getting down to some serious study

Policemen in Mexico City are taking part in a novel project in a bid to improve both their image and their skills at dealing with members of the public.

At the end of 12-hour shifts in the city's sprawling Nezahualcoyotl district, they hand in their weapons and face a new challenge: reading Don Quixote, the classic 17th-century novel by Miguel de Cervantes.

The "Literature, Always Alert" programme is aimed at reducing corruption and violence in the force, Spanish television reported.

We policemen on street patrol see big mafias in the same way as Quixote saw big windmills
Chief Superintendent Oscar Melo

Luis Sanchez, mayor of Nezahualcoyotl, said the programme had brought surprising results, with the classes helping officers to overcome the stress of their gruelling shifts.

On average, 40 murders, 20 rapes and 1,000 armed attacks take place there every month, so officers are under constant pressure.

"They even complain, because we give them an hour in the classroom and they leave saying it wasn't enough time," Mr Sanchez said.

Role model

The programme's co-ordinator, Roberto Perez, said the character of Don Quixote, an old man who decides he is a knight on a mission to deliver the world from evil, was a suitable role model for the modern law enforcer.

"I think the values Quixote upheld are the values we are looking for in the police, so we can change the image people had of policemen as uneducated, lazy and corrupt," he said.

In the course of his fictional adventures, Quixote mistakes a peasant girl for a princess and windmills for giants. Likewise, distinguishing criminals from law-abiding citizens is a key challenge for police, chief superintendent Oscar Melo said.

"We policemen on street patrol see big mafias in the same way as Quixote saw big windmills," he told the TV channel.

"I feel like that, more or less."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




SEE ALSO:
Madrid hosts Don Quixote reading
25 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
Free Quixotes big pull in Caracas
24 Apr 05 |  Americas
Venezuela celebrates Quixote book
18 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
Don Quixote: A surreal success
10 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
Spain marks Quixote anniversary
16 Jan 05 |  Europe



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