We jumped in the van and started to make our way out of Acapulco with the help of our GPS. It had been a nice enough trip to Acapulco, with only one small cop bribery incident that ticked us off. Oh well…we were over it…and on our way out of town!

Shortly after missing a turn, we found ourselves behind a cop car on a busy highway road. The cop car went through a yellow light, and we followed right behind them, still in the shadow of the yellow light. As soon as we went through, they pulled over to the side of the highway, let us pass, and then turned on their lights to pull us over.

You’ve got to be kidding me, I thought.

Jared kept driving, saying “I didn’t do anything wrong. I am not pulling over.” I reasoned with him, suggesting that if he didn’t pull over now, the cops would then have a real reason to pull us over. He relented, knowing that he did nothing wrong—and yet he knew exactly what would happen.

 An officer sauntered over to Jared’s window, and he we decided this time we would pull the gringo card. We acted like we didn’t know any Spanish, and so the officer called over a young officer to talk to us. Funnily enough, the younger officer (who said he had lived in California) didn’t talk any English, either. I’m not sure at what point we started talking a mixture of English and Spanish…it all blended together by the end. This new younger officer explained to us that we went through a red light.

No, we we went through when the light was still yellow, we informed him. It was most certainly not red. Meanwhile, a second cop car pulled up and parked in front of us, and the officers exited their car to stand outside and look at us. The young officer then told us that if it was yellow, well, then it was still illegal to go through a yellow light.

I argued it is not illegal to pass through a yellow light, otherwise they would only make green and red lights. He asked for Jared’s license and told us to the ticket would cost $3,000 pesos and he would retain Jared’s license. We could pay the ticket at the police station to retrieve his license.

Did you catch that?

THREE THOUSAND PESOS!!  You’ve got to be KIDDING ME!!  A typical ticket in Mexico costs about $600 pesos (which is cut in half if you pay the next day), so this was RIDICULOUSLY inflated. A ticket this size is not even slightly plausible—it was just a huge scam to scare tourists!

 Jared began to get so angry that he started talking back angrily to the officer, while the officer stood there and took it quite well with a slight smirk on his face (I’m not actually sure if the officer understood Jared at all—but he knew he was the authority here, and there was nothing Jared could do about it). Jared’s anger kept rising, and I finally turned to him and told him to cool it. It would not help us to get an officer angry at us.

 So, the negotiations began. I asked him how much it would cost to take care of it now, instead of going to the police station. He thought about it and said it would cost $1,000 pesos.

ONE FREAKING THOUSAND PESOS.

Ooooh, we were angry. “No”, was our answer. We could offer $400 pesos (the same as yesterday), and no more. At this point there were five officers (including the young one at our window) standing there staring at us. Negotiations were going nowhere–$1,000 was their only and final offer.

 Jared started to put the van in drive and said he would leave, to which I replied that then we were really have a ticket to pay. So, instead he put us back in park and began to recline his driver’s seat, prepared to wait all day until the officers got bored and left us alone.

 Keep in mind that our 3 kids are still in the back of the car. Ella, age 7, and Maiya, age 4, are quite aware of everything that is happening. Ella was starting to get pretty worked up and upset, after seeing her father practically yell at a cop.

 A new officer then came up to the passenger window and started talking to me about paying the bribe. We told him it was too much, and he insisted $400 pesos wasn’t enough. He said it cost so much because there was a camera at the light we ran through.

I basically told him, “Great! Then you can go watch the video and see that we went through on a yellow light, not a red light!”

“Oh no, I can’t do that. The office is closed and I won’t be able to watch it until Monday.”

 “Well, there will be no problem—because on Monday you will see that we went through on yellow.”

 No budging.

It was no use.

 Exasperation set in. I was ticked, Jared was ticked, the girls were terrified, and the five officers were all staring us down in the hopes that we’d pay for their day’s meals.

 I turned to Jared, “Give him the $1,000 pesos and let’s get out of this frickin’ town” (excuse my PG swearing…it’s what comes out when I get seriously mad).

He looked at me and realized I was SO done with the situation, and he was too. He grabbed the $1,000 pesos, and I gave it to the cop at my window, angrily telling him under my breath in Spanish that our family wouldn’t have money for a hotel that night because of him (of course we would—but I just wanted to make him feel guilty). I was so mad that I didn’t even look at him again as we drove away. Jared instead stared him down as we drove off, as if to tell him, “You dirty, corrupt cop!”

There were a billion things I would have liked to angrily tell him, but it just seemed that it was better to get the heck out of there, and hope that we could make it the last few miles out of town without again getting caught by the deep pockets of this corrupt police force.

 Acapulco—I don’t like you.

 I think your city is dirty, overcrowded, full of pawn shops (which is where I’m guessing my wedding ring I accidentally left on the hotel room sink went, which of course they couldn’t find when I called later that day), and I think you are highly overrated as a vacation destination.

Most importantly—I think you have the most corrupt police force in the country.

 Do I think you will like this city?  Well—perhaps if you stick to the resorts and beaches and their super-cool city park. But I certainly would not recommend driving through this city. And if you do, be on the look out and do not give cops any reason to pull you over (i.e. going through a yellow light or perhaps not yielding enough, etc). And if they DO pull you over, what I would do is quickly empty all the cash from my wallet with the exception of perhaps $200-$300 pesos. Refuse to give them your license, and show them that you only have that limited amount of cash in your wallet. Let’s hope that works…because I wouldn’t recommend a showdown like we had.

It still boils my blood.

9 Responses to “Police corruption and bribery in Acapulco Mexico”

  1. Oh my! What a story! I can only imagine how our girls would freak out in such a situation. We won’t go to Acapulco, that is for sure!

  2. That SUCKS! Have you been shaken down before in Mexico, or were these two incidents your first experiences?

    I’d be ticked off too. that’s a tough situation, but it sounds like the pair of you struck a good balance between standing up for yourselves and being pragmatic. The poor kiddos! How are they now?

    We got shaken down in Costa Rica, but what happened to you sounds worse because there were five of them and it was way more money.

    Good post though!

    • It was the first time (with the exception of the day before, also in Acapulco). It was just downright dirty, but I have to admit the cops were VERY friendly. Yeah, because they knew we had no choice to pay and they were going to make some MONEY! They were not overbearing or rude…just dishonest. I hope that never happens again!

    • Oh, and the girls are fine, now. But if we were pulled over by a cop again, I’m sure the 7 year old Ella would be quite a bit distressed about it. We have to remind her there are GOOD cops, it was just a bad day!

  3. I have sent a copy of both your experiences to the minister of tourism in Mexico. Her name is Gloria Guevara. Hopefully we will recieve a response. This is outragous for a family with children! We also experienced the same thing near Guadalajara last year, but were fore warned on this type of occurance. We had a laminated copy of my husband’s drivers liscence and when the officer discovered that he let us go. Clearly we were lucky. Let’s see what tourism Mexico does for you. Good luck, God’s blessings.

    • Wow–I didn’t know there was anyone to send a report to. A quick search online made me realize I am certainly not the only person with a bad experience in Acapulco when it comes to cops. Very very very interesting…

      I sincerely love Mexico, and was quite disappointed to have my first really bad experience in nearly 2 years of traveling here. I cannot recommend driving through Acapulco.

    • A fellow on another forum said he drives around Mexico with laminated, color photocopies of his driver’s license. If he gets hassled, he just hands over one of the copies and doesn’t care whether the police keep it or not.

      A good idea unless they track the name somehow…

      • That’s a good idea! I doubt they track the name. I don’t know when this policy of taking licenses started. I had never heard of it, before. We also don’t get pulled over often…so I had no idea if this was a legit request or not. If they take your license, how are you supposed to legally drive away? And if they took my license, they surely weren’t heading straight back to the police station, so how long would we have to wait around to get it back? Oh…and what about the office being closed for the weekend? Does that mean we would have had to spend 2 more nights until we went on Monday?! So many questions. I like the idea of the laminated copies. Someone has also recommended having an international driver’s license, and giving that up (but that costs money!). So, I like the laminated option best!

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