TIJUANA — Rafael Rubio Alarcon, a city administrator and economist, was sworn in as chief of the city's police force Tuesday, a day after Chief Gerardo Sosa Olachea resigned, taking blame for a weekend confrontation between police and demonstrators.
Rubio Alarcon, 43, a 38-year resident of Tijuana, was the city's administrator for the La Mesa area and, as such, was responsible for 500 municipal employees, including police officers.
But, like Sosa Olachea, Rubio Alarcon has never held a police job before taking office as chief, according to a spokesman for Mayor Rene Trevino Arredondo.
"He did a good job in La Mesa, and he should do a good job here with responsibility and efficiency," said spokesman Luis Manuel Serrano.
Sosa Olachea, who assumed the post less than seven months ago vowing to clean up police corruption, turned in his resignation Monday. He said he made "errors in the handling of a Sunday demonstration" in which seven police officers and 15 protesters and bystanders were injured.
About 800 members of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party were seeking the release of their leader, Alejandro Herrera, who was jailed last week when police tried to evict him and his followers from lands they were occupying illegally.
Herrera's wife, Roxana Soto, led the marchers to the U.S.-Mexico border, where, she said, they intended to block traffic crossing into the United States. Sosa Olachea ordered about 100 police officers to intercept the demonstrators at the last stop light before the border gate.
Police arrested a local newspaper photographer and 24 demonstrators, including Soto.
Sosa Olachea said he should not have arrested the photographer and should not have interfered with the march.
Sosa Olachea was criticized in the local press for interfering with freedom of expression. Generally, however, he has been credited with improving the image and behavior of the police force.
Sosa Olachea took charge of the department in November in the wake of charges that, under his predecessor, the police force was fraught with corruption.
Last year, Mexican and American officials accused the police force of extorting
bribes from civilians and U.S. military personnel. In October, the U.S. Navy imposed a nighttime curfew on sailors visiting Tijuana.
Sosa Olachea is said to have improved the organization and administration of the department. Under his direction, police received a pay raise, better work schedules and better equipment. He fired about 30 officers for accepting bribes. Complaints of corruption lessened.
The job of city police chief is a volatile one--often a position of patronage--that has damaged many political careers. Rubio Alarcon is the 25th police chief in 31 years.