Ernesto López Portillo

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 2011


This profile was prepared when Ernesto López Portillo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Engaging his many years of experience working with public security issues in Mexico, Ernesto founded the Institute for Security and Democracy (Insyde), a citizen organization (CO) dedicated to the democratic reform of Mexico’s law enforcement agencies. Police agencies at all levels of government in Mexico—municipal, state, and federal—frequently struggle with institutional corruption, limited resources, bureaucratic inefficiency, and limited professional training, all of which make effective community oversight difficult.

Through Insyde’s work, Ernesto and his team are executing a citizen-based approach to police reform. He combines applied research and methodologies, derived from the best practices in police reform around the world, with comprehensive and objective evaluations of individual police institutions throughout the country. Insyde’s relationship with police institutions is deliberately collaborative rather than antagonistic, seeking to help the police transform their own organizations rather than foisting change on them from the outside. Ernesto firmly believes that the police themselves are the most qualified to identify internal problems and resolve them with support from Insyde’s technical experts. After Insyde completes its careful analysis of each agency, the CO accompanies police leaders during the implementation of reforms co-determined by Insyde and the police themselves. In addition, Insyde also trains other civil society groups, the media, and the business community to improve citizen surveillance of law enforcement agencies. Through these initiatives, Ernesto hopes to revolutionize Mexican society’s relationship with the police.

Ernesto has focused on creating successful test cases that can then serve as models for reform in other police institutions. Insyde has already worked with eight different municipal and state police institutions, and now the organization’s reputation is so strong that law enforcement agencies have started to seek out Insyde rather than vice versa. In the long-term Ernesto wants to transform Mexican police institutions at all levels into professional and transparent agencies that are responsive and dedicated to protecting the citizens they serve. Moreover, he aims to build Insyde’s model into a renowned standard for citizen-based police reform throughout Latin America.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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