You may not have known there was an actual “Queen of the Pacific,” but the media gave this name to a Mexican woman for her lavish lifestyle and prominence as a woman in the drug trafficking business. Who is she? She’s Sandra Ávila Beltrán, a drug cartel leader who was arrested in September 2007 and is now being charged with organized crime, money laundering, and conspiracy.
Beltrán was born in 1960 in Baja, California into a family of drug smugglers. Her uncle, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, is known as the godfather of Mexican drug smuggling. Beltrán has been married twice: each time to an ex-police-officer-turned-drug-trafficker. Hired assassins eventually killed both of Beltrán’s husbands for various reasons. Most recently, Beltrán has been involved in a relationship with Juan Diego Espinoza Ramírez (known as “El Tigre” or “The Tiger” among drug traffickers), who is likely an integral part of the Colombian Norte del Valle drug cartel. For this reason, along with the fact that she and Ramírez were found by the investigators possessing over nine tons of cocaine, Mexican and U.S. investigators believe Beltrán is an essential link between the Colombian Norte del Valle cartel and the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.
On September 28, 2007, Beltrán and Ramírez were arrested in Mexico City. The arrest was the end of a four-year investigation involving thirty federal agents. Suspicions began to arise around Beltrán when she asked the police for help in rescuing her son, who was kidnapped with a $5 million ransom in 2002. When questioned by the police, Beltrán described herself as a housewife who earned income selling clothing and renting homes. The kidnapping and Beltrán’s description of herself aroused suspicion among police investigators, and this incident eventually led to her arrest in 2007.
Beltrán is the subject of a book called Queen of the Pacific: It’s Time To Talk by Mexican journalist Julio Scherer García. The book is based on interviews García conducted with Beltrán from prison and, according to García, “is of tremendous value because [Beltrán] opens up many avenues of investigation,” regarding Mexico’s drug cartels.
Although women only hold some twelve percent of law enforcement jobs, they have actually been working in law enforcement since the mid-nineteenth century. The New York City police department was the first law enforcement agency to hire women in 1845. Dubbed “matrons,” women served in clerical roles or as dispatchers for over a century until the women’s liberation movement in the mid-1970s. And although television shows like Cagney and Lacy and Charlie’s Angels popularized female police officers, women in the 70s only made up two percent of the total police force.
Women face many challenges serving in the police force, and their representation in law enforcement has been declining since 2004. Prejudged with stereotypically female traits, female officers are often thought to be too emotional, unassertive, or not physically competent. Women are often eliminated from law enforcement hiring processes right away because they are subject to the same physical agility requirements as men and are less likely to have previous military experience. Other women may never even consider a career in law enforcement because they associate police jobs with stereotypically male traits, such as aggression and authoritarianism. If they are hired, women are likely to face prejudice, discrimination, intimidation, or even sexual harassment. To make matters worse, because women are so poorly represented in law enforcement, they often cannot find appropriate mentors or guidance to help them cope or even think about trying for a promotion.
Despite their disadvantages, however, studies show that many women would make excellent police officers. According to Elizabeth Watson, Police Chief in Houston, policing requires “intelligence, communication, compassion, and diplomacy,” traits that many women exhibit naturally. Current trends in police work are shifting the field from the traditional authoritarianism to service- and community-focused approaches, making policing more women more apt for policing careers. Women police officers are also less likely to use physical force and aggressive language and rely more on communication skills, they are in turn less likely to engage in violence and receive fewer complaints from civilians.
There are many resources and article related to women in law enforcement. The National Center for Women & Policing is a division of the Feminist Majority foundation that encourages women to enter law enforcement to improve the police force’s response to violence against women, reduce the police force’s use of excess brutality, and to encourage police reform. The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives was established for women who hold senior positions in law enforcement and serves to further their interests and encourage more women to enter the field.