Police work is extremely dangerous all over the world because it’s the only line of work that actually exposes you to the seediest, darkest strata of society on a daily basis. Sure, there are other really deadly professions, but you can’t deny how harrowing it is to chase armed criminals as a source of income.
Of course, on top of everything else, you have to take into consideration gang/drug/organized crime activity, internal corruption, and causalities to see where it would be the most dangerous place to work in the world as a law enforcement officer.
Don’t worry! I’ll hold your hand throughout this process – it’s going to get hairy.
1. South Africa
Being newly industrialized and resource-rich, holding significant political influence in the area, and being considered an upper middle economy by the World Bank, South Africa has a lot of good things going for it. It also has a lot of bad things, one of which is positively correlated to crime rates: huge income disparity.
Just because I feel that I have not completely convinced you to not to pursue a career in law enforcement in the southernmost country of the African continent, there is also a rampant drug trade and many violent gangs associated with it.
In a 2013 estimate of gang membership just in Cape Town (coincidently, one of the most brutal and dangerous cities in the world), around 100,000 people are involved in organized crime. For those of you playing at home, that’s just slightly less than the entire Queen’s Army (which is a fancy way of saying the U.K. military, for all you non-Downton Abbey watchers).
It also witnesses an immense loss of human life with annual homicides superseding 1,614 in Cape Town alone, which is more than five times the murders of “Murder City” Detroit’s 346 annual homicide deaths. The likelihood of violent crime is extremely high and collateral civilian casualties are frequent.
South Africa’s police forces are known for their unforgiving brutality and corruption, just to put a pepper-sprayed cherry on top.
How can a country that is known for ample bottoms, beautiful beaches and summer sambas be amongst the most dangerous places to be a cop? Simple… income disparity (I apologize; you’ll see this motif showing up at more than one point during this list).
A very distinct example of income disparity is the famous Rio de Janeiro with its monolithic Christ the Redeemer statue, the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Olympics, and its annual carnival. Next to all the multi-room sea-view villas sits an expansive slum/shantytown (also known as a favela) which lower income individuals live in.
Here, drug and gang-related crime is runaway, and quelling these crimes is a harrowing experience. Due to the spontaneous construction of shelters, the favela is a multistory deathtrap with bottlenecks, dead ends, and heavily armed criminals. Tragically, there is a full-out war between the bandidos, which are young children and teenagers armed to the teeth, and a brutal military police force which is tasked with “pacifying” the most violent of favelas. According to Amnesty International, these pacifying units are in actuality cleansing the area and brutally killing to do so.
Much like South Africa, Brazil is yet another beautiful place that is distressingly being choked by high levels of violence.
There seems to be a horrifying pattern emerging from within this list: take a tropical or subtropical paradise, rich with resources, and add drugs, mayhem, greed, and murder.
Mexico is home to three of the world’s most violent, murderous and widespread drug cartels in the world: the Sinaloa Cartel (headed by the Houdini-esque El Chapo Guzmán – check out this video showing the elaborate method he used to escape last year), the Los Zetas (Sinaloa’s adversaries), and the Juarez Cartel (which was previous aligned with the aforementioned Sinaloa).
Their ten-year drug/turf war has claimed upwards of 50,000 lives with brutal methods of beheading and open execution being the favored means of intimidation and psychological warfare. These gangs have so deeply penetrated the Mexican government that the authorities are helpless against them… and if you’re keeping track, the police force is generally considered an arm of the authorities.
Cops in Mexico are not only exposed to the risk of serious bodily injury but, as per the cartels’ calling cards, but so are their families and friends.
4. El Salvador
Home to the Western Hemisphere’s largest, most notorious and deadly street gang, Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, actually started in the refugee-flooded neighborhoods of L.A. due to civil unrest and war in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. The battle-hardened refugees started to organize to protect themselves and their barrios (neighborhoods in Spanish) against the well-established Mexican gangs in L.A.
Once the civil strife died down in the three nations, the newly indoctrinated gang members returned to their native lands and initiated even more members. OK, so the other countries had gangs, too – what makes El Salvador so much worse than the others?
During a single weekend this past April, the gang had murdered a terrifying 34 people, 22 of which were killed on the same day, and smaller neighborhood cells were allegedly instructed to kill at least two police officers each. Up until that point, 20 law enforcement deaths were already attributed to the blood-soaked gang. One of the victims was one of the first policewomen of El Salvador, and she was gunned down off duty while on her way to buy tortillas.
Unfortunately, this murderous rampage signified the end of a three-year truce that was brokered between the government and the gang by the Catholic Church. The wide reach of the gang was a result of an estimated 20,000 gang members being deported by the U.S. government in 2000, which inadvertently caused the gang to become an international crime syndicate. Authorities have recently noticed MS-13 becoming more and more tightly affiliated with the Mexican drug cartels, including the two opposing and largest organizations: the Sinaloa Cartel and the Los Zetas.
El Salvadorian police are constantly targeted by the murderous gang and are forced to constantly hide their faces when in uniform, even when they are attending a brother or sister-in-arms’ funeral. Yet another example of a beautiful South American paradise ravaged by greed and murder.
See also: The 20 Worst Careers in the World
Would you like to add anything else to our list? Let us know in the comments section below!