Here is an excerpt from Jonathan Clark's article in Nogales International:
"A Mexican drug cartel has threatened Nogales police officers, saying they will be targeted for retribution if they conduct off-duty drug busts. Nogales Police Chief Jeffrey Kirkham told the Nogales International on Friday that the threats stemmed from an incident approximately two weeks ago, when off-duty officers surprised marijuana smugglers while riding horseback in an unincorporated border area east of town. The officers seized part of the drug load, and the smugglers were able to flee back into Mexico with the other part. 'As a result of that,' Kirkham said, 'our officers have received threats from the cartel that they are to look the other way if they are off-duty, or they will be targeted by a sniper or by other means.' NPD learned of the threats through informants, he said... Santa Cruz County Sheriff Antonio Estrada said he was unaware of similar threats being made against his deputies. 'They seem to respect an officer who’s doing his job,' Estrada said of the cartels, 'but when you do it as a civilian, they really take offense.'" Link to Full Article
Analysis: I've seen several official reports circulated by various law enforcement agencies regarding threats made by DTOs against federal agents and local police, but most of them end up being only rumors. This threat seems to be more credible than usual, given the response by Nogales PD. However, it is still based on information provided by an informant, and we have no way of knowing (a) how reliable that informant's information is, (b) what his motivation might be for providing it (possible testing of officer response to threats?), or (c) if the information he provided has been independently corroborated.
Let's say, for argument's sake, that the threat is real. I find it interesting that Sheriff Estrada said the DTOs respect US officer response if they're uniformed, i.e. on duty, yet take offense if they do anything while off-duty. As a former agent myself, I know first hand that it's not like you stop being a cop the second you change your clothes, or take your badge off your belt. There are certain protocols to follow if you're off-duty versus on-duty, but police officers are still authorized to act appropriately to their mandate if they come across illegal activity while off-duty.
I'm not sure where that DTO mentality comes from, if Sheriff Estrada's take on it is indeed accurate. Maybe DTOs differentiate between US police action as "that's business" versus "that's personal." Honestly, this is the first time I've come across information indicating a difference in DTO behavior towards US law enforcement based on their duty status. If I have any readers that can elaborate further, your comments are most welcome!