updated 7/8/2008 4:12:09 PM ET 2008-07-08T20:12:09

Mexico City's police chief was forced out of office on Tuesday following a botched nightclub raid that resulted in the deaths of 12 people.

Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said the resignation of Police Chief Joel Ortega was the first step in a plan to "reconstruct" the police force. Ortega had held the post since 2004, when he replaced Ebrard.

The leftist mayor made the announcement shortly after Mexico City's Human Rights Commission presented a report alleging rampant misconduct by officials in the June 20 raid on the News Divine nightclub.

Officers looking for underage drinkers blocked the club's lone exit, creating a deadly stampede in which nine patrons and three police were asphyxiated or crushed to death.

Ebrard also told reporters that he would remove the power to license and inspect nightclubs from borough officials, some of whom have been charged in connection with the raid.

Ebrard said city prosecutor Rodolfo Felix Cardenas also offered his resignation, but did not say if he would accept it.

Target of criticism
A criminal investigation did not find evidence that Ortega had committed any crime, but he has been the target of harsh criticism.

Thirty-nine police and borough officials, as well as the club's owner, have been charged in the case. The precinct police chief who led the raid, Guillermo Zayas, faces 12 counts of homicide.

On Monday, city Attorney General Felix Cardenas said police should not have rounded up patrons at the club, most of them minors, and held them for hours without charge. He called the patrons victims and said there was nothing to justify their detention.

Some of the youths said they were told to strip for a medical exam and some were photographed. Some said authorities wrote numbers on the backs of their hands to identify them.

The club's owner faces charges of involuntary homicide for allegedly overcrowding the club and blocking emergency exits. He also is charged with corruption of minors for allegedly allowing youths to drink.

Ebrard himself was fired as Mexico City police chief in 2004 when his force was accused of dawdling while a mob seized, beat and burned to death two federal police officers. President Vicente Fox took the action over the head of then-Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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