The El Paso Tribune - El Paso Texas Political Commentary
Date: February 24, 2004

Response to John Fragoso's article regarding Carlos Leon

It's amazing to see just how much misinformation starts flying during the political season, and the race for Sheriff is no different. I'm the guy who runs the Patrol Division for the S.O. and feel its time to respond to some of the rather interesting "facts'" I keep hearing about. Let's start with this community policing issue. The division I run under Sheriff Samaniego has a Community Services unit. Its made up of School Resource Officers, DARE, Drug Education, Crime Prevention and a new one, Community Resource Officer. The last one is a community based effort that puts a deputy in one of the sub-stations we operate in Fabens, East Montana and soon in Canutillo. The idea is to staff these locations so that it provides accessibility to rural folks in the county. Nothing new, it just makes sense and is already being done.

I keep hearing this communication complaint. Now, what police manager in his/her right mind would send a deputy into the field without having provided them with the best possible commo system? Notice I said best possible, not perfect. Heck, even NASA has some commo problems with the space shuttle! But, we have worked hard to establish a three tier system comprised of (1) voice transmission VHF, a State authorized, and standardized frequency, backed up with
(2) Mobile Data Terminals, backed up by (3) the 911 pager system. Our radio system has several levels of redundancy and quite an impressive performance record. No system is fail proof, but ours has done the job and we'll continue to improve it. Now, how 'bout those deputies with cell phones! It is about impossible to find people these days who don't carry one. The dumb things are everywhere. Plenty of our deputies carry their own. So do many city PD officers, Border Patrol, etc., etc., etc. So what's the big deal. And could it be argued they carry them as a backup? Sure! So we've added a fourth level to our system. Well, you say, some deputies have reported using their own cells to call in. And..? I can't think of a single pursuit, hot call, or emergency that my personnel called in over cell. But, if anyone out there can, let me know. But be specific. In some cases a deputy may find it easier to call in routine requests over the cell because the radio traffic is heavy and they're trying to minimize air time. I'll buy this story, but the desperate picture of my personnel driving around without communications capability is too much to stomach. CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

I'm pleased to tell you that my division is made up of 164 personnel who are among the best anywhere. We drive good cars, with radios that work. We are in the process of completing the MDT installations. That means computers in all the cars using the same system the city PD has. And it should be no secret to Mr. Leon that we have them since he authorized the use of their system. So why the insinuation that we don't have them, or they don't work? Its a city PD system, and so far, with but a few hick-ups as we tune it, its doing fine.

We have lots of far reaching, innovative and appropriate community based programs. We strive to have a unit dispatched to every call for service so that a reporter or complainant talks to a deputy. We have a Patrol Traffic Interdiction Unit, a RAPTOR Team and a Courthouse Security detail. Our personnel cover areas in this county that most people don't even know exist, and we go to these places knowing that resources are sometimes a long way off. But we work hard to be sure that the job gets done in the safest manner possible. It must be the case because we haven't lost one in a long, long time. And they must feel pretty good about the job because they stick around forever. (Saying that just makes me want to say THANKS to all the deputies for the job you do!

So here's my bottom line. Get to know the facts. Present them fairly.
Address them as appropriate and may the best candidate win! Right Sheriff?

Capt. Al Hernandez

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