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La Joya names new police chief

Ramon Gonzalez was named La Joya police chief last week after serving the department nearly 10 years.

And this time, after being passed over previously for the post, the vote by the city commission was unanimous, with even City Manager Mike Alaniz raising a hand, echoing commissioners as they voted, “Aye.”

20150619 La Joya Police Chief Ramon Gonzalez“He’s a people person,” Alaniz later said. “I believe he also is apt to change and try to embetter himself to become the chief that we truly need here, and I think he will definitely be good.”

Gonzalez was named interim chief in January when then-chief Geovani Hernandez resigned after a year on the job. The new chief has spent his entire law enforcement career with the city of La Joya.

Alaniz, who had recommended Gonzalez for the spot, emphasized the new chief’s education as a bonus for the position. Gonzalez, who served in the Marines two years, received two associate degrees from South Texas College in chemistry and biology before obtaining a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Texas Pan-American.

As Gonzalez finished up his bachelor’s degree, he went on a ridealong, which swayed him to join the police academy immediately after graduating college.

Alaniz said though Gonzalez is a man of few words, he believes the new chief is ready to step up to the job.

“Remember this,” Mayor Adolfo “Fito” Salinas told Gonzalez after the vote, “It’s always ‘we’ not ‘I.’”

Among the challenges for Gonzalez as he takes over the department is a sharp drop in revenue because of the saturation of state and local officers patrolling the area, Alaniz said.

Salinas already had planned to meet with border mayors and city administrators to discuss the issue. The problem, Salinas said, is that DPS hands out tickets within city limits, and the tickets are sent to the local justice of the peace with the revenue going to the county, not the city.

The mayor asked City Attorney Robert Jackson what could be done to fix the situation, and Jackson advised Salinas to keep raising awareness, pressuring local state legislators and push to change state law to give cities a percentage of the cost of the tickets within municipal limits.

“Right now it hurts cities,” Jackson said.

Municipal Court Judge Joseph Campos reported there were 180 new cases filed in May, compared to 480 new cases in May 2014. The city also reported $12,250 in revenue, compared to $60,000 at this time last year.

To make up some of the revenue, Campos said he’s working with Gonzalez to round up warrants.

Alaniz said the city is initiating scofflaw, which will prevent drivers with city warrants from registering their vehicles. They’re working at sending more police officers out to round up warrants.

If things don’t change, Salinas warned, the city might cut back on law enforcement. Right now, he said, the city has 13 police officers.

“It’s getting to the point where we need the help of the public,” Salinas said. “We need to support this issue because if this continues going down at this rate, we won’t have 13 officers patrolling our streets, we’ll probably have only half of that.”

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