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Congressman Henry Cuellar announced this week that Mission PD is the recipient of a competitive federal grant.
The Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) Hiring Program grant is intended to “advance community policing by funding hiring and training, and providing technical assistance to all levels of law enforcement.” The city of Mission was awarded $1.25 million this year, marking the sixth time the Mission Police Department has earned the COPS grant.
Congressman Henry Cuellar, along with Mission Mayor Armando O’caña, police Chief Robert Dominguez and City Manager Randy Perez, held a Webex meeting on Tues. June 16 at noon to announce the award. The federal funds will be used to hire ten new police officers in Mission.
“Mission is already a safe city if you look at some of the statistics,” Cuellar said, citing the FBI has found the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area to have less crime per 100,000 people at the state and national levels. “That says a lot of the police departments that we have down in the Valley, especially in Mission.”
Cuellar said the more police officers a department has, the faster their response and the safer the community is.
“Any time a business comes into a community, some of the first things they ask is about the school districts, about the crime rate, they ask about utility hook ups and all the basics,” Cuellar said. “I’m happy to announce this.”
The funding will cover three years, or 75 percent of the funding for those ten new police officers according to Cuellar. 25 percent will be covered by Mission, and after those three years Mission will take over.
O’caña said it was a great day for the city of Mission, and that the municipality seems to be moving forward in terms of progress and growth for “the best interest of [their] citizens.”
Mission city council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa was also present during the meeting, and said she was excited when she heard the news that Mission PD earned the grant.
“This is going to make our city more safe,” Ortega-Ochoa said to Cuellar. “We greatly appreciate everything you do for Mission, and the Rio Grande Valley.”
Chief Dominguez expressed gratitude for the award, saying they lead with a community-oriented policing philosophy.
“As our organization continues to grow, it is important to have staff to answer the needs of our community,” Dominguez said. “We are excited about the grant, and obviously glad we are one of a few departments in our area to receive this grant.”
Including the most recent COPS grant, Mission has added 56 new police officers to the department thanks to the Department of Justice.
“It’s not easy to administer these grants, it’s a challenge,” Dominguez said. “But we’re up to it, and are obviously looking forward to the opportunity to hire these ten new officers.”
Protests across the United States have been active in the last few weeks following the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Calls to defund police departments have been made, and Cuellar spoke about the Justice in Policing Act, to be voted on next week, which “addresses needed reforms to improve police-community relations.”
“When the words were cried out – ‘I can’t breathe,’ they really provided a movement that we’re seeing not only in the Valley but across the state and across the nation,” Cuellar said, noting they are looking at the act as a means of reform. “I’m also looking at adding seven appropriation requests that have to do with police reform, money to make sure we look at mental health so we can provide mental health liaisons and assistants to police, looking at areas from the Department of Justice.”
Cuellar said that locally, in the state legislature and in congress, they are looking at the suggestions out there, and he also has three brothers who are police officers.
“I understand for peace officers, every time they put on their uniforms they put their lives at risk,” Cuellar said. “We have to find a balance as we do that police reform.”
O’caña said in Mission, there are no talks of defunding the police – rather, they intend to “refund the police.”
“We want to look at how to increase and fund it more,” O’caña said. “Life safety in Mission is the number one priority – for us to have our citizens to be able to walk the trails and be out in the community as safe as possible.”
Cuellar said that any bad apples will be dealt with in the justice system, and advised people not to paint entire departments with one brush.
“Our communities are safer because of the men and women that serve us,” Cuellar said. “I do know we have to do some reforms, and different communities are doing that.”