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South Texas police contend with high-risk pursuits

La Joya police chief: No such thing as a safe pursuit

Police in the upper Rio Grande Valley are still having to contend with high-risk pursuits with smugglers after a series of fatal pursuits initiated by other agencies protecting the border.

La Joya, Texas Police Chief Julian Gutierrez said they occurred near his small town that saw 36 pursuits of its own last year and nearly 30 this year, but thankfully, no fatalities. Still he said, “There is no such thing as a safe pursuit.”

Gutierrez said that’s why his officers are trained to avoid tunnel vision. “You always have all these innocent bystanders, so you’ve got to be aware of what’s going on,” he said.           

Too often, drivers are caught unaware or distracted, and for whatever reason, often pull out in front of oncoming pursuits, Gutierrez said.

“No matter how many sirens you have, how many lights you have, they’re not careful. They’re not paying attention,” Gutierrez said.

He added his vehicles now are equipped with air horns that send out vibrations to vehicles ahead of them.

Gutierrez said his officers and supervisors know they can call off pursuits whenever they think it’s necessary, school zones being a major concern.

The chief said other departments are then alerted about possibly trying to catch up with the smuggler.

He said people often ask why pursue given the danger? “If these individuals would pull over, we wouldn’t have that problem,” Gutierrez said.    

He pointed to his drug locker, crammed with more than two tons of marijuana.

“Everything we have here has ended up in a pursuit,” Gutierrez said. He also said often undocumented immigrants are being smuggled along with the drugs.

Gutierrez said his officers can’t pick and choose who they chase. He said regardless, “We always have to put the people’s safety first.”

For a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.

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