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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
The south Texas city of Mission is named after La Lomita Mission, a historic chapel at the edge of town built by Catholic priests in 1865. The city borders the Rio Grande, which separates the United States from Mexico.
“This makes our department somewhat unique,” says Corporal Robert Rodriquez, supervisor of the Mission Police Department’s (MPD) Community Oriented Policing (COP) Unit. “A lot of our police work deals with things that happen at the border, with people as well drugs coming over.”
One way in which MPD differs from many urban law enforcement agencies is the community it serves, which is around 85 percent Hispanic and mirrors the ethnic makeup of the department itself. “We’re a very close knit community, and the upbringing of most people here makes them very family oriented and respectful. They’re also raised to obey rules,” says Cpl. Rodriguez, noting that these characteristics have an influence on interactions between police and residents.
“There is a lot of good will,” he adds. “The people and the department are very close.” And the MPD works to keep it this way through the community outreach efforts of the COP Unit.
This month’s winning photo pictures one of the COP Unit’s activities, a 2019 Valentine’s Day visit to a Mission nursing home, where Officers Julio Perez and John Oliva chatted with residents and gave them flowers. “We really enjoyed it,” said Cpl. Rodriguez, “and so did they. One lady asked if she could be my valentine.”
This is just one of the many events supported by the MPD’s COP Unit. The department also gives out Thanksgiving dinners in November, and at Christmas, the MPD hosts a party for about 350 families, each of which gets a bag of toys carefully selected for the ages and genders of their children.
This past year, when many people in Mission suffered from food shortages, the MPD held a barbecue for local residents, with officers tending the grills. Approximately 750 meals were provided as a thank-you for the community’s support.
The department also participates in public safety programs such as Crime Stoppers, which operates at the local level and is supported by fundraisers and contributions from Mission’s business community. Led by the MPD, Crime Stoppers provides a way for community members to anonymously provide information about criminal activity.
Underlying all of the MPD’s activities is the philosophy of community policing, which emphasizes the importance of building relationships of mutual trust and cooperation.
Says MPD Chief Robert Dominguez, “Over the years our department has transitioned from a purely reactive response to crime to a more proactive one. We work with residents, businesses, and other agencies or organizations to identify the causes and develop strategies to prevent and solve crime.”
“We’ve had a lot of success with this approach. Crime is down 18.5 percent this past year alone,” he adds. “And the support of the COPS Office has played a big part in this. MPD has received grant funding for community policing programs such as hiring officers to interact with the community and work with our schools.”
According to Chief Dominguez, these programs helped bring about needed changes throughout the MPD, especially by helping them build relationships with residents and their business community.
“Not only did these new hires adopt the community policing philosophy, but through education, so did the rest of the department, including our supervisors,” the chief says.
“The atmosphere in the city slowly started improving. And as it did, the public started asking for more police interaction, programs such as Neighborhood Watch, and meetings with civic organizations to discuss crime prevention and other concerns.”
“Our COPS in Schools grants also had a positive impact, helping us forge positive relationships not just with young people but [with] their parents too. We received a lot of praise for our officers’ dedication to their children. They also liked interacting with the officers and getting new insights into issues such as drug use,” he says.
To address criminal and national security matters, the MPD collaborates with other law enforcement agencies, especially in their work on the border.
“We’re responsible for 13 miles of Rio Grande riverfront,” Chief Dominguez notes. So the agency works with the U.S. Border Patrol through Operation Stonegarden (OPSG), a federal program that supports cooperation among state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies to enhance border security.
On the local level, MPD works with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office and other south Texas police departments. “We are always talking as well as sharing information,” the chief says, adding that they have established an intelligence center to share data.
“Everything we do has one goal: to make the community safe,” Chief Dominguez stresses. “And people here recognize that. In turn, they support us.”
This was made clear in 2019 and 2020, when two MPD officers died. “The outpouring of kindness and help for our organization during our time of need was phenomenal,” says Chief Dominguez. “This wasn’t just from the people, but from the businesses, including the large citrus growers, too,” he adds. “They helped us raise funds for the families of the fallen officers, and local restaurants sent meals to them as well as to the department during the funerals.”
“That was when I knew we had made a difference in our community. Throughout the years, we strived to forge these relationships with all segments of our community, and it was amazing to see how strong they had become.”
“We will work to keep these relationships strong for years to come. We’re proud of this success, but maintaining it is crucial. We can’t keep Mission a good place to live without the support of our people.”
Faye C. Elkins
Sr. Technical Writer
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