Los Indios gets a police force

LOS INDIOS — The lazy brown Chihuahua napping in the street here last week seemed to dare somebody to drive by and interrupt.

At first glance, this border city of 1,149 souls that hugs both sides of U.S. 281 in southern Cameron County, seems unspoiled, radiating a special kind of quiet only the smallest towns can manage. You could call it Mayberry on the Rio Grande.

But if that’s the impression you come away with, locals say, you’re wrong.

“The day before last night, they were playing racers, two cars right here,” said Los Indios resident Oscar Quintanilla, pointing to the next street over. “And these two guys, they were armed. Right here.”

Quintanilla and other residents here hope incidents like that soon will be eliminated by a stronger law enforcement presence.

The City of Los Indios is on the cusp of fielding its first police force after months of preparation. Officials say the budget is in place, three unpaid reserve officers have been hired, and a used police patrol cruiser has been painted and is being prepped for delivery.

Tom Hushen is interim police chief, and has been the driving force in building the foundation for a police force. A former Harlingen city commissioner, he served for 15 years with the Harlingen Police Department.

“It’s time-consuming. It doesn’t just happen overnight,” Hushen said last week.

“All we’re waiting on now is an ORI (Originating Agency Identifier) number so that we can access the database,” he said. “It’s a matter of sending paperwork in and getting a letter from the state saying we are a licensed police department, and then you’ll get an ORI number that is unique to your department.”

On Friday, the city’s first patrol car was receiving its finishing blue decals at Tapia’s Signs in Harlingen. The squad car was bought used from the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office and repainted white. Having a patrol car on the streets is a symbol of progress for the city, said Mayor Rick Cavazos.

“We’re very happy about the way the process has been unfolding in setting up our police department,” Cavazos said last week. “Tom Hushen has done an outstanding job, and we’re looking forward to continuing the process and getting some patrols out there.”

Cavazos knows law enforcement, too. A Los Indios native, he retired from the U.S. Border Patrol where he worked out of the Harlingen office which patrolled the area.

Hushen, like City Administrator Jared Hockema, was quick to praise Sheriff Omar Lucio for his support and help as Los Indios was building its police force.

A Los Indios Police Department, they say, isn’t a criticism of the sheriff and his deputies, or the county constable, all of whom provide law enforcement in the city.

“We’ve had concerns over the years about burglaries, beatings, things of that nature,” Hockema said. “We’ve received great service from the sheriff’s office, but the city felt it really needed people that it appointed.”

But employing your own people, of course, means city residents will have to pay for it.

Hockema said the city began levying taxes in 2003, and since then has hired municipal employees and passed new ordinances city residents have been demanding.

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