PHARR, RGV – Law enforcement personnel within the Tamaulipas attorney general’s office will receive specialized training at the new 62-acre public safety center being developed in Pharr by South Texas College.

Mario Reyna, dean of business and technology at STC, said Mexican interest in the much-anticipated Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence will be on display when Ismael Quintanilla Acosta, procurador general de justicia for the State of Tamaulipas, sends a delegation of about 14 officials to a Memorandum of Understanding ceremony being held in Pharr on Tuesday.

Mario Reyna, dean of business and technology at South Texas College.
Mario Reyna, dean of business and technology at South Texas College.

“We are reaching out to the State of Tamaulipas right across from us and their attorney general and most of their leadership in public safety will be attending tomorrow’s MOU signing,” Reyna said. “They see a need and want to participate in teaching their public service officers, their public servants, how to do things the right way.”

The MOU ceremony will involve the signing of an inter-local agreement between STC and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD for the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The MOU ceremony takes place at the Tierra del Sol Golf Course in Pharr at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. VIPs slated to attend include state Senators Eddie Lucio, Jr., and Juan Hinojosa, and state Rep. Sergio Muñoz. All three legislators played a key role in securing $1.5 million in state funds for the public safety training center.

Explaining the rationale for training Mexican peace officers at the Pharr training center, STC’s Reyna said Mexico is going through a “huge transition” right now.

“They are going through a transition where they mimic our judicial system. They now have trials, not by jury but by judge. It is no longer a case of a judge reading a case. Now, you can go before a judge. They want to do all the things to reassure the public that there is change in Mexico, lots of change,” Reyna said.

Asked how much interest Tamaulipas officials are showing towards the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, Reyna said: “They are very interested. We are here to provide a service to the entire community and the folks right across the border are part of our community. They need facilities where they can drive a vehicle, they need a facility where they can discharge their weapons and they need all the software we can bring to help with driving and shooting simulation scenarios. All these things, I think, will help the entire community. So, they want to be part of it. I do not think it is a secret that we (as a nation) are helping Mexico at all kinds of levels.”

The Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence is being developed on 62 acres of land just north of the levee on Cage Boulevard in south Pharr. Asked to explain the purpose of the Center, Reyna said: “The purpose of the Center is to provide a forum, provide a space, provide a campus, a center that will allow all of us in the Valley and parts of Mexico to come and learn the fine art of public safety. The Center will be a place where you can have a police academy and a place where you can get an associate applied science degree in law enforcement. We are also working right now to develop a degree in crime scene investigation. Later on, once we have the resources, we are going to add fire to it, a fire academy, an associate of applied science in fire science.”

Reyna said that through a partnership with STC, PSJA currently has a dual enrollment program for criminal justice. “PSJA is going to add a law enforcement curriculum to their program. We are going to have a lot of activities that are going to be useful for the entire community. For example, the new Center will have a driving range and a shooting range. It is going to have simulation driving and simulation shooting to teach all of our law enforcement personnel the fine art of being a good public servant.”

Asked how important the legislation was that Representative Muñoz and Senators Lucio and Hinojosa passed, Reyna said: “We need the support of the state because they are giving us $1.5 million for the driving range, the shooting range, the simulation programs, and the police academy vehicles. So, they are playing a big role. Everything at the state level is going to help us grow the Center because right now it is just one building. We need more. We need more facilities to grow the program so that everyone can play a role. The state plays a role, the voters played a role by voting for the bond issue, and the City of Pharr played a role because they donated the land. It is the only way we can do it – by everybody playing a role.”

Asked how much support there is in the Valley’s law enforcement community for the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, Reyna said: “We are going to offer continuing education courses so that ultimately, all the police agencies will have their staff come there. We know the sheriff’s department in Hidalgo County has its own academy. We know McAllen police department has its own academy. They will continue. The thing we are going to be adding for the region is the ability to provide continuing education courses for them. This way they do not have to send anyone out of the area. We will be able to keep the money in the Valley.”

Reyna said that the curriculum being developed by STC and PSJA will strictly follow the guidelines provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. “They set the standards and we are going to follow those standards, like every police department has to follow these standards.”

Reyna also said that while the MOU involves STC and PSJA, numerous other school districts across the Rio Grande Valley are keen to develop law enforcement curriculum in association with a community college.

“This is a historic event because moving forward we are going to have a facility that is going to be the equal of any public safety training facility anywhere in the state of Texas,” Reyna added.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Ismael Quintanilla Acosta, Tamaulipas’ attorney general, being interviewed by reporters.