Council Working to Prevent Law Enforcement Corruption
PALM VALLEY – A local group is working with law enforcement to deter corruption, an issue many agencies in the Rio Grande Valley face.
The Lower Rio Grande Development Council oversees the regional police training academy.
LRGVDC executive director Ron Garza said the first step in the fight against corruption in law enforcement is making sure the right cadets are accepted into the program.
“A feature of that is a full physiological evaluation that they get so that raises any red flags, so to speak,” she said. “We work really closely with area psychologists that know the profession very well, and each cadet prior to admission to the program gets a full evaluation.”
Once accepted into the program, Garza said a good amount of the cadets’ training is geared toward making sure they clearly understand the difference between right and wrong.
“The cadets in their curriculum get about 10 hours of a curriculum or a module called professionalism and ethics. That really drills down this subject, called ethics and professionalism and what we can do to prevent corruption. However, the whole academy incorporates it in one way or another,” he said.
Palm Valley Police Chief Alvaro Garcia is also a professor at the academy. He said he teaches cadets to avoid taking any gifts or gratuities, no matter how small.
“It could be as simple as accepting a simple gratuity. Some people, some officers, some trainers said that there is nothing wrong in accepting minor gratuities,” he said. “I would beg to differ. Because then there is expectations, and either from the officer or the person giving it. And that can be the building block for something in the future. You scratch my back and I scratch yours.”
Garcia said he looks for candidates with a strong sense of moral ethics.
“Checking their backgrounds thoroughly, contacting the references that they have, that they did list to us. Sometimes in some cases checking the credit reports, asking them to bring in a copy of their credit reports, sometimes is checking their social media accounts,” he explained.
Garcia said the amount of funding that his department receives doesn’t allow for multiple credit check and polygraph tests of current officers. He depends on other officers and civilians to report any officer’s wrongdoing.
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