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Column 031714 Brewer

Monday, March 17, 2014

Security Plans along the Border and Electioneering in Texas

By Jerry Brewer

Well intentioned Mexico and U.S. border fixes must reach far more strategic and proactive planning and engagement than simply resorting to tossing more massive amounts of dollars and people at the invisible walls and fences to see what will stick.   

Texas Governor Rick Perry should be lauded for announcing a Texas border plan as early as 2005.  He appears to have been the first of the U.S. governors of southern border area states to recognize the surge of violence that originated in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico on July 28, 2005.

That brutal gun battle, between armed criminal groups, was in fact the first true wakeup call to telegraph what would become a near decade of horrific death and violence in Mexico. Furthermore, the armed combatants possessed unusually advanced weapons in an arsenal that combined automatic weapons, bazookas and hand grenades.

Hundreds of different caliber shells were subsequently found at the scene, which resembled a war zone. Police located AK-47 rifles, handguns and ski masks. And if that was not disturbing enough, a state policeman who asked not to be identified said that investigators found numerous photographs of municipal police officers at the residence and an apparent hit list of officials marked for death. Further intelligence revealed that each of the photographs listed the officer's name and assigned location, along with maps to their homes and where their children went to school.

Governor Perry apparently did not know the seriousness of the situation, as many officials in Mexico and the U.S. were either oblivious to the threats that were manifesting along the Texas border, or the officials were viewing the incidents through rose-colored glasses. There were quick denials by both sides that the Nuevo Laredo event was significant, and it was explained away as just a local drug cartel feud.

Immediately following the cartels' shootout in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico's presidential spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said that federal efforts to stop the violence in Nuevo Laredo "have been successful."

Meanwhile, along the Arizona border U.S. Border Patrol agents were being fired upon, and U.S. border area police officials were witnessing Mexican paramilitary types escorting drug shipments north into the U.S.  Yet government officials in the U.S. brazenly stated that Americans were not targets of the aggressiveness.

However, there in fact was targeting of law enforcement officials on both sides of the border.

The Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition met with Governor Perry to discuss and coordinate their thoughts for protecting their jurisdictions with limited resources to fight armed combatants with paramilitary skills and weaponry. However, in Perry's assessment of local law enforcement as the "on the ground experts," he may have failed to assess their true strategic capabilities and actual plans for the deployment of human and physical resources. Furthermore, Perry was quick to point out that "border security is a federal responsibility," yet he noted that Texas has an obligation to protect its citizens.

It was in December of 2006 when Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, stepped in and found a homeland besieged with violence as criminals terrorized cities and murdered people with impunity.

In Texas, Perry’s plan was not much less than a bottomless pit that allocated a few million dollars in criminal justice grant funds for "local officer overtime." Local governments cringe when they hear the word overtime over and over again; this while they also consistently hear that there is not enough manpower.

Overtime can create a greater workload for officers, and their safety and the safety of others becomes a concern. Though these officers may make more money, they can become less efficient in highly stressed situations and with the constant need for clear thinking.

Along these lines, it is not always how many police officers you have but what those officers actually do and accomplish while they are in the field.

Perry was on target in asking for money to improve radio communication along the border, and for multiagency proactive policing initiatives. Although money does not plug every dike, Perry soon learned the importance of effective and strategic planning and oversight of allocated resources as a difference between success and further waste in both time and money.

Last month, Texas Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott unveiled his “Securing Texans policy” that calls for efforts to secure the Texas border and keep communities safe.

As Attorney General, Abbot stated that he was making protecting Texans his top priority. He has said that he quadrupled the number of peace officers at the Office of the Attorney General.

And he has announced that, as governor, he would almost double spending for Department of Public Safety (DPS) border security, and “add more boots on the ground, more assets in the air and on the water, and deploy more technology and tools for added surveillance.” In addition, he is pledging to mobilize more than 1,000 DPS personnel for continuous surge operations, and to add 500 more troopers over a 4-year period to build a permanent border shield.

Now, nearly a decade after Governor Perry’s border plan announcement for Texas, it appears that massive dollars will continue to possibly supersede strategic oversight.   

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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