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Out of Control: El Paso PD Officer vs. News Crew

Sarah's picture

I hope to spend a few days in El Paso soon. This is a bit discouraging:

The good news is the officer who did this is on desk duty pending investigation. The bad news is

it looks as if the investigation isn't focused where it should be: what was he trying to keep off camera? What were the soldiers doing at the wreck scene?

It's worth noting that this news crew aren't rookies. In fact the reporter being jacked up here has a rep for being among the city's better investigative reporters (and considering that I'm a print newsie, and he's a TV guy, that's saying something).

I know there's a lot of tension, including fearmongering (this would be any FOX coverage of the border), hype and debate on the merits of sending in the National Guard along the border right now. (Full disclosure: I'm a Tech grad, a former TTU employee, and I have family working for TTU's Health Sciences Center.) Hillary Clinton's recent remarks about drugs, money, guns and the US - Mexico connections didn't come out of a blue clear sky:

Miguel Levario, an assistant professor of history, says that the violence has created a media feeding frenzy in the United States, but Mexico is far from becoming a failed nation. As tragic and unnerving as the deaths are, he said that the violence is not seeping across the borders as some stories and pundits may imply.

A recent story by the Associated Press said drug violence dropped by 26 percent in the first quarter of 2009. About 1,960 people were killed in drug-related violence between January and March of 2009 compared to 2,655 deaths during the same period in 2008.

“It’s interesting to see the level of sensational reporting coming out from this,” Levario said. “You hear that violence has spilled over into the United States, and it hasn’t. Border cities like El Paso, Yuma and San Diego have not experienced significantly increased violence to draw a connection. As a matter of fact, El Paso is still rated as the third safest city in the country. And that’s just across the river from Ciudad de Juarez, which is arguably the epicenter of the Mexican violence.”

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has done several things to address the situation, Levario said. Calderon has militarized the northern border and mobilized thousands of troops to Juarez, Tijuana and other border towns. Since then, violence has decreased dramatically.

Also, the United States government has contributed to help rebuild Mexican local and state government infrastructure.

“The U.S. has issued hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild infrastructure at the local and state level,” he said. “Juarez has had to rebuild its police department basically from scratch. Its police chief was forced to resign under threat of death. His family was relocated along with the mayor. With that and the help of the Mexican military, things are looking like they’re improving but again this is a short-term solution for a long-term problem.”

While an end to the violence doesn’t look close at hand, both countries will have to work together to find a solution, Levario said. American demand for drugs drives the drug smuggling operations in Mexico, and Calderon has made sure to keep America’s fault in the problem in the discussion.

“The United States is largest consumer of drugs, there’s no question about it,” he said. “Also, 90 percent of weapons possessed by drug cartels are bought in the U.S. The profits these cartels enjoy come from the U.S. So, from the simple supply-and-demand aspect of it, America is at least 50 percent responsible for what has happened. Calderon has been very careful of keeping that in the discussion. Some have been very critical of those allegations, but again, they’re very real. This is a bilateral problem.”

I know that it's illegal to walk or bicycle along a controlled-access highway (aka an Interstate). What I'm really curious about is, if the tv crew's vehicle were an obstruction to traffic, how come the cop then would not let the crew take their Toyota and leave?

What provoked the officer to begin with isn't clear to me. But the effect is chilling, IMHO, because while I have no evidence of this officer's bona fides, resume or past behavior, what I do know is that increasingly we're seeing a militarization of PDs and SOs (a result of the war on drugs and the 'acculturation' of MP vets into civilian forces after they're done with their service, and this is not a knock on veterans but is a complaint about the lack of oversight, training and discipline in those civilian departments to prevent exactly this kind of incident).

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