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The Pearsall Police Department has announced that it has no plans to change its vehicle pursuit policy.
The announcement came at a time when cases of human smuggling remain frequent. Law enforcement officers at agencies across South Texas continue reporting a high number of incidents in which smugglers transporting undocumented immigrants as well as narcotics and other contraband have attempted to evade detection by skirting border checkpoints or speeding away from traffic stops.
In many cases, those evasion attempts have resulted in high-speed pursuits on the interstate as well as on state and county roads.
Communities in both Frio and La Salle counties, however, have experienced incidents in which pursuits have detoured through downtown areas and residential neighborhoods, including school zones.
Law enforcement officers patrolling in and around Pearsall, Dilley and Cotulla have made repeated efforts to prevent smugglers from speeding into built-up areas, and highway exit ramp roadblocks have kept some pursuits on wider thoroughfares.
Officers have also begun adhering to policies that call for judgement over when hazards to the general public outweigh the benefits of pursuing a fugitive at speed.
Pearsall Police Chief Daniel Flores asked that city councilors review the policy after an incident earlier in the month resulted in damage to a patrol cruiser.
According to the police chief, patrol officers were engaged in a high-speed pursuit involving undocumented immigrants when an officer crashed his patrol car along Gilliam Road on the south side of Pearsall.
“I asked that the policy be revisited after the accident with an officer that occurred two weeks prior, causing damage to the vehicle,” Flores said in the council’s October meeting. “After reading [the policy], I believe it is fine the way it is and I do not think we need any amendments.”
The policy, which was passed in October 2021, was enacted to ensure public safety, aid in rerouting high-speed pursuits to prevent them entering city limits, and offered guidelines for when officers should abandon an active pursuit.
“It is very detailed and based on officer discretion,” the chief said.
Flores said the reason he believes the policy does not require change is that incidents can occur in the city affecting residents. The police chief differentiates between fugitive pursuits on the interstate that may involve several law enforcement agencies and those that originate locally.
A blanket policy on not engaging in pursuits through downtown areas or on residential streets, according to the police chief, is not adaptable to incidents involving local crime.
“If an officer responds to an incident at a residence and the suspect takes off, we cannot do a no-pursuit policy,” the chief said. “What brought this to life was the issue with human smuggling. It is not our job and not our place to be out there on IH-35 chasing illegals. Our job is to protect the city and protect the citizens.”