Special to the NEWS
Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, who will be running for reelection this year, has received a double major degree from Pan American University – a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology as well as a Doctorate of Juris Prudence from the Reynaldo Garza School of Law.
He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, and up until beginning his term in January 2005 as sheriff he served as chief of police for the City of Mercedes. Lucio then climbed the ranks up to captain for the City of Harlingen, where he served for 35 years, and remains a member of the National Sheriff’s Association.
The sheriff cites these achievements, experience and more in his reelection bid.
Aside from being a lawman, Sheriff Lucio is actively involved in professional and civic organizations. Most recently, in January 2012, Sheriff Lucio was honored as the 2011 Law Enforcement Office of the Year at the Cameron County District Attorneys Sword and Shield Gala.
Sheriff Lucio was first elected to a four year term in January of 1997. Sheriff Lucio was re-elected in 2008 and began his third term as sheriff Jan. 1, 2009. Under his current administration, Sheriff Lucio oversees a total of 488 employees whom he calls his “backbone” of running a respectful and professional office. His total annual budget is $25 million.
The sheriff has brought in approximately $10 million in state and federal grants.
“We are utilizing some of the latest technology in fighting and deterring crime such as a mobile command center, mobile crime scene vehicle, and a SWAT armored transportation vehicle, patrol AR-15 long rifles, and the latest in mobile video cameras,” Lucio said. “We are presently in the process of equipping our officers with GPS and dispatch monitoring video, which means that our dispatchers will be able to view “live” our officers involved on a traffic stop. This is a great tool for officer safety and the public. We also have purchased over 40 vehicles for patrol and investigation purposes through federal and state grants.”
Sheriff Lucio said his department has also strengthened working relationships with all local and federal agencies.
“I have officers assigned to the DEA, FBI, ICE, and US Marshals Task Forces,” the sheriff added. “We have also just recently received $5.9 million dollars for participating in the Osiel Cardenas Gulf Cartel prosecution and drug seizures. My narcotics division played a key role in arrest and forfeiture seizures against the head of the Gulf Cartel. Because the potential threat of spill-over violence, we have held meetings and have organized a plan of action and contingency plan to counter any major potential spill-over violence from Mexico.”
Continuing to work with the Cameron County Commissioners Court, the sheriff recently contributed $250,000 from the forfeiture fund which is earmarked for hiring jailers. In theory, this construction will assist taxpayers so inmates will no longer be housed in other areas of the state.
“I had in the past proposed building additional jail space,” Lucio said. “However, because of building cost and budget restraints, we were unable to do so. We have realized that our county is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States; consequently, the jail population is growing at a rate of six percent.”
Building a jail costs the taxpayers $50,000 per bed for maximum security facilities, which is what the state requires for high profile inmates, according to Lucio.
The Commissioners Court approved the staffing for an additional 126 beds the sheriff’s newly built section of the department’s jail to satisfy classification requirements in accordance with the Texas Commission of Jail Standards.
“The sheriff’s office is a business and a rather big business,” Lucio said before addressing his opponents in the upcoming race for Cameron County Sheriff. “In these crucial times of potential spill over violence and a growing county, this is no time to place this big business in the hands of the amateur. I am the man for the job. My experience as an administrator is both jail and law enforcement speaks for itself. It’s not all about wearing a gun and a badge if you do not have the experience in both jail and police administration. This job is about administering, planning, organization and budgeting. The personality of the sheriff must be beyond question, reflecting a commitment to adherence to the law both professionally and in personal matters.”
Lucio has been active in community service, specifically serving 25 years with the Harlingen Leadership Class VII and Harlingen Leadership Steering Committee, 22 years with the United Way Board of Trustees, Budget and Admission Committee, 16 years as a board member with the End of the Road Ministry [Shelter for the Homeless], eight years with the Kiwanis Los Compadres, 33 years with the Harlingen Quarterback Club, 22 years with the Texas Bronco League, four years with the Colt League, four years with the National Bronco League and current member of the Knights of Columbus – 4th Degree Knight.
In 1984, Lucio was awarded the Citizen of the Year honor by the Lions Dawnbreakers Club in Harlingen, and he has also had a baseball field in Harlingen named after him – the Omar Lucio Field.