UTRGV police chief gains UT System recognition, talks current goals

UTRGV

EDINBURG — Three years after leaving Austin to take on the creation of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Police Department, Chief Raul Munguia’s efforts were recognized by UT System leaders.

Munguia was chosen as Chief of the Year among the 13 UT System police chiefs during an annual conference in Galveston.

Although honored by the recognition, Munguia deems it not as a reflection of his work alone, but as that of his entire team.

“This would not be possible had it not been for the officers and civilian staff that we have here at UTRGV,” Munguia said.

“This award that was presented to me is actually a reflection of their hard work.”

According to a news release, it was Munguia’s ability to integrate the various departments to unify UTRGV’s police department that led to the award.

“Chief Munguia’s done an exceptional job in many ways,” UT System Director of Police Michael Heidingsfield said in the release. “Probably most significant of which is bringing together the multiple campuses that now make up the UTRGV Police Department and working to overcome the distance barriers and the challenges of different police organizations merging into one. He’s done a fantastic job.”

Heidingsfield was in charge of selecting the awardees and echoed what Munguia’s main focus has been since day one.

Munguia joined the system February 2015, six months before UTRGV opened its doors under its new name after its two legacy institutions — UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American — were dissolved to lead the way for the new umbrella institution.

At this point, Munguia had a 30-year tenure with the Austin Police Department. Only a couple of days into his retirement, he accepted the offer to become part of UTRGV’s inaugural administration.

Part of his focus was to unite the two former departments into one unit that would oversee the university’s two main campuses, teaching centers and labs. All of them span throughout three counties — Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr.

Munguia started with a team of about 40 police officers, and now the department has 48 commissioned police officers and about 50 civilian staff members.

But just as his team is growing, the university’s reach is also expanding. There are new clinics opening through the UTRGV School of Medicine, research centers and other locations that Munguia said they now have to keep up with.

Therefore, the goal of growing the department and increasing security measures continues. There are a few pending vacancies that the department is currently working to fill, he said, but foreseen growth in university centers might mean more future positions “for the first time since I’ve been here, as far as commissioned police officers go, we’ll be fully staffed,” Munguia said.

“The rate of growth that UTRGV is going through, it’s good for the Valley and the university. However, we are trying to keep up with this growth… especially with the School of Medicine.”

Even after achieving staffing goals, competitive compensation changes, and the overall unison of the officers between all campuses, Munguia said there is still many objectives to reach.

Some of the current efforts include updating security systems, such as cameras and lighting, as well as having up to date protocols to tackle different emergency situations. This is done in conjunction with city offices, he said, in order to respond and control a situation in a more effective way.

Because the campuses are widely spread out, there are unique features of the department that needed to be in place before moving on to other objectives, he said.

The two fully functional and fully staffed dispatch centers at the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses, for example, were one of the root objectives in order to have appropriate connection and communication even when both are more than 60 miles apart.

“We operate two dispatch centers, unlike many of our other sister (universities) across the state,” he said. “They actually complement each other because they operate at the same time… we’ve had a couple storms knock out the power in Edinburg, but since the dispatch center was running in Brownsville, it seamlessly picked up.” The creation of UTRGV and its growth has been unique in many aspects. And some of those who work with Munguia commended him on the recognition and attributed his effectiveness to his open-mind leadership style.

“In my 20 years in law enforcement working with different chiefs, I can honestly say that he’s been the best chief I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” Daniel Valdez, UTRGV police communications supervisor, said in a news release. “He has an open mind and is willing to hear any new ideas and take my recommendations and supports me as I supervise and lead my division.”