Inside Look: The Strengths and Challenges of the El Paso Police Department

The El Paso Police Department not only combats crime but also strengthens community ties. Are you looking to understand how they protect, serve, and collaborate with El Pasoans? This article outlines the challenges the EPPD faces, showcases its strengths, and offers a glimpse into ways the public can partner with the police to maintain El Paso’s safety.

Key Takeaways

  • The El Paso Police Department (EPPD) is committed to protecting the community and maintaining peace through modern policing practices, engagement with residents, and adherence to law enforcement ethics.

  • EPPD has a significant history and has undergone continuous evolution, embracing technology and innovation to enhance their services and maintain public safety effectively.

  • Under Chief Peter Pacillas, the department prioritizes fairness, accountability, and due process, with systems like the Disciplinary and Shooting Review Boards to address officer misconduct and ensure transparency.

Guardians of the Sun City: Meet the El Paso Police Department

Illustration of El Paso Police Department badge

At the forefront of safeguarding the vibrant streets and peaceful neighborhoods of El Paso stands the El Paso Police Department. Anchored by a mission to protect life, foster community partnerships, and enforce the law, the EPPD is relentless in its pursuit to enhance the quality of life for all El Pasoans. With a wide array of responsibilities ranging from security patrols and traffic safety to rapid emergency response, the police officers of the EPPD are ever-vigilant against the bad guys who threaten the tranquility of this proud city.

The headquarters of the EPPD hums with the collective dedication of its officers, who are not only enforcers of the law but also guardians of the public trust. Trained in the meticulous handling of evidence and the respectful treatment of those under arrest, these officers embody the department’s core responsibilities:

  • maintaining peace and order

  • protecting individuals and their property

  • providing allied police services that resonate with the ethos of the city of El Paso.

Upholding the Law in El Paso

The officers of the El Paso Police Department canvas the city with a keen understanding of their diverse duties, ensuring control and peace within the community. Whether they are patrolling local neighborhoods, swiftly responding to calls for assistance, or conducting thorough investigations, their singular focus is the safety and security of El Paso’s residents. The effectiveness of EPPD’s policing is built upon a foundation of modern police practices, an intimate knowledge of the city’s geography, and a strict adherence to laws governing evidence, arrests, and prisoners’ rights.

These dedicated officers, many of whom could draw a parallel to the celebrated figure of Dallas Stoudenmire, El Paso’s storied marshal, stand duty with a level of professionalism that honors their historical counterparts. Yet, they also embrace an evolved approach to law enforcement that upholds the dignity and rights of the community they serve. The EPPD’s commitment to justice is unwavering, reflective of the city’s own storied resilience and spirit.

Community Engagement Initiatives

Fostering a collaborative spirit with the people of El Paso, the EPPD places immense value on community engagement, recognizing that effective policing is a shared responsibility. Through initiatives such as:

  • The Neighborhood Watch Program

  • The Citizen Advisory Board

  • Coffee With A Cop

  • Badges and Books

  • The Youth Police Academy

The department forges strong partnerships with residents, working hand-in-hand to resolve neighborhood issues and enhance the quality of life. These initiatives allow for meaningful interactions that build trust and understanding.

The EPPD also empowers residents to actively participate in the safety of their community. Programs such as the Business and Residence Camera Registration enable civilians to register their surveillance cameras, aiding in crime prevention and investigation. Meanwhile, volunteer opportunities, both long-term and short-term, offer a platform for residents to contribute directly to the department’s initiatives, ensuring that the heartbeat of El Paso is integral to the rhythm of law enforcement.

The Evolution of Policing in El Paso

Tracing its roots back to 1884, the El Paso Police Department has a rich tapestry of history woven into the fabric of the city. From its inception, the EPPD was shaped by figures who possessed the distinct capabilities of Texas Rangers, renowned for their adeptness in navigating the challenges of the western frontier. In an era when the city marshals, handpicked for their toughness, were instrumental in curbing the lawlessness of the Wild West, the EPPD stood as a bulwark against confrontation with the infamous outlaws of the time.

The narrative of EPPD’s evolution from rough-and-tumble marshals to a beacon of modern law enforcement is a testament to the city’s march through history. It is a story of change, of men and women who have donned the badge over the years, adapting to the evolving demands of their duty while maintaining the ethos of El Paso’s storied past.

From Marshals to Modernity

In the nascent years of the EPPD, city marshals epitomized the rough-and-ready image necessary to command respect among the hardened criminals of the day. The appointment of T.C. Lyons as the first Chief of Police marked a significant shift toward a culture of service and protection, underscoring a deeper commitment to the well-being of the community. The establishment of specialized units such as S.W.A.T. in 1972 further signified the department’s ongoing adaptation to advanced police tactics necessary for addressing complex scenarios.

The march of time brought not only changes in tactics but also in the composition of the force. In 1974, the El Paso Police Academy witnessed the graduation of its first five female officers, heralding a new era of gender diversity within the ranks. As the EPPD evolved, so did its commitment to mirroring the diverse community it serves, a change that has enriched the department in numerous ways.

Embracing Technology and Innovation

In step with the times, the El Paso Police Department has embraced technology and innovation to better serve the city’s residents. The Community Video Program is a prime example of this, enabling the EPPD to collaborate with the public in obtaining crucial video footage that aids in solving crimes. Furthermore, the department demonstrated its commitment to ensuring a safe nightlife and social economy by engaging with the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) to conduct a Sociable City Assessment in 2023.

These advancements also extend to internal operations, with the department revising over 200 policies and procedures to streamline communication and enhance efficiency. The EPPD’s website has also been upgraded, allowing for easier access to information and services by the public. These strides in technology and innovation are just the beginning as the EPPD continues to explore new frontiers in law enforcement.

Honoring Those Who Serve: EPPD’s Fallen Heroes

The bravery and sacrifice of those who have served in the El Paso Police Department are commemorated in a solemn memorial, a tribute to the officers who have fallen in the line of duty. The roll call of honor is somber and profound, including names like:

  • Sergeant Santos ‘Sonny’ Perez

  • Sergeant Gerardo Morales

  • Lieutenant Jonathan Andre Terrazas

  • Detective Camerino Santiago

These officers succumbed to COVID-19 between 2021 and 2022. Officers like David Bannister and Angel A. Barcena, who were killed due to gunfire, are also remembered with the highest esteem.

The list of EPPD’s fallen heroes extends to those who lost their lives in traffic-related incidents, such as Wayne V. Carreon and David Ortiz, whose dedication to duty led them to their final call. Each name on the memorial, from Marmolejo to Moad, represents a chapter of courage and dedication to the city of El Paso, their legacy woven into the very essence of the department’s mission to protect and serve.

Behind the Badge: Life at the Police Headquarters

Life at the El Paso Police Department headquarters is a tapestry of diverse challenges and responsibilities that officers face each day. The array of emergency calls they handle is wide-ranging and complex, demanding rapid and well-coordinated responses. Resource limitations are a significant concern, with the high demand for police services stretching the department’s capabilities. Despite these challenges, officers carry out their daily tasks with diligence, from completing paperwork and patrolling to addressing citizens’ complaints.

The EPPD prides itself on its commitment to response times for 911 calls, striving for quick and efficient arrival at the scene of emergencies. The integration of advanced communication tools, such as phone technologies, has been pivotal in improving operational efficiency. Moreover, the department recognizes the importance of officer well-being, offering mental health programs to help them manage the stresses of policing, and acknowledges their good work, which contributes positively to morale.

A Day in the Life of an EPPD Officer

Photo by Pixabay:

An EPPD officer’s day is a dynamic blend of law enforcement and community service. From the moment their shift begins, officers are immersed in a variety of activities, including:

  • Enforcing laws

  • Responding to emergency calls

  • Managing non-emergency situations

  • Ensuring the safety of El Paso’s citizens

Each day brings a new set of challenges and opportunities to make a difference, a testament to the multifaceted role these officers play in the fabric of the city. They often share their experiences and log them on Facebook, connecting with the community they serve.

The rhythm of a typical day might vary, with weekdays and weekends each carrying their own cadence. Whether it’s a calm Monday or an unpredictable Friday, the commitment of an EPPD officer remains unyielding. Their dedication to duty is evident in every patrol, every report filed, and every community interaction, embodying the department’s mission to serve with integrity and excellence.

Training and Development

The training ground for the future guardians of El Paso is the EPPD’s Training Academy, perched scenically on Scenic Drive. Here, recruits undergo a comprehensive 43-week regimen that equips them with the skills necessary for the rigors of law enforcement. The curriculum is extensive, covering criminal law, report writing, and a range of tactical disciplines, ensuring that every graduate is well-prepared for the challenges ahead.

Physical readiness is a cornerstone of the academy, with Crossfit being the foundational conditioning program. Recruits must meet stringent fitness standards, including exercises like sit-ups, push-ups, and a one-mile run, which are crucial for operational effectiveness. Additionally, the academy includes a job simulation test to assess practical readiness, and graduation is contingent upon passing the TCOLE state licensing examination.

The EPPD’s investment in professional development continues throughout an officer’s career, with ongoing training that enhances skills and decision-making capabilities.

Joining the Ranks: Careers with the El Paso Police

A career with the El Paso Police Department offers:

  • A journey of leadership, substantial responsibilities, and the chance to make a meaningful impact in the community

  • Financial incentives, such as a 6% premium on base salary for night shift officers

  • The opportunity to join the ranks of the EPPD

To start your journey, submit an online application through the City of El Paso Careers website.

Following the application, qualified candidates are notified via email and scheduled to take a series of assessments, including:

  • A written examination that tests essential law enforcement skills

  • Medical examination

  • Physical examination

  • Psychological examination

These assessments are conducted to ensure each candidate is fit for the demanding role of a police officer.

For those who choose to wear the badge, a career with the EPPD is an opportunity to be part of a tradition of service and excellence.

Upcoming Events and Community Outreach

The El Paso Police Department actively engages with the local community through a vibrant calendar of events. These upcoming gatherings, including ‘Coffee with a Cop’, the ‘West Texas Vettes at Rudolph Chevrolet’, and the ‘American Grappling Federation Jiu Jitsu Tournament’, offer opportunities for residents to connect with EPPD officers in informal and enjoyable settings. Community outreach is a cornerstone of the department’s philosophy, with volunteer opportunities that allow members to play a direct role in supporting EPPD’s mission.

In addition to social events, the EPPD organizes career-focused initiatives such as the ‘Reliant Hiring Expo’ and the written exam for the 138th cadet class, assisting those interested in law enforcement careers to take the first steps toward their professional goals. Whether it’s through attending events or volunteering, the EPPD encourages the community to become active participants in fostering a safe and vibrant El Paso.

Stay Informed and Engaged

The El Paso Police Department is dedicated to maintaining open lines of communication with the community it serves. To achieve this, the department has launched a mobile app that allows residents to submit anonymous tips and access a variety of police services with ease. By staying informed about EPPD’s initiatives and upcoming events through the ‘Join EPPD’ events webpage, community members can engage with the department and stay abreast of opportunities to support and collaborate.

Keeping the community informed is paramount, and the EPPD’s efforts to provide information and resources are designed to empower residents. From learning about neighborhood watch programs to following the department’s progress on social media, there are numerous ways for El Pasoans to remain connected and contribute to the city’s safety and well-being.

Leadership Spotlight: The Chief of Police

At the helm of the El Paso Police Department is Chief Peter Pacillas, who assumed leadership following the passing of the former chief, Greg Allen, in January. Chief Pacillas brings a wealth of experience to the role, with a distinguished 38-year tenure at the EPPD, including approximately 14 years as assistant chief. His leadership philosophy is firmly rooted in fairness, accountability, and respect for human dignity, values that he actively fosters within the department’s culture.

Commanding over 1,130 sworn officers and approximately 270 civilian personnel, the eppd chief, Chief Pacillas, at the age of 60, leads with a vision that is both strategic and empathetic. His steadfast commitment to the department’s mission and his depth of experience guide the EPPD as it navigates the complexities of modern law enforcement, ensuring that the police force remains an exemplar of service and integrity.

Addressing Concerns: Tackling Misconduct and Accountability

The El Paso Police Department is resolute in its approach to addressing misconduct and ensuring accountability within its ranks. Chief Pacillas has made it clear that allegations against officers are taken seriously, with a thorough evaluation process that includes administrative and criminal responses when necessary. The department’s Disciplinary Review Board and Shooting Review Board, which involve community members, an HR director, and officers, are instrumental in ensuring a fair and comprehensive review of police conduct.

These review boards send their recommendations to the chief of police for final consideration, reflecting a commitment to transparency and due process. Efforts by advocacy groups like the Border Network aim to increase community involvement and oversight, further strengthening the department’s accountability.

Under Chief Pacillas, the following initiatives have been prioritized:

  • Addressing sexual misconduct

  • Improving transparency

  • Establishing a cross-functional team to address racial disparities in law enforcement, following the El Paso Strong Resolution.

Learn more, visit Police Policies & Procedures – City of El Paso.


The El Paso Police Department stands as a paragon of dedication, evolution, and community partnership, continually striving to uphold the safety and well-being of the city’s residents. From its historical roots as a frontier force to its modern incarnation as a technologically advanced and socially responsive institution, the EPPD’s journey is one of growth and resilience. Honoring the legacy of its fallen heroes, the department draws strength from the past as it looks to the future.

In the pursuit of excellence, the EPPD remains steadfast in its commitment to training, development, and accountability, ensuring that its officers are well-equipped to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. As we reflect on the narratives shared, it is clear that the El Paso Police Department’s story is not merely one of law enforcement, but of a community united in the shared goal of creating a safe, just, and thriving Sun City.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the mission of the El Paso Police Department?

The mission of the El Paso Police Department is to protect life, work in partnership with the community, and enforce the law to improve the quality of life in El Paso. Their goal is to ensure safety and well-being for the community.

How does the EPPD engage with the community?

The EPPD engages with the community through initiatives like the Neighborhood Watch Program, Coffee With A Cop, educational outreach programs, and by partnering with citizens through the Citizen Advisory Board. These efforts aim to foster positive relationships and open communication with the community.

What kind of training do EPPD recruits undergo?

EPPD recruits undergo a 43-week training at the El Paso Police Academy, covering criminal law, investigation techniques, defensive tactics, and firearm proficiency, among other skills. This comprehensive program prepares them for the demands of law enforcement.

How can I learn about upcoming EPPD events and initiatives?

To learn about upcoming EPPD events and initiatives, visit the ‘Join EPPD’ events webpage and download the EPPD’s mobile app for accessing police services and submitting anonymous tips.

What measures has the EPPD taken to ensure officer accountability and address misconduct?

The EPPD has taken measures such as establishing Disciplinary and Shooting Review Boards with community involvement, addressing sexual misconduct and racial disparities, and emphasizing accountability and reform. These initiatives aim to ensure officer accountability and address misconduct within the department.

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