HPD Museum’s Chicano Squad display officially dedicated, spotlighting Squad’s history-making achievements, memories

Tom Kennedy, Editor
At the presentation ceremony were, left to right, Councilman Robert Gallegos, Chicano Squad members Raymond Gonzales, Sgt. Jim Montero, and Mayor Sylvester Turner and Javier Avila. Photo by Larry Curley

The chief called them “trailblazers,” the mayor suggested a television series spotlighting their groundbreaking investigations and a Houston City Council member praised their work as rebuilders of the trust between HPD and Houston’s Hispanic communities.

The occasion was the October 11 dedication of the HPD Chicano Squad exhibit at the HPD Museum on the first floor of 1200 Travis.

Certainly the spotlight belonged to the surviving members of the squad, which already had been recognized with City Hall proclamations recognizing the 40th anniversary of the special squad’s formation.

But, shall we say, the “credit” for the renewed interest in the pioneering effort by the Chicano Squad belonged to Councilman Robert Gallegos of the eastside predominately Hispanic District I.

Gallegos funded the exhibit from his district funding mechanism. He joined Mayor Sylvester Turner, Police Chief Art Acevedo and several members of the squad in speaking at the dedication of the exhibit, designed by HPD Museum director Steve Duffy.

The Chicano Squad Display was immediately the subject of pictures and nostalgia. Photo by Larry Curley

“The Chicano Squad’s work was vital,” Councilman Gallegos said. “They solved major cases, had the highest clearance rates, but just as important was their effort to rebuild trust with Houston’s Hispanic community.

“Their trailblazing work helped transform the Houston Police Department into one of the most diverse and community-oriented police departments in the nation. In my opinion, much of that positive transformation was possible thanks to the work of Chicano Squad officers.

“It was my joy to allocate unspent money from the District I office budget to help tell the Chicano Squad’s story, and I couldn’t be prouder that we unveiled this exhibit during Hispanic Heritage Month.”

The formation of the squad came in 1979, a time when the Department’s relationship with the ever-growing Hispanic community was strained due to the Jose Campos Torres police scandal. The Hispanic immigration rate had risen to heightened levels, resulting in a dramatic increase in crimes involving immigrants.

The language and cultural differences made solutions to these crimes almost impossible. Then Police Chief Harry Caldwell, working closely with then Sgt. Jim Montero, decided the best method of dealing with this menace-laced problem was to find patrol officers who grew up in the various Hispanic communities around Houston who had three things in common: devotion to duty, the ability to speak Spanish and knowledge of the local Hispanic communities from which they came.

Amongst the group of members of the HPD Chicano Squad was retired Officer Dee Leal, the second female member of the Squad. Photo by Tom Kennedy

The plan worked!

Over the next three decades the Squad established probably the highest clearance rate amongst HPD divisions. More importantly, they established a long-lasting close relationship between the HPD and the now strong and strident Hispanic community. HPD also has become well known for being the most diverse “majority minority” departments among the nation’s big-city police departments.

Montero was present alongside other original members Cecil Mosqueda, Jose Selvera Jr., and Upe Hernandez. A short time after that original group began its historic work, Officer Raymond Gonzales came on board. In addition, many other later Squad members were present at the dedication.

Retired HPD Officer Dee Cisneros Leal, the second female member of the Squad, was present, a huge smile on her face as she and the others took delight at the special recognition.

Officer Irma Sauceda was the first female. She is deceased.