Police at border have eye on ‘border operations centers’

  • Local, state and federal resources plan to work together in operation centers
  • The first center was built by Department of Defense contractors
  • Approval of the $5 million dollar building will be up for a vote Tuesday

(NewsNation) — The sheriff’s office in Cochise County, Arizona, is taking matters into its own hands, citing an area officers say is abused by smugglers and ignored by the Biden administration.

For the first time along the southern border, local, state and federal resources are coming together under one roof without any federal financial backing. Together, they’ll operate a first-of-its-kind border operations center in response to the dangers officers face.

The first center was built by Department of Defense contractors. Approval of the $5 million dollar building will go in front of the board Tuesday, where the sheriff expects it to pass without issue. The funding was granted under former Governor Doug Ducey.

Recently, the sheriff’s office released footage of a Dec. 18 traffic stop that turned into a wrestling match with a suspected smuggler who was a U.S. citizen.

About 1,500 smugglers enter Cochise County each month. Many drivers are recruited via social media and told not to stop, leading to deadly pursuits, according to police.

“They come down here and they pick up four or five migrants,” Watkinds said. “That’s $10-12,000 and then they drive back to Phoenix. You can’t combat that.”

That’s why the small department is joining forces with local police and federal partners, including border patrol and Homeland Security Investigation agents, to create a border operations center. 

“Our operational tempo is exploding.,” Watkins said. “We need to bring in more resources to combat our daily problem.”

The county is currently experiencing between two and ten high-speed pursuits daily. While the operations center may offer some relief, Watkins says he doesn’t think it can combat the growing problem without the help of the federal government.

“To be engaged and in a battle that I know I can’t win, it’s for me— I have accepted it— but for our deputies it’s very disheartening,” he said.

The video shows the moment an oncoming car plows into the pair fighting on the roadway — killing the suspected smuggling driver and nearly killing the deputy. Seven deaths were reported in the county last year in connection with human smugging.

“We do see them resisting arrest,” said Cochise County Sheriff Commander Bob Watkins. “They flee almost every traffic stop or every pursuit, but it is rare that they fight to that degree.”

The driver has not been caught.


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