Yorktown police chief plans to restore department
July 12, 2017 at 9:57 p.m.
Updated July 12, 2017 at 10:50 p.m.
YORKTOWN - Daniel Cortez isn't a surgeon, but he is looking at his new position with the Yorktown Police Department as triage.
"We're looking at what the major problems are and trying to tackle those first," he said.
Cortez, 50, is the new police chief in Yorktown. He was appointed a few days after his predecessor, Randall Snyder, resigned after less than two months on the job. Snyder turned in his resignation to the city in April to accept a job opportunity in the Rio Grande Valley that had a higher salary. Snyder was the full-time replacement for longtime police chief Paul Campos, who was arrested in September 2016 on suspicion of tampering with evidence.
Cortez, who was hired by Snyder in March to help improve the department, was hired internally after working as a patrol officer in Yorktown for two months. He was recommended by Snyder to take over his position, Cortez said, and after an interview with city officials, was appointed.
Becoming the police chief was unexpected, Cortez said.
"I knew what needed to be done, and I thought I was in the best position to do what has to be done right now," he said.
Cortez brings with him more than 20 years of law enforcement experience. The San Benito native served in the U.S. Air Force from 1987 to 1990, and he was stationed in England, Tacoma, Wash., and served in Panama when the U.S. invaded the country to overthrow military dictator Manuel Noriega.
During his time in the Air Force, Cortez served in the security police and continued to pursue a law enforcement career once he was no longer on active duty. He was employed with the Harlingen Police Department for 18 years, where he served in a variety of positions - patrol officer, traffic enforcement, motorcycle officer, traffic reconstruction, in the evidence room and in the crime scene unit.
He was also the president of the Harlingen Peace Officers and Law Enforcement Association for about 10 years. In that position, he was able to help get collective bargaining in place to raise the pay for Harlingen peace officers and firefighters.
He retired in April 2013, but returned to law enforcement two years later as a full-time senior officer for the city of Rio Hondo Police Department to help improve the department.
From there, he was brought in to Yorktown by Snyder to do the same - to improve the department from the inside.
"I am in a position of both learning how the town and county work, while also looking to update and improve the department internally," Cortez said.
What that means, he said, is updating the technology the department uses, such as cameras, radio system, and digital record management. Cortez said he plans to apply for state and federal grants next spring to receive newer and more efficient technology for the department. Cortez said he is also working to improve the procedures and technology used in the evidence department.
He said he would also like to hire two more reserve officers to supplement the full-time force, which includes three full-time officers and Cortez.
Cortez said he enjoys Yorktown, calling the town "nice, quiet and charming." And while residents initially viewed Cortez as an outsider, he thinks he is building good rapport with the community. He plans to have meet-and-greets with the community and organize National Night Out, a community-police awareness event, in August.
City Administrator John Barth said he is pleased with Cortez's appointment as the new police chief.
"He's done a great job reaching out to the community and being transparent with the community. He has some good plans in place to improve the department and we look forward to what he'll do for the department," Barth said.
Cortez said he hopes to build trust within the community, not just with his position but with the entire department.
"I'm getting good feedback, and people are now starting to approach me," Cortez said. "We're here to help. All you need to do is call 911, and we will go to you."