Photo: Erika Gandara
In a Mexican town of around 9,000, one police officer stands alone. Erika Gándara, 28, is now the sole officer in the town of Guadalupe. This Juarez Valley town has been riddled with violence, and with her semi-automatic weapon, an AR-15, and her bullet-proof vest, she is the town’s only protection.
When Gándara joined the department as a dispatcher in June of 2009, she joined eight officers on the police force. Within a week of joining, one officer was shot and killed, and the other seven were frightened off and resigned. The final officer left this past June, and no one has come forward to join.
“I am here out of necessity,” says Gándara.
Gándara is unmarried and has no children, and she joins the increasing number of female law enforcement officers in Juarez Valley towns. In a Praxedis Guerrero, Marisol Valles García, a 20-year-old college student, made international headlines when appointed Praxedis’ police chief. She works with a force made up of 12 women and two men. Gándara has seen no such publicity, and Guadalupe is a substantially larger town.
Gándara went through no academy and has had no formal police training, but she says, given the corruption of many on Mexico’s police forces, she’s “better off alone than in bad company.” She says that, despite her meager salary of $7,000 a year, she is not the least bit susceptible to bribes, though the same cannot be said of a number of officers in the country who are working with or for drug cartels.
While a dozen or so soldiers patrol outside her town, Gándara is primarily on her own inside the town.
The people of the town are still fearful of attacks and kidnappings and continue to leave for larger cities like those in West Texas or Mexico’s Juarez, despite its own violence issues.