Update, 5 p.m., Oct. 2: This story has been updated with new quotes.

Peter Pacillas has been hired as the next El Paso police chief effective immediately, city officials announced on Monday.

Pacillas’ appointment follows a months-long search for a new leader of the department after the death of former longtime Chief Greg Allen.

Pacillas, who served as assistant chief to Allen since 2009, was named interim chief in February ahead of the national search launched in May. In August, the city named four finalists for the role before making a final selection. City officials said 25 candidates applied for the job.

“I look forward to this privilege to humbly lead this organization to work together to solve the problems that we have within the organization so we can serve the community,” Pacillas said at a press conference Monday.

Pacillas said addressing some of the key priorities will be hiring police officers, addressing technology needs and working to address a rise in teen violence since the city ended its curfew ordinance.

The official hiring comes two weeks after the city held a meet and greet with the finalists during a community event at the El Paso Museum of Art.

“I felt that I would be doing this city an injustice by making a very quick decision afterwards,” Interim City Manager Cary Westin said. “It was very calculated and planned on my part that I wanted to take time to reflect on everything to make the final decision for the community.”

Interim City Manager Cary Westin announces the appointment of Pete Pacillas as the new permanent chief of the El Paso Police Department, Monday, Oct. 2. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Under the City Charter, the city manager, not the City Council, appoints the police chief.

“He is no stranger to this community … he has lived and breathed the values and culture of our city his entire life, he has intimate knowledge of our community, its unique challenges and its vibrant diversity makes him the ideal choice to lead our police department going into the future,” Westin said.

Pacillas is a lifelong El Pasoan who graduated from Burges High School. He has served with the El Paso police for 38 years.

Pacillas will oversee a department of more than 1,130 sworn officers and about 270 civilian personnel, as well as a $192 million annual budget. 

The police chief’s salary may range from $121,500 to $239,000 a year, according to the job description. Pacillas will be paid $210,000 a year.

Pacillas takes over the department that has received praise for getting El Paso recognized as one of the safest in the nation. But the Police Department has also received criticism for being a hostile workplace for women.

An El Paso Matters investigation this summer revealed numerous EPPD officers had been accused of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct toward women. Two police supervisors who in August were charged with official oppression for alleged sexual harassment.

Pacillas did not comment on pending investigations against officers, but said the city has a strict “no-tolerance” policy on sexual harassment.

“We adhere to that. One of the things that we negotiated into the union contract is that not only can internal affairs investigate, but also HR (human resources) can be a third party investigator within the El Paso Police Department,” Pacillas said.

Newly-appointed El Paso Police Chief Pete Pacillas says that the safety of El Paso’s youth, as well as reducing traffic fatalities, will be a priority as he begins his tenure, Monday, Oct. 2. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Pacillas also said cooperation will be essential to solving problems within the department.

“What we need to start doing is working together and listening to each other,” he said. “We need to start listening and coming up with solutions for very complex problems.”

El Paso has consistently ranked among the safest cities with populations of more than 500,000 on the FBI standardized crime reporting for more than two decades and over the years has implemented several programs to improve community policing.

Pacillas was appointed as interim chief by former City Manager Tommy Gonzalez. The City Council earlier this year voted to move forward with hiring a search firm for the police chief search after firing Gonzalez. Gonzalez started the search, but Westin took over the process after Gonzalez’s last day in the role at the end of June.

Elida S. Perez is a senior reporter for El Paso Matters. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper Tree and communities...