The founder of the musical trio "Los Oficiales de Tijuana", officer Alberto Licona Castellón has more than 50 years as an officer, which is why he was the inspiration for the monument to the police located in the Secretariat of Security and director of the foundation Brazos Abiertos.
Who is Alberto Licona?
Although he has been offered retirement numerous times, on December 5 he will celebrate 52 years as an officer, which he proudly boasts. And on November 15 he will be 80 years old. Licona's eyes reflect an attentive and restful perseverance. He is originally from the state of Hidalgo. He began his university studies in journalism in Mexico City. He left his university studies at the Faculty of Political Science because of an invitation to tour with the musical group Los Dandys to earn some money. This brought him to Tijuana when he was in his twenties, a place that welcomed him.
Once in the city, Officer Licona became interested in policing motorcycles, as well as his affinity for thrill rides. Since then, he has held a wide variety of positions. He has worked as a cruiser in traffic control, also as a motorized traffic officer and later as a patrolman.
At other times he held the position of deputy chief and as chief in the San Antonio, Playas and Otay stations. For 10 years he was commander and served as deputy director on two occasions. He worked as general director and even served as internal director in the Osuna Millán administration. "I've been in every position," Licona states with pleasure that his journey through the corporation has been entirely satisfactory. He also earned the Officer of the Year award in 2012.
He is a father of two and has been married for 52 years, a figure he will never forget because it is the same amount of time he has been in the profession. One of his sons shared the pleasure of assuming the position of police officer, but when he was hit by a firearm that, although it was blocked by his bulletproof vest, almost took his life. Officer Licona could not tolerate that the life of one of his sons was at risk, however, he maintains his commitment to his profession as unappealable.
Licona has maintained his musical affinities throughout his life, even today, he participates with a family choir in a small church located in Colonia Libertad. A guitar player, he founded the first rondalla of the police called Los Tenientes de Tijuana, which debuted in 1971. This group is still going strong. He has collaborated with church choirs in various religious events, and even recorded an album of sacred music, consisting of praises for masses.
Perseverance in his job
Officer Licona is recognized for his practice of diverse values such as honesty, respect and the untiring pleasure of serving the community, an attitude evident in the uprightness of his attitude. This constitutes the fundamental vocation for the profession as well as the willingness to undergo constant training.
Likewise, Officer Licona is proud to say that he has a clean record without ever having had a delay, nor a mishap that has forced him to deprive someone else of his life in the exercise of his profession. The perseverance has been difficult because of all that police work implies, such as getting up at dawn in a patrol car or enduring the cold. But he has managed to stay motivated by the pleasure of being a police officer and by being an example for his family.
The officer describes the priceless satisfaction he experiences when he receives thanks from civilians for protecting them from crossfire or other risky situations. But he also takes great pleasure in simple, everyday gestures, such as receiving greetings from children.
Alberto Licona Castellón is still active as head of special events. For him, the job has never been monotonous. "There is something new every day." Although he knows it is dangerous, he remains enthusiastic about the complexity and enriching diversity involved in his commitment to the well-being of the community.
"Brazos Abiertos" is another driving force in his life that highlights his altruistic work. The foundation is an initiative that has changed the lives of numerous families. This comprehensive support to women widows of members of the police who have died in the line of duty, has had several achievements and satisfactions.
"Brazos Abiertos" arose as a concern of Mother Antonia, she had a vision in a dream that she had to help the less favored, as testified by Officer Licona. She was an Irish-American Catholic nun and activist who chose to reside and care for the inmates at the maximum security La Mesa prison in this city. Mother Antonia held reflective talks with inmates to strengthen their values for 35 years.
Officer Licona, through a memory, was transported to an occasion when one of the inmates took the life of an officer, leaving behind a widow and her son. Since Mother Antonia knew both of them, she felt the need to console the woman, while continuing her work with the inmates. In this way, sensitive to both sides, she was able to address the problem more effectively.
The previous experience motivated Mother Antonia to found the "Brazos Abiertos" association, which she soon entrusted to officer Alberto Licona. They met during a riot that took place in the Tijuana penitentiary, a tragic event (like a scene out of a movie), in which the director and deputy director of the institution were killed.
That day the inmates were armed and the officers tried to control the situation without success, sticking to the walls to avoid being shot. Officer Licona recalls with dismay that, despite having been warned of the danger, Mother Antonia stood in the middle of the din caused by the crossfire and, raising her hands, shouted: "Mijos, no tiren" (My children, don't shoot). Then the shooting stopped and she climbed the necessary floors to speak directly to the prisoners, getting them to surrender their weapons. She was called "Angel of the prison".
Officer Licona tells this anecdote with deep emotion. The altruism they shared united them to work as a team. Through these visions, it became clear that the organization's goal is to help families integrally, from legal and psychological assistance to supervision in the continuation of their studies.
"Brazos Abiertos" has been in charge of more than 100 families. Often the children of deceased officers see their academic preparation cut short due to lack of resources. Although Agent Licona is aware that a parent cannot be replaced, he encourages, as a basic dynamic of the foundation, the close accompaniment of this process. He pays special attention to the moments when students stray. Thus, the officers act as a father figure to keep them focused.
To achieve this, school supplies are provided whenever necessary. Also, during the year they are supported with other requests they may have, such as support with uniforms or other electronic items such as tablets, which are in demand in today's education.
This has been of benefit to train various professionals, from dentists, accountants, to lawyers. They have been interested in giving back to the organization by serving as organizers at various events. Officer Licona smiles as he says that he has never had any behavioral problems or academic dropouts with the children he accompanies into adulthood.
Among other activities that the organization also carries out are various festivities throughout the year, such as Children's Day, where they deliver toys; gifts on Mother's Day and Christmas celebrations; as well as turkeys at the end of the year.
The association was legally established on April 15, 1997, when it was registered before a public notary. Most of the families receive a specific amount every two weeks by debit that serves as "a kind of educational scholarship so that the children do not drop out of school," says Licona.
There are currently no programs that provide support to the families of members of the Municipal Security and Citizen Protection Secretariat, which is why the problem is approached from an integral perspective. The family is assisted with health issues, as well as with the connection to adequate psychological assistance, even for the mothers or fathers of the officers who lost their lives. They also provide guidance on legal procedures to carry out a proper funeral.
The officer explains that the causes of widowhood are not always death by service. However, in the period from 2009-2011, more than 50 officers died, several of them colleagues dear to Licona's heart. At the moment, "Brazos Abierto" does not have the budget necessary to meet the established goals, due to the fact that the pandemic has generated difficulties in obtaining resources. However, Officer Licona remains committed to continue providing support to families in need.
It should be noted that the sculpture named the "Memorial del Policía" located in the C2 building of the Secretariat of Public Security, formerly located in the plaza of the Municipal Palace, was based on Licona as a model for its elaboration in 2004 by an association of officers. This monument required a 3-year effort to be completed.
Alberto Licona believes that he will soon accept retirement. However, he will still continue to participate in contributing to social welfare as much as possible, either with donations or by supporting schools. The officer asks society for greater understanding of the police, who daily expose themselves, on the front line, to various risks to support the community.
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