Officers Juan Mercado and John Oliva have worked together to serve and protect the people of Mission, Texas, for the past six years as members of the Mission Police Department. They spoke with A&E True Crime about the challenges of being in law enforcement, their most memorable moments on the job and what they like to do for fun. (Hint: It involves Celine Dion.)
What have you learned from the analysts, when you’ve watched Live PD?
Oliva: What I’ve learned from the analysts is how they see [an incident we’re involved in] from an outside point of view. Sometimes they see things that we don’t see, and they’re able to talk about [those things].
Tom Morris Jr. named an incident with a runaway pony as one of his top five moments on the show last year. For people who may have missed it, what was that all about?
Mercado: We received a call about a loose pony in the middle of one of our major roadways; upon arriving to the area, I located two individuals trying to find it. We found it in a field, and it ended up running back into a neighborhood. Then we cornered it into a backyard, and sometime later, the cowboy arrived. He picked up the runaway, took him to a safe location, fed him and took care of him. They were able to locate the owner, who was very happy to get him back.
Do you have any stand-out moments, that you’ve seen on the show?
Oliva: One would probably be when that car tipped over [in Richland County, SC]. [A suspect who was evading police via a high-speed chase, crashed and flipped his vehicle.] He took off running after he grabbed his baby from the backseat of the car. That was shocking and it was something I have never seen—the way [Dep. Chris Mastrianni] handled the situation by himself, [having to wrestle a suspect who is holding a baby to the ground].
What would you say is the best thing about working in Mission?
Mercado: I believe the community is, for the most part, very proud of us. We want to be approachable, and not, Aw, man the cops here. Our department is big on contact with the different neighborhoods and we have block parties and meet-and-greets.
Oliva: The community’s great and very supportive in everything we do and the decisions we make. They trust us and we trust them. The crime rate is down, too, and [we have] the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Crime Stoppers [that help].
Has anything about Live PD surprised you?
Oliva: I thought I would be more scared, nervous about it. But when you’re [working], you forget the cameras are there and just do your work. [We’ve also been surprised by] the amount of support and fan mail we get.
What has your experience with the camera operators been like?
Mercado: The team that’s with us does a great job. From day one they explained that they’re following us. We do whatever we do, and they will not interfere in any kind of way. They’re just like, Hey, you do your job and we’re just the documenting it. You don’t worry about us, we’ll find our way. And after a few days, we just clicked.
What do you do for fun, when you’re not working?
Oliva and Mercado: Barbecue.
What do you barbecue?
Oliva: Any part of a cow.
Mercado: Chicken, chicken fajitas, beef fajitas, steaks, T-bone, rib-eyes, pork chops, ribs.
Oliva: Add on brisket, short ribs, dinosaur ribs—we call them dino ribs. Those are awesome.
What would fans of the show be surprised to know about you?
Oliva: [Mercado] likes karaoke. He is quiet and calm but once you put that mic out, Celine Dion comes on.
Mercado: Once the mic comes on [Oliva] puts on a show. They tried to recruit him to do something in Vegas, but I don’t know [laughing].
What’s your best song?
Oliva: The duet from A Star Is Born, the Lady Gaga song, [“Shallow”].
What is something you’ve learned from being a police officer?
Oliva: When I first started in law enforcement, I was kind of gung-ho; I was very, Why did this guy get released? or Why is he on probation? Then I learned sometimes probation does work. [And] it saves money.
Say [someone gets] two years of probation. During those two years they either do really well and they change their community, or they mess up and they do mandatory jail time. If they change, then that’s great for everybody, that’s great for themselves. I didn’t see it that way when I first started. That’s what we want: rehabilitation—[it’s] more important than anything.
What’s something you find challenging about your work?
Mercado: A lot of times, you’re [responding] to 911 calls or incidents that are somebody’s worst imaginable day: Their loved one is dying or someone just got run over—some of the most horrible things you can think of. We learn to be more sensitive and understanding about these situations.
I like to decompress or release the stress by spending time with my family and by barbecuing or exercising. It helps me cope and relax in my own way. Meditating helps me to keep calm and release some of the tension. It’s very stressful when you roll up on a scene and people are screaming, Help! Help! or ‘The baby’s choking, she’s blue already.’ Those things stay with you.
What has been your proudest moment on the job?
Mercado: I had a baby, a 3-week-old girl, who was choking and basically went blue. The mom and dad were freaking out. I arrived and performed infant CPR. Luckily [the baby was OK]. I have pulled people out of rivers where they were drowning and they come out crying, Thank you for saving my life.
Oliva: Mine are kind of the same as Mercado’s. We [responded to] a fire about four or five years ago and I pulled out a little boy, who was around my brother’s age at the time, and got him medical attention. Unfortunately, his sister didn’t make it.
And just recently I got a message from a girl whom I helped. She was going through some really bad anxiety and depression [after] an accident back in 2016. She was almost disabled from the anxiety. I gave her some breathing techniques, had her calm down and coached her with some combat breathing and grounding and breathing in and out. Two days ago she reached out and thanked me. She said she still uses the techniques I taught her and that she’s come a long way. She said she’s going to veterinary school [and gave me some other updates about her life]. Knowing how much I helped her, made me happy—how I could do [something] for somebody and help change their life around.