Lake Houston area communities can rest assured that the Humble ISD Police Department is on the job 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Contrary to popular belief, they are not a security agency, but are sworn peace officers and fully vested law enforcement officers. The group of about 50 officers and 20 support staff keep the school district safe. The officers are specially trained in dealing with juvenile matters and the de-escalation of threats.
District spokesperson Jamie Mount said, “Just like every police department, Humble ISD Police focuses on protecting life and property and maintaining public safety, peace and order.”
The Humble ISD Police Department is one of only a few school district police forces with the status of Contract Training Provider, issued by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. The department is recognized for their expertise in juvenile matters, and officers from many other organizations regularly attend the frequently offered in-house training and continuing education at Humble ISD.
The department head, Chief Solomon Cook, has seen the district grow and change. Cook says that district growth is one of the challenges, making sure his police force can cover the ever-expanding district. Not only do they cover schools during the day, they also cover year-round evening and weekend sporting events and other activities at all schools.
Technology has also changed. Cook remembers the lessons from 9/11, when one of the biggest communications issues was lack of radio interoperability.
“The fire department couldn’t talk to police, and police couldn’t talk to EMS. Everyone was on their own island,” Cook said.
The chief has incorporated those lessons into his own operations; he has radio interoperability with other local law enforcement agencies like the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's Office, among others. They use common channels and have interlocal agreements to share channels. Cook says the turf battles over jurisdiction are a thing of the past. Agencies work together much better these days. “The first thing they ask when they show up is ‘Chief, what do you need?’”
Nearby law enforcement agencies frequently work together. Cook says it is customary for his officers to work with the City of Houston, the City of Humble, Precinct 3 and 4 constables, Houston Metro Transit Police, and even the game warden. Massive area construction has displaced wildlife, and Cook gets calls from time to time about injured deer on campus or feral hog sightings.
Cook says there is good rapport among all area law enforcement agencies and that they coordinate very well. One recent example involved a sheriff’s department pursuit of a suspect, who ended up near a school. Harris County communicated that information to Humble ISD Police and they secured the perimeter around that school, just to be on the safe side. In March, a suspect jumped a fence in Kingwood while fleeing, and ended up in an area between a middle school and elementary school. Cook secured the perimeter of both schools. In the case of an unfortunate 2017 suicide on one of the campuses, Cook called in the Harris County Sheriff’s Department for their expertise in crime scene investigation.
“Eight years ago, we had some Atascocita High School students who thought it would be funny to set off a chemical agent bomb in a trash can in front of the school,” Cook said. He had seven officers there in five minutes to secure the school. Then he called the FBI.
Cook says the biggest threat is the unknown threat, which is why his motto is “Today could be the day.” He trains his officers to anticipate a threat from anywhere. Having such a big district with close proximity to a major airport, rail system and major highways requires constant preparedness and vigilance.
“You never know when we might have a plane crash or train derailment that could affect one of our schools,” Cook said.
In 2013, the police department moved from its former location near the Charles Street Stadium to its current Emergency Operations Center on Wilson Road. The 2008 bond funded the current facility, which includes a dispatch center, adult and juvenile processing areas, an evidence storage room, and training and conference rooms.
Humble ISD Police investigate every tip related to student and school safety. They do this from the communications and dispatch center at their main facility. The center is in need of a technology upgrade for a more robust call center, and to obtain better equipment to monitor news, weather, the Department of Public Safety, and all the campuses. The $575 million bond just passed by local voters allocates $5.9 million for these upgrades. The bond money will be used to expand the dispatch center, and build on to the evidence rooms to hold more evidence which is required by law to be kept. Additional parking and more room to store police equipment is also planned.
One of the major upgrades will be the addition of facilities so that officers can stay at the center during round-the-clock operations. Cook said this need became very evident during Harvey. The chief said that normally officers would shelter in place until the threat of danger had passed, then go out and survey damage to district property. Harvey changed that. The storm presented an all-hands-on-deck scenario. Cook says they were inundated by calls from district employees and residents who needed rescue help. Some of the $5.9 million in upgrades will be done to be prepared should a catastrophic event once again hit the community. While not specifically requested in the bond package, the district is looking to incorporate a north substation room in the new Ag barn (also approved in the $575 million bond) to give officers a place to work when dealing with matters on the far north end of the district.