Sunday Sitdown

Michael Merchant, Lovelady ISD Police Chief

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

The Messenger continues its Sunday Sitdown reports where we speak with our local pastors, educators, businesspeople, students and interesting people of all walks of life in Houston County. To see the full video interview, please click on the link below. The Messenger would like to thank Quality Paint and Body in Crockett for sponsoring this week’s edition.

Tell us about the process of setting up the new police department for Lovelady ISD.

“Well, the main thing is it was a team effort. When I came here, the superintendent Mrs. Tullos had a lot of stuff already started and getting put in place. And so when they hired me I had a pretty good start on what I needed to do. You have to get approval through TCOLE, which is the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. There has to be documentation that the school board voted on it and approved it. We have to prove the funding for the department. We also have to write nine different policies that have to be submitted, along with other paperwork in you have to get done and that has to get submitted. After they look at all that paperwork, they come down and do an inspection. We had to have an evidence safe and other requirements. I submitted it on a Friday and the inspector told me, ‘I will be coming through your area on Tuesday, so I’ll just stop for an inspection!’ So it we had to overnight everything to Austin and the inspector called her captain when she got here and he gave her approval for all the documentation, she did our inspection and we got approved.”

What was the idea behind forming a police department for the school district?

“We’re 15 miles south of Crockett. It’s a large county! The sheriff’s department does a great job. We work very closely with them and I work with Crockett police as well. Chief Smith is great. But we are out here kind of on our own. The best case scenario for me is if a deputy or a trooper may be in the area, God forbid something happens. A patrol vehicle was very difficult to find. I spent hours and hours on the phone searching to find a unit we could have that could sit out in front of the school so people would know there’s a law enforcement presence, which is a deterrent or can be a deterrent. That was probably the hardest part, finding the equipment we needed to get the department started. The DPS was nice enough to donate a radar to us, so we started traffic enforcement out there. And then the other difficult part is that there’s a lot of legislation going through in Austin right now on school safety and school security. Keeping up with the laws and also, recognizing our shortcomings and keeping up with standards.”

How has the job been for you?

“It’s been great and I’ve gotten very positive feedback from all the kids and parents, telling me they feel relieved we have an officer on campus now all the time. The kids have been great –  elementary kids when you go up and down the hallway, you get high fives and it’s a good feeling. It’s a different type of stress than doing a criminal investigation. I’ve got 30 years service and hopefully I’ll be here for quite a while as long as everything goes well. It makes my day to engage in and talk with the kids. It’s a good feeling knowing you can be a positive role model for some of these kids, when they may not have dealt with police or law enforcement. So I try to be positive in that way and show them police officers are people, too.”

What are your plans for the summer and into the next school year?

“My plans for the summer is to do some training. This position requires some specialized training and I must get it all done. They have what they call a ‘chief school’ you have to go to. I try to do my training during Christmas break or the summer since it’s just me here. I don’t want to miss any school. Next year, we’re updating our fencing. We’ve got some more automatic door openers with little key fobs and we’re getting all that put in. And keeping up with all that legislation.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

Similar Posts