Fifteen uniformed men and women gathered with friends and family Wednesday at the High School for Law and Justice to be sworn in as the district’s newest law enforcement officers.
The audience cheered after each officer had a shiny silver badge affixed to their uniform by a family member or friend. The new officers walked across the stage proudly, pausing to shake their colleagues’ hands and accept congratulations.
“Before stepping foot on a school campus, please remember that some of our students deal with challenges beyond what you can imagine,” HISD Police Chief Paul Cordova said, offering the officers a few words of advice just before they were officially sworn in. “Remember to have a warm smile and a bit of compassion.”
The new recruits will join more than 200 HISD Police Department officers currently on the force. The department — the only public school district police department in the nation to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies —covers more than 300 square miles and responds to more than 60,000 calls each year.
Cordova administered the oath to Jerry Steptoe, Iliana Fernandez, Anthony Gardner, Rebecca Lerma-Niño, Paul Tran, Nyresse Byrd, Kenneth Green, Josue Niño, Janette Ramirez, Abigail Garcia, James Westhoff, Diamond Merritt, LaReahn Washington, Yarvey Lemon, and Lexer Soto.
Prior to offering the oath, HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan spoke to the officers, stressing the importance of their service to the district.
“Although your work does not take place in the classroom, it’s because of you that our students are able to thrive in a secure learning environment,” Lathan said. “Each one of the officers being sworn in today has worked hard and made a commitment to the call of duty.”
HISD Board of Education President Diana Dávila also expressed her gratitude to the new officers.
“I want to thank you ahead of time for the service and the commitment that you will be giving our students every single day, especially with everything that’s going on in our district and around our country,” Dávila said.
Also in attendance was Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who offered words of support to the HISD Police Department and reminded the new officers about the necessity of their work.
“I would’ve given you a different talk before Parkland, before Santa Fe,” Ogg said. “You are the first responders who protect our kids. This is your sacred duty.”