Shamara Garner has been sworn in as Houston Independent School District’s new Chief of Police, making her the first woman to hold the spot as top cop.
The official change in command took place Friday, Aug. 18, at Yates High School in front of a host of law enforcement officers, family, friends, and former HISD Chief of Police Pedro Lopez. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee presented Garner with a proclamation for her years of service and dedication to the Houston community.
A native Houstonian, Garner spent the last 28 years with the Houston Police Department. She left HPD as a lieutenant in the Child Abuse Unit and attributes her experience and the relationships she formed in the community as having prepared her for her new role as the HISD PD Chief.
What safety measures can students and staff expect to see as they return to school?
Chief Garner: We want to make sure that we continue to do what we’ve been doing in terms of visitor management, making sure that we interact with those who come onto our campuses, make sure we know who they are and why they’re there and that they get their badges, and we make sure they go through set protocols.
We’re making sure that we’re having our drills in line with state policy so that we are prepared for any type of event. We have officers readily available, as we always have, and we’ll make sure we keep doing what we’ve been doing and what we should do.
What advice do you have for parents and students regarding back-to-school safety?
Chief Garner: Be aware of your surroundings. For walkers, make sure you’re adhering to traffic laws. Always have one earbud out so that you can be cognizant of what’s going on around you. If you ride your bike, come to a complete stop at crosswalks, pay attention to your crossing guard, and look both ways before you cross the street.
For parents, talk to your kids. Let them know that it’s OK to seek out a police officer or a counselor if they receive information about a safety risk. That’s not snitching—it’s being safe. It’s incumbent upon us, our law enforcement and staff, to create environments where kids feel safe to come and share that information with us. The district has anonymous tip lines whereby information can be shared. Have conversations with your kids. Be mindful of what’s being said on social media. The whole “see something, say something” thing—take it a step further: do something.
What are your goals for the district?
Chief Garner: My goal is to make sure that the department is going in the direction that it should, and that we are the most proficient and the most professional department that we can be.
To borrow an acronym that was introduced to me by a previous chief: TREAT.
We want to be Transparent in our dealings, we want to be Respectful and Respected, we want to be Engaging, Accountable, and all of those things put together equals Trust.