AP NEWS

New Katy police chief to start this month

March 12, 2019

More than 50 years ago the Katy Police Department began under the leadership of a former Department of Public Safety law enforcement officer Pat Adams.

That tradition returns March 18 when Noe Diaz Jr. takes the oath of office to become the city’s fourth police chief. Diaz has worked with the Department of Public Safety for 23 years, the last eight as a Texas Ranger.

“I’m super excited, honored and humbled by the opportunity,” said Diaz, who lives in Katy, after he was unanimously selected by council members at their March 11 meeting to succeed Bill Hastings who retired effective Jan. 15. Hastings had served the last 10 years as police chief in the department where he worked for 32 years.

In reference to Adams, who served as police chief for nearly 30 years, Diaz said, “We came from the same foundation at the state police level — by the far the toughest police department to go work for in any way.”

The Katy department was established in 1967. Adams served as police chief until 1995. Like Adams, Diaz said he’s going to be a longtime chief.

“Courtesy, service, protection is the DPS motto and has been for a long time since 1935,” said Diaz.

He said he would take what he learned and combine it with graciousness and kindness to run the police department. He emphasized “kindness first.”

Diaz identified retention of personnel and growing the department as among his priorities. “Our community is growing,” said Diaz, who said the department needs to keep ahead of the growth. Right now the department has three openings to be filled, he said. In talking of recruiting an officer to the department, he emphasized the positive qualities of the community.

“We have the greatest football team in the state and the greatest band in the state,” he began. The schools and the community are fabulous, he continued. “It’s a very loving and nurturing community.”

Diaz stressed the importance of living in and being responsive to the community.

Prior to the March 11 vote, four members of council and the mayor spoke in support of Diaz and why he is the best choice for police chief. No member of the public spoke at the meeting, unlike the Feb. 25 City Council meeting where some residents expressed concern about what they considered to be the rapid appointment of a new police chief before the May election in contrast with a three-year delay in appointing a city fire chief. On Feb. 25 City Council met in an executive session with Diaz. Though an executive session was on the March 11 agenda, it was not used.

The appointment of a chief was tagged at the Feb. 25 meeting by Ward B Councilman James C. “Jimmy” Mendez, who said he was acting on behalf of his constituents who had expressed concerns about the procedure and the appointment being forced prior to the election. Mendez said he didn’t know the candidate last month and wasn’t prepared to vote on an appointment until he had the information he needed. He said the appointment of the police chief had become an “election football” and it just looked bad.

After having had a chance to meet and talk with Diaz, Mendez said, “He’s a great candidate and I really like him. I found absolutely no reason for him not to be in that position.”

Councilman-at-large Chris Harris said the discussion is not about the process but about a Diaz, a longtime Katy resident. Harris noted that Diaz is recommended by Mayor Chuck Brawner and Hastings, the retired police chief. The councilman added that he had talked with current police officers who supported the appointment. He added that Katy High School football coach Gary Joseph contacted him and vouched for Diaz’s character and said he would be a great police chief.

Harris continued that he’s known Diaz since he was a Texas Highway Patrol trooper, Unit 2121, assigned to Katy, and Harris was a brand-new dispatcher more than 20 years ago. He had already been a Harris County deputy constable when Harris said he met him.

“As a longtime resident he understands the small-town culture and life in the city limits, and serving on the front-line keeping us safe as a deputy, trooper, investigator and Texas Ranger he knows this community. Noe’s small and adult children attend and attended school in Katy, he is definition of what it is to be a Katy resident, he lives, works, plays and worships in this community,” said Harris.

Harris added that Diaz’ leadership is regionally celebrated as he has supervised a number of personnel in law enforcement investigations.

“ I am very happy, confident and glad for a unified city to support Noe Diaz as our top cop and we will have an excellent gentleman serving our community for many years to come,” said Harris.

Ward A Council Member Janet Corte said her study of the appointment founded that people spoke highly of Diaz for his service, honesty, integrity and leadership. She first learned of him through her involvement in the department’s Citizen’s Police Academy last year. “He knows about the duties and responsibilities of a police chief,” she said, and is qualified to lead the department into the future.

Ward A Council Member Frank Carroll III said the personnel decision involved comparing the candidates’ pros and cons and ensuring the public trust in agencies. Carroll described the hiring process as without cajoling and lobbying.

“Here’s the information and you’re all going to have a vote,” he said. He said the position attracted 76 candidates nationwide and officials then concentrated on the top five candidates. Finalists included Assistant Chief Tim Tyler who was named interim chief in January.

Carroll said it wasn’t an easy choice because of the fantastic law enforcement professionals who applied. Diaz placed at the top of the list, added Carroll. Assessments described Diaz as a compassionate leader, and Carroll said he liked Diaz’ answer when asked how he would handle a difficult situation inside and outside the department: “That he would start with prayer.”

“To me, personally, that was important to me,” added Carroll. Diaz turned down opportunities to advance in the DPS because he wanted to stay in Katy, said Carroll. “I saw somebody that truly shared our values,” the councilman added.

Mayor Brawner said he appreciated what the council members brought forward about the appointment process and the candidate.

“We want the best for our city and safe neighborhoods for kids to play in, said Brawner.

The screening process included a five-member panel with four members of the Houston Area Police Chiefs Association and Brawner, a retired Spring Branch Independent School District police chief. Management Connection Inc., a consulting firm based in Bryan-College Station, also assessed leadership skills of the finalists.

According to LinkedIn, Diaz began his public safety career in 1986 when he worked as a correctional officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for eight years. He worked 18 months as a Harris County Precinct 5 deputy constable before joining the DPS. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Houston-Downtown in criminal justice/police science and a master’s degree in criminology from Lamar University.

karen.zurawski@chron.com