Q & A: Police Chief Chad Vessels provides insider view of PISD department

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Emma Hutchinson

As part of his regular duties, Chief of police Chad Vessels visits Prosper High. Vessels has been a part of PISD since 2012. “it is our plan and belief that a K-12 student in PISD would have 500 positive interactions with an officer,” Vessels said. “Until I retire, my focus will always be to help those in need, and to always spread a positive message about law enforcement.”

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Reporter’s note:

With recent political issues across the nation, a lot of us may be feeling conflicted or confused. In these times, I realized most of us may not know the Prosper ISD police department that well. They have a big reach in our community. According to their website, the Prosper ISD police department “works cooperatively with Frisco PD, Collin County Sheriff’s Office, Denton County Sheriff’s Office, McKinney PD and Celina PD.” I want students at Prosper High school, including myself, to have a better connection with our officers. I personally haven’t spoken to any officers more than once and I’ve been here for four years. I wanted to change that, so I set out to get to know the officers personally. I was lucky enough that the chief of the department, Chad Vessels, was kind enough to do a personal interview with me. It’s transcribed below.

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“When I first started working for PISD, we didn’t even have a police department. About 3 or 4 years later, we started our own police department. I’ve seen (significant changes) in our students and connections, positive interactions with police officers, and the support that they provide just beyond the school day. Many times, they’re going into homes if kids are struggling to check on them, which I think is something really unique and special about Prosper.””

— Dr. Holly Ferguson

 

My words are in bold and Vessels’ answers are in italics.

I’d like to start with two questions, and you can pick which you’d rather answer first. What has been your most successful moment as a police officer, where you felt like you had achieved exactly what you set out for? And if that’s too specific, what originally drew you to the career path of a police officer?

“I was originally drawn to this profession at a young age with the simple mind frame of wanting to help people. When I was a freshman in high school, I had already decided that I either wanted to be a high school teacher/coach or a police officer. When I had the opportunity to work in Prosper ISD, I felt like I was in exactly the right place.”

 

Were there any defining factors that helped you choose the PISD Police Department?

“When I first toured the ISD in 2012 and began meeting the students and staff, I knew this was right where I wanted to be. From the very beginning everyone was so welcoming and made it feel like home.”

 

What do you feel are your greatest strengths as police chief?

“I feel like the No. 1 quality in any leader, regardless of your title, is the way you treat and connect with the people that you are charged to lead. I feel like my greatest strength as a leader is to be able to connect with each officer individually, and to make each officer feel like a valued member of our department.”

 

Are there any programs or projects the department is currently working on regarding our community?

“Our department is always trying to find new ways to connect with our students in Prosper ISD. Currently at the elementary level, we are working on our safety tips of the month. In this, you will see a different officer each week with a tip for the current month’s topic.”

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“I do get to work closely with Chief Vessels. There is seldom a day that goes by that we aren’t texting, or talking on the phone about a situation in Prosper ISD. What I enjoy most is that he knows how to be serious and to laugh. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine and Chief Vessels knows that and lives it. (he) has implemented a structure and set a high bar for all who work in our police department. Our department is setting the standard for school based law enforcement in Texas and the nation.””

— Dr. Gregory Bradley

 

What is it like being part of the PISD police department? Is there a strong sense of community, or do officers see themselves more as individuals?

“I feel like our department is well-connected and has great morale. The best thing about being part of this department is everyone gets along, and there is a strong sense of family.”

 

What are the more difficult aspects of being chief of the department?

“The biggest challenge I have faced since 2014 is the growth. With Prosper ISD being the fastest growing school district in the state of Texas, that growth has translated into our department. In 2014, we were a three-officer department. Now, in 2020, that number has grown to 23.”

 

Have there been any policy changes within the department regarding COVID-19? Have health regulations become harder to keep up with?

“When Prosper ISD switched from in-person learning to an online platform, our police department also made some adjustments. During the spring, our officers worked 12-hour rotating shifts so that we were available to assist students and families in the mornings and evenings.”

 

How has quarantine and other COVID-19 regulations impacted your role as chief within the department?

“With COVID, things have changed daily, and often things change by the hour. As a department leader, you have to be willing to adapt with the constant changes and be able to communicate that to the department.”

 

Has the police department made any changes due to the Black Lives Matter Movement, and as chief, is there anything you’d like to address?

“Our department has a great relationship with the community that we serve. We do not ignore what is going on nationally, but our focus is to build relationships with our local community and to show students (what being a) law enforcement officer is about. We know that we may not be able to address every issue in our nation, but we can affect change here, and it is our plan and belief that a K-12 student in PISD would have 500 positive interactions with an officer. If we can do that, then we will have fostered a relationship that benefits everyone.”

 

What keeps you going during the more difficult moments as a police officer?

“It is always important to remember your ‘why.’ Any time there is controversy surrounding the profession I love so much, I always take a step back and remind myself why I chose this career 18 years ago. Until I retire, my focus will always be to help those in need, and to always spread a positive message about law enforcement.”

 

Does the police department have any thoughts or concerns that you want to make the students of Prosper High school aware of? 

“Our main focus is to protect all students, staff and families of Prosper ISD. Through the course of that, we are very intentional about building positive relationships, holding a high standard of excellence, and making sure that everyone in Prosper ISD feels valued.”