LHISD Chief ready to get to work
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
When it came time to hire a future police chief for Liberty Hill ISD, Superintendent Steve Snell wanted to make sure he found just the right person.
That new person, Ekram Sharif Mezayek, is eager to bring his 25 years of law enforcement experience to Liberty Hill and show that he was the right choice.
“I am so excited to have this opportunity,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be part of something like this and I’m getting my opportunity. I’m very excited to work with the people in Liberty Hill.”
Mezayek plans to call on his years of experience, including his four years as a School Resource Officer (SRO) and more than a decade supervising and training officers in the SRO program.
The chance to work in schools with students has always been a very appealing part of law enforcement for Mezayek.
“I enjoy working with the schools and I enjoy working with students and parents,” he said. “It’s always been kind of my niche. I started in 1997 working with students and of course I left and came back and I’ve always wanted to be involved in a small district. It really appeals to me more as a chance to get to know the kids and the families.”
In his years working in schools, and his 11 years running the SRO program for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, Mezayek has a clear idea of how school law enforcement practices work best.
“I’ve really adopted the triad concept of education, mentoring and law enforcement,” he said. “I’ve always practiced that and taught my people that. We’re educators, mentors, counselors and we are law enforcement.”
That means relationships are the key to working with students, to build trust and offer support.
“You build the relationships with students and you can change people’s lives at that age,” he said. “It makes a huge difference. It makes them more comfortable about coming and talking to you about issues they’re having, whether they are being bullied or harassed in some way or if they witness a crime. They are more apt then to come talk to you because you are that friendly face and that support they need away from home.”
With so many mental health concerns today, and the challenges of identifying them, mental health is another area relationships can make a huge impact. But it takes engaged officers dedicated to the mission on a school campus.
“Ive had officers who would stand in the corner and not have that kind of relationship,” he said. “I got rid of those people. They are not effective in the schools. You have to have officers who will create relationships. They have to do that to be good at their job.”
It is never all high fives and pats on the back, however, for officers on campuses.
“Occasionally, we have to take law enforcement action, but 90 percent of our job is to get in there and do the education and mentoring part,” Mezayek said.
There is a long list of tasks ahead as Mezayek steps into a position where he will build the Liberty Hill ISD Police Department from the ground up. Most critical long term is hiring the right staff to meet the needs of the district and carry out the philosophy of the new department.
“It is going to be very important to get the right officers in this position to make it a successful organization,” he said. “As soon as we start looking for officers, what’s important to me is they have experience already working with students, maybe even to the effect of already having certifications to be school officers in the State of Texas. I’d like to find someone who has a background in mental health and bring that to Liberty Hill also.”
He officially begins work July 1, when he will begin the process of drafting policies and procedures that will then require the approval of Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).
“That will take a lot of work and you have to make policies, justifications for the police department, memorandums of understanding for the overlapping jurisdictions, which will be Liberty Hill and Williamson County,” he said. “You have to set up 24-hour communications services with the Williamson County Communications Center.”
Becoming a department on paper is a big hurdle, but not the last for the department LHISD hopes to have operational by the time school starts.
“Once that’s blessed by TCOLE you have to work with Texas Department of Public Safety and then amongst all that you have to worry about uniforms and cars and have offices and equipment,” Mezayek said. “It is a huge undertaking and not going to be an overnight thing.”