Jimmy Womack knows law enforcement and public education well, having combined the two for nearly four decades.
The Mansfield School District Chief of Police since 2013 began his law enforcement career in 1978 with the city of North Richland Hills, followed by stints in Hurst, the Tarrant County Constables Office, and as a contractor with the United States Department of Justice.
A graduate of the Institute of Law Enforcement Administration (formerly the Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute), Womack holds a Master Peace Officers Certification and an Instructors Certification from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
Currently the president of the Texas School District Police Chief's Association, Womack began his work in public education in 1996 in the Arlington School District. He taught criminal justice and law enforcement before being appointed to security specialist in 1998, followed by being named director of security and transportation.
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Prior to being named MISD police chief, Womack was director of transportation and assistant chief of police.
He and wife Lisa, a retired chief of police and currently the deputy director of emergency operations for the Dallas School District, have a son and daughter, along with three grandsons.
MNM: With a school District the size of Mansfield, is it like serving a city within itself?
JW: Policing in MISD is very similar to policing in a city. It is about serving your community. The MISD community is our students, parents, and staff. MISD police are very much committed to community policing. Simply put, we must know our kids, parents, and staff, because they are our MISD community.
MNM: What are the biggest challenges that come with being a school district police chief?
JW: I would say one of the biggest challenges is communicating the district’s vision and the department vision to the police officers. It is important that they are one in the same and the officers understand their role.
MNM: Why is there a need for a separate school district police department, as they are becoming school district more common, particularly in the larger school district?
JW: You are correct in asking why there is a need. More and more, school districts do have their own police departments. There are several reasons for having your own Police Department. One is jurisdictional issues. For example, MISD has campuses/ facilities are in three cities and two counties. Without our own police department, we would need to have contracts with each of those cities and counties.
It is actually more cost effective for a district and taxpayers to have their own police department. MISD Police are part of the MISD family. We are here every day, building relationships and providing a high standard of customer service to the MISD community. Our Officers share the same vision and mission statement as all district employees. Districts that don’t have their own police will never have those relationships and will not be able to provide the customer service that the school community needs and deserves.
MNM: What is the crime you see committed most often?
JW: In MISD it is misdemeanor theft of property.
MNM: Can you tell me about Campus Crimestoppers and how effective is it?
JW: Campus Crimestoppers Program has been around for years. Tipsters call in information to a hotline, Crimestoppers contacts MISDPD, and the investigation begins. Upon the completion of the investigation we contact Crimestoppers with the results. If the tip has positive results then the tipster receives a reward. It is a very effective program that I would like to see it used more often.
MNM: Are you able to handle most things in-house? When would you call on the city PD for assistance, for example?
JW: MISD Police handles all calls for service and all criminal investigations on MISD property. We also investigate all motor vehicle crashes involving district vehicles that occur on public roadways or on private property. There are occurrences and situations that we work with the municipal PD’s on immediate responses and investigations that require joint cooperation.
MNM: What is your and your officers' relationship with the students?
JW: One of the most successful things we can do is to build a positive relationship with our students. Students often come to officers for many different reasons. I always encourage officers to build relationships with students. MISD officers are in the classroom teaching and educating, as well as participating in campus and student events. They also build one-on-one relationships with students. MISD officers understand campus policing is community policing,
MNM: How important is it to have a good relationship with parents?
JW: It is extremely important to have a good relationship with our parents. Many times parents will contact officers seeking assistance with their kids. We are more than happy to assist. We understand that strong parent involvement is key to student success.
MNM: What is your favorite part of the job?
JW: I truly enjoy working with the students and the MISD community. During the school year, I enjoy visiting students in the classrooms, at lunch, special events, and I very seldom miss a varsity football game.
MNM: Any additional thoughts?
JW: The MISD Police Department is committed to The MISD Vision 2020. Our police department mission statement is “Protecting our future by provide a safe learning environment.” In the end, all that is left to say is… "It’s all about the kids.”