A former brick layer turned lawyer and executive assistant police chief in Houston has decided to give up retirement with the hope of becoming chief in Fort Worth.
Kirk Munden, 55, who lives in Malakoff in northeast Texas, is one of six finalists for the job.
A retired 33-year-veteran of the Houston Police Department, Munden has been spending his days building monkey cages and mowing grass at an animal sanctuary near his home. The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch is a large, diverse animal sanctuary with more than 1,000 domestic and exotic animals, according to its website.
Though he finds peace working with animals, Munden said he realized a year into retirement that maybe it wasn’t his time to step down from law enforcement.
His love for policing was immediate, when he saw the camaraderie and the difference he was making.
“There are intrinsic rewards to having a public service job,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t the cash. It was meaningful contributing to society.”
Munden decided to retire at 54 because his pension allowed him to do so, he said. He also noted he didn’t want to get in the way of young officers looking at his job.
“Watching what seems to be happening in the country — I spoke about being a part of a group that shares camaraderie — I feel like I’m not pulling my share of the load. I retired right before this got ugly,” Munden said.
He said he still believes most Americans want safe neighborhoods and support police.
Former Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead said he knows of Munden from annual training meetings in San Antonio.
“I was always impressed with his demeanor and his conversations at the state level,” Halstead said. “There would be like 30-40 of us and he stood out. He was very, very impressive.”
The president of the Houston Police Officer’s Union said he can’t think of anyone in Houston’s 5,400-member police department who doesn’t believe Munden was an outstanding officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and executive assistant chief during his 33 years.
“If your city doesn’t pick him you are losing out,” said Ray Hunt, union president. “If I was the mayor of Houston he would be here right now as the police chief.”
Munden joined the department in 1981 after he had dropped out of college in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and was making a living laying brick patios. His four friends heard that Houston had been recruiting so they applied. He was the only one that got in.
Then in 1999 while working at the Houston department with two kids he took a law school entrance exam on a “lark” and got in. He practiced family, personal injury and probate law while working at the department, but found he couldn’t do both well so he stopped practicing law.
Houston Police Sgt. John Yencha worked with him as a fellow sergeant on the “busiest patrol unit in the city,” and later under him when Munden was promoted, Yencha said.
“Police chiefs become political animals and the average policeman out there doesn’t like that ... but he always found a way to bridge the gap,” Yencha said.
As one of four executive assistant chiefs, Munden also handled all of patrol functions within the patrol division and supervised three assistant chiefs.
He was a finalist for Houston chief in 2009.
“I wasn’t sure I was ready for the job,” he said. “But it was an honor to be a finalist then, and it’s an honor now.”
Background in brief
Education: Sam Houston State University, bachelor’s of science in law enforcement, 1995; University of Houston, law degree, 1999.
Past jobs: patio brick layer, early 1980s; hired at the Houston Police Department in 1981, promoted to sergeant in 1986, lieutenant in 1990, captain in 1995, assistant chief in 2005 and executive assistant chief in 2009. Munden also practiced law briefly during his time at the Houston department.