It has been a good week for Jourdanton Police Chief Eric Kaiser. On Saturday, September 28, Chief Kaiser was recognized for having completed the requirements and certification of Master Peace Officer for the State of Texas. The Master Peace Officer Award is the highest level of recognition granted by the state for law enforcement. The award is based on education and experience in the law enforcement field.
“Over the years I have had different certificates and awards hang in my office, but none of them am I more proud of than Master Peace Officer,” said Chief Kaiser. “Thanks Jourdanton for allowing me the honor of working with great officers, both at JPD and surrounding agencies, and the opportunity to serve such a great community.”
Kaiser received this honor just days after the 45th anniversary of when the “first peace officer certification was awarded by the Commission on September 20, 1968”. The requirements that were appropriate for those times have certainly changed drastically through the decades. Reading through the Commission’s timeline on their requirements of what qualified a person to hold the basic, intermediate, advanced and master certification highlighted a dominant theme – education, training and evaluation.
“The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education is continually reassessing what a Peace Officer’s minimum training level should be. Over the years the required training has continued to increase and in my opinion that is great!,” said Chief Kaiser. “The component that determines your eligibility for a certain license (basic, intermediate, advanced or Master) is a formula of years of experience and training hours. The more years you have, the less training is required. I was a late bloomer and started my career at an age where most officers would already have a few years under their belt, so my mindset was to focus hard on the education aspect. The fact that I love to learn made training that much easier.”
When Kaiser was made Jourdanton Police Chief on January 1,2009, he had accumulated over 2,500 hours of police classroom hours, many of which focused on domestic violence and criminal investigations. Today, the chief has more than 3300 hours of classroom training. “I am very fortunate to have worked at an agency that really promotes training,” said Chief Kaiser. “My predecessor, Chief Ronnie Lawson, was very pro-training. He was the first one to show me that statistically a well-trained officer is far less likely to have discipline issues. He nurtured in me a passion for learning about the profession and allowed me to attend the types of training that interested me… which is not something that many agency executives do.”
Chief Kaiser’s area of focus has evolved since 2009. “In an era of terrorism and school shootings I have delved into more tactical training, both hands on and classroom. And it goes without saying that as a chief there is a certain amount of executive training that you are required to attend.”
When Kaiser became Police Chief he carried his ‘love of learning’ attitude forward into the Jourdanton Police Department. “I was going to have the best trained officers that time and budget would allow. Once I became the decision maker for our department I decided to push the training envelope. Instead of just sending officers to learn, I felt we could bring the learning to the officers,” said Chief Kaiser. With that in mind, the chief began to host nationally recognized seminars in Jourdanton. In 2011 and in 2013 the JPD hosted Phil Chalmers, an author and expert in the field of youth violence and school shootings. The JPD also hosted Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who is the premier police trainer in the U.S. today. His book, “The Bulletproof Mind” is considered a must read by law enforcement. “I was honored to get to chat with Lt. Col. Grossman and look into the mind of someone with such a passion for keeping officers and the public safe from criminals.”
The Jourdanton Police Department has hosted numerous other courses in using TMPA (Texas Municipal Police Association) as a partner. The JPD is currently working with AACOG (Alamo Area Council of Governments) to bring TCOLE training to the area. The plan is to use the soon to be finished police department and the facilities here as a location for area officers to obtain mandated training hours without the time and cost of traveling to other cities.
Currently our entire department is attending a 10 series set of classes to become more proficient with their firearms. According to Kaiser, this is live fire stuff on the range, not boring lectures. “Upon completion of the series, the JPD will focus on training their ‘Tactical Response Team’, which will revolve around a core group of police officers that wish to be the tip of the spear,” said Kaiser. “They will be getting the most in depth training on firearms, combat medicine and dynamic teamwork.”
“My mindset is that I can always get better at what I do,” said Kaiser. “ And while as far as the police department is concerned, the buck does stop with me, I still often seek the counsel of other chiefs and those who have already faced issues that I have to face. I lean on their experience to give me input and insight as I strive to make the correct choice for my officers and our citizens. While I am a police chief here, I still consider myself a student, and will for the rest of my life.”
In discussing the significance and meaning behind the title ‘Peace Officer’, Chief Kaiser said that ‘Peace Officer’ is such a broad term. He explained that citizens in his area see Municipal Police Officers and County Deputies more than any others. He said that these both have similar duties. The city officers handle calls in the incorporated cities and the deputies handle the same thing in the unincorporated areas. “We are fortunate to have many excellent agencies in our area that work well together,” said Kaiser
Kaiser said that while the big arrests are what people see splashed across the headlines, officers are doing lots of things behind the scenes that most people are not aware of. He said that officers may start a shift by working a wreck and helping calm someone that is trapped in a mangled car. Then after that accident is cleared they may have to go do a welfare check and find an elderly person who passed away alone in their home. Then, they begin the process of tracking down and notifying the deceased’s family. “It’s not uncommon for officers to help change a tire or take someone to pick up a gas can when they are stranded on the roadside,” said Chief Kaiser. “We get called to help preschool kids cross the highway as they walk to the city library due to the heavy increase in oilfield traffic.”
“The bottom line is we are public servants,” said Chief Kaiser. “I know it sounds corny to some, but we are in the people business. We get called when our neighbors have an issue that they can’t solve on their own. It is our job to find a solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes that means someone goes to jail, sometimes it means someone gets a ride home. Sometimes it means we are in front of a crowd sharing information about current crime trends. And sometimes it means just listening… being that shoulder when someone needs to vent. We wear lots of different hats.”
Chief Kaiser recalled several years ago when the department began to work with the Jourdanton Independent School District during Red Ribbon Week. “We allowed students who took a pledge not to abuse drugs to use a marker to sign one of our patrol cars. We then drove that car on duty with hundreds of red signatures all over it as a demonstration of Jourdanton’s commitment not to use drugs. Our kids seemed to LOVE that!,” said Kaiser. The department also began the “Eddie Eagle” Gunsafe program which teaches kids that find a firearm to “Stop, Don’t Touch, Leave the Area, Tell an Adult” and recently acquired an Eddie Eagle costume to use in those presentations. If you were one of the many hundred who turned out for the National Night Out celebration in the Atascosa River Park, you may have seen Eddie Eagle. With the humidity at a high and temperatures near 100, you might have asked who in the world could brave that mascot outfit. The answer would be Jourdanton Police Chief Eric Kaiser all 6’2” of him.
In 2012, the Jourdanton Police Department obtained a K9 and began actively using him to enforce drug statutes. Now, for the first time ever the Jourdanton Police Department has been approved to have one of its police officers be a full-time School Resource Officer. This officer is assigned to the JISD 40 hours a week.
Chief Kaiser is not only big on training and education but innovation. “We took a 28 foot travel trailer that the city had taken possession of and transformed it into the JPD ‘Mobile Community Policing Unit’,” said Kaiser. “We take it to events where it can be used as a mobile police station, a medic station, or used to distribute free material to the public.”
In conjunction with that project, the JPD transformed one of their Chevrolet Tahoes into a JPD C.A.R.E. (Crime Awareness and Reduction Education) vehicle. “You can’t miss that SUV as it goes down the road! It is covered in red and blue graphics as well as anti drug and anti bullying messages. We have had it on display at many local events and you will see it driven around on occasion here in Jourdanton.”
The Jourdanton Police Department has a Facebook page with 2,140 fans and more than 2,000 people actively talking about the happenings on the page. Kaiser recalled how at a Police Chief Conference in 2011, the speaker asked a room of over 200 chiefs, “How many of you have a department Facebook page?” Kaiser said that he was one of four in the room that raised a hand. He said that the next statement blew his mind. “All of you with your hands down need to go talk to one of the four with their hands up,” said the speaker. “They are ahead of the curve.”
Kaiser said a year later when the same question was asked that nearly half the room raised their hands. “Social media is the way this generation communicates,” said Kaiser. “And while it has its pitfalls, when used properly it is an excellent tool to get information out to the public, and get it to them fast. While there are portions of this job that are done covertly out of necessity, there are many things that we want the public to know about. One of our best tools for solving crimes and locating people is our public. The more interaction we can have with them, the better.”
Chief Kaiser said that he sees great value in the fact that Facebook allows for a certain amount of feedback. “Whether anyone knows it or not,” said Kaiser. “We DO pay attention to the feedback and use it to be better public servants.”
Chief Kaiser has also earned the Special Investigator Certification from the TCLOSE. Kaiser was twice elected as President of the Atascosa County Law Enforcement Officers’ Association (ACLEOA). He was nominated for ACLEOA Officer of the Year in 2013 and still helps the board with their annual dove hunt and fundraising raffle. After 5 years on the board of directors of the Atascosa Family Crisis Center, Kaiser stepped down to allow other officers to be able to take his seat and give “fresh input” into the operation of that organization.
In 2011, Chief Kaiser said that he was blessed to have another son come into his life. He now has three children ranging from a senior at Jourdanton High School to a high school sophomore and a two-year old at day care. “Switching gears from dealing with 17-year-old issues to two-year-old issues is a skill I continue to work at everyday! How my wife Dina can deal with all us boys amazes me. She is a gem,” said Kaiser.
“I am fortunate enough to have two families…one waiting for me when I get home and one that wears blue and is there for me everyday when I get to work. They are both important to me and they have both contributed to helping keep me well rounded,” said Chief Kaiser.
“Anything I have accomplished in this job is due to the team I work with. Without great officers and a great support staff, none of my visions for this department would ever have seen the light of day,” said Kaiser. “I have amazing employees and a stellar Administrative Assistant, Jeanette Hall, who is my right arm.” Kaiser said that he would defer any credit for this department’s accomplishments to them.
Chief Kaiser said that Jourdanton is growing and growing fast. He said that the field of law enforcement is an ever evolving line of work that requires constant vigilance to new and innovative techniques to accomplish the department’s goals. “I have had the benefit of a stable city council and city manager that has allowed me to stay focused on what is important, which is serving the people of Jourdanton. That is something that not every chief has,” said Chief Kaiser. “We have a great citizenry here. They are very supportive of us and of our mission to make this a great place to live and work, and it is things like that that make me enjoy coming to work everyday.”