In 2023, Mike Hennigan came out of retirement from two decades as a Deputy and Chief Deputy in the Orange County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office, to become the Director of Safety and Security at Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD. In August, Superintendent Stacey Brister told Mike she needed a Chief of Police for the soon-to-be formed police department for the school, and asked him to be just that.
In Orange County, LCMCISD is the only district to not have an on-campus police department. A couple of districts had departments in place already when Governor Abbott mandated in 2023 that all schools in the state of Texas have armed security onsite, in the wake of mass shootings like Uvalde.
“There are four different ways to adhere to that,” Hennigan said. “Establish a police department, hire armed security – which most districts can’t afford – and the Marshall program and Guardian program.”
“Armed security are not cops, they cannot enforce laws,” Hennigan added. So with the mandate, he established the Guardian program at the district, which, like the Marshall program, arms certain faculty members. In August, he started the long process of getting with TCOLE – Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. With the Governor’s mandate, TCOLE was very busy, but surprisingly Hennigan got it completed faster than expected.
“I reached out to Vidor ISD PD, Mike Sanchez and Chief Ali at Kountze. We got established at the end of November as a police department with the State.”
Hennigan was named as Chief of Police in December of 2023, and the department will have the same authority as any other police department in the state, with the ability to work cases, write citations, and assist – and get assistance from – the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Orange Police Department, if needed.
With six campuses within the Little Cypress-Mauriceville school district, the department’s jurisdiction includes campuses, adjoining properties and any other properties that LCMCISD owns. The goal is to have a police department office and a deputy at each school in the district, and Hennigan expects to hire a deputy to work with him for the high school, along with the Guardians, who will remain in place. Each officer will have their own office, equipment and vehicles throughout the district, all paid for by the VATRE, which was passed by voters in 2023 – which is a revenue, and not a tax, consisting of already-paid tax dollars.
“Unfortunately we live in a world where people aren’t stable,” Hennigan said, referring to the epidemic of mass shootings throughout the country. “Schools seem to be a large target. Our officers have to be trained in school-based law enforcement, which is a little different than regular law enforcement, and they will have to be certified.”
In addition to the Guardian Program, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has their off duty officers working at the high school campus during school hours. However paying off-duty security comes at a high cost – a cost that will be eliminated with the new LCMCISD Police Department in place.
Both OCSO deputies and OPD officers will continue to visit the campuses when they are not busy elsewhere, as they have been. And grant funding has also provided bullet-resistant film on all exterior windows and doors on all buildings on each campus in the district. This was completed in 2023.
“Lot of new things coming in 2024,” Hennigan said, adding those things will not be taxpayer- funded but funded by grants. Safety grants will provide additional cameras, and facial- recognition software will be added.
“Threats aren’t necessarily getting worse, but, with social media…it’s just bottom line the world we live in. Look at Uvalde. Experts say It’s not a matter of IF (another school shooting) but WHEN it will happen.”
The days most of us grew up in, from open campuses where anyone could come and go, to the boys we knew with gun racks in their pickup trucks – for some afterschool hunting – are over. And this is what this new generation is – and has been – dealing with for years. For schools, this is the “new normal.”
“I’ve had lots of positive comments (about the police department) from people I don’t even know, coming up to thank me,” Hennigan said. “They say they’re glad it’s being initiated, but sad that it’s needed.”
Hennigan will be sworn in as Chief of Police at 6:00 pm on January 8th, at the next school board meeting. The public is invited to attend.