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CPA: Are you crazy enough to be a police officer? They are

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Latest

Editor's note: This is part two of a series covering the Deer Park Police Department's Citizens Police Academy. Editor/Publisher Bobby Vasquez is a participant in the academy.

By BOBBY VASQUEZ

Do you want to drive fast and carry a gun? Do you want to do it legally? Do you have a four-year degree from an accredited college or university?

Then an officer’s position in the Deer Park Police Department may be right for you. Lt. John Yettevich and Career Services Officer Sam Jammas were two of this week’s presenters at Citizens Police Academy. Yettevich and Jammas handle the recruiting, hiring and training procedures for the entire DPPD. They talked to us about what it takes to be a police officer. Driving fast and carrying a gun sounds fun, legal or not. But doing so with a badge takes a special kind of person. 

Citizens receive up-close look inside DPPD

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Latest

Welcome to the first edition of the Citizens Police Academy Notebook. This 13-week course is taught by the Deer Park Police Department and is available to all persons either living or working in Deer Park. This is the 20th CPA course DPPD has taught over the last 10 years. In all, 19 citizens are enrolled in the class, ranging in age from a fresh-faced teenager to retired individuals.

Through CPA, DPPD is educating citizens that its rank and file is corps of sworn officers and civilians who try to make lives better for law-abiding citizens and help those who break a law not repeat those mistakes.
Sheila Plovanich, DPPD's community liaison, leads the course. She is a tremendous resource for DPPD and citizens. She is joined by Chief Greg Grigg who makes it clear that the police department is not there just to make sure we don't speed down Luella or act as the thin blue line between citizens and chaos.

Does the department write tickets for decisions we make? Yes. Are they our means of keeping peace and order in our community? Yes. But policing is much more than that. The department is also a resource for protection, service and education.

Almost every time citizens meet a police officer, it is because something negative has happened. We call the police because someone has damaged or stolen our property or harmed a person; we were a careless driver; or we decided to damage or steal or property or harm someone. More often than not, coming across a police officer is a low point of the day.

It doesn't always have to be that way.

Today's Deer Park policing is the latest step in the evolution of community-oriented policing. Introduced earlier this decade by the late Bill Young, former DPPD police chief, community-oriented policing is a proactive approach to serving the public. Most police departments, namely those for large municipalities - are mostly reactive departments. They don't interact with citizens and businesses and mostly keep to themselves unless called upon.

"If you go into Houston and ask an officer about his beat, they are not responsible for the same beat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, "Grigg said. "Here, citizens and businesses have the chance to get to know the officer who is assigned to their sector - their neighborhood - and learn who is protecting them."

Getting to know the officers gives citizens and businesses a chance to put a name and face with the badge. Officers get a better understanding who is supposed to be in certain areas at certain times. When community-oriented policing works, it can be the perfect combination of officers and citizens working together. Studies of jurisdictions employing community-oriented policing have shown the number of calls to dispatch had actually decreased.

"When people know who they can call about small problems, they don't call dispatch as often," Grigg told the class. "They call their sector officers and the problem is handled."

Grigg and Plovanich answer our questions about the evolution of community-oriented policing and its long-term effect on Deer Park. After Chief's presentation, it's time to take a tour of DPPD's headquarters.

Opened in 2004, headquarters is a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility. Not only does the building house dispatch, the offices of the police department, the jail and training areas, it is also the emergency operations center for the city. During emergencies that threaten the entire city - hurricanes, chemical spills and the like - this area is activated. It accommodates essential city department leaders as well as the mayor, city manager, director of emergency management, and police and fire chiefs. Together, they coordinate city operations from rescue to damage assessment from one area.

Located in the front of the building, dispatch is the heartbeat of the police department. Every officer periodically checks in with the civilian dispatchers. There are always at least two on duty. In addition to their radio communications with officers, the dispatchers also handle 9-1-1 operations for the city. All emergency calls for police, fire and medical are handled in this office.

Further back in the building is career services, their version of human resources and continuing education, and administration, which are the offices of the chief, assistant chief, payroll and internal affairs. There are also offices for investigations, complete with the cool two-way mirror like in the all the crime drama television shows. There is also a weight room for the officers, an evidence room and a large meeting room.

In the very back of the building is the jail. Only a select few citizens get to see the inside of the jail. Usually, those select few are the ones who chose to break a law and were arrested for doing so. Luckily, our tour kept us on the good side of the holding cells. The cold, humid, sterile jail contains a central administrative area for the jailors, a drunk tank and separate areas for adult and juvenile prisoners. It's definitely not the Hilton - or even the roach motel for that matter.

It will be an interesting course, and the first session definitely piqued interest about the services, myths and truths about the police department, the law and how it affects citizens.

DP teen takes hands-on approach to helping others

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Latest

It’s another sultry, humid, Houston summer and there are a million other things Meredith Hicks could be doing.

Instead, the Deer Park teen is busy helping others who find it difficult to help themselves. As part of the UM ARMY, Hicks found her calling, assisting East Texas residents with minor repairs and upgrades to their homes. According to the organization’s website, UM ARMY – United Methodist Action Reach-out Mission By Youth – is an outlet for high school students to combine their strengths to meet home repair and maintenance needs of those unable to help themselves. Through their functions, Hicks found an outlet to give unto others.

Despite the joy of lending a hand to mostly elderly people a few hours drive away, Hicks felt she could do more. There were more lives to touch and they were closer to home. So, she started Helping Hands at Deer Park United Methodist Church

“It was great helping out at UM ARMY,” she said. “The people we were helping needed a hand. It’s not like we were rebuilding houses or anything. They just needed help repairing what they have. But, when we were out of town, I thought we could do the same thing for people who live in our area. The effect of what we do could last longer.”

Wielding tools, faith and a can-do spirit, Hicks and a group of teens set out to do what they could for Deer Park-area residents.

“So far, it’s been great,” she said. “Last year, we did six houses and this year we did 12. I’m glad we are growing and getting to do this closer to home.”

Through Helping Hands and UM ARMY, Hicks has helped complete extensive projects like building a wheelchair ramp and extending a porch. However, the program has helped her touch lives in a way she didn’t initially expect.

“We also spend time talking to people,” she said. “A lot of times, we are helping widows who are lonely and do not have someone visiting them all the time. They are longing for someone just to talk to.”

By lending an ear and a hand, Helping Hands is repairing homes and forging lasting friendships,” Hicks said. “It’s neat because we help someone on one weekend and the next week, we see them at the grocery store. It’s nice to know that they made a friend and because we fixed their porch or built a ramp for them, they can get out of their homes for a little while.”

Entering her sophomore year at Texas A&M University in College Station, Hicks wants to continue the Helping Hands project next summer in Deer Park. In doing so, she hopes other Deer Park churches will join her efforts for a community-wide outreach for local congregations. But in the meantime, she’s looking to help others in the Bryan-College Station area.

“There’s a project here called Potluck in the Park where we bring home-cooked meals to homeless and hungry people. I can see myself getting involved with that while I’m at A&M,” she said. “I’m thankful that I am capable to help where I can.”

She rarely thinks twice about giving a hand because she enjoys helping others. When time is valuable, some teens ask why they should give up their time to help others.

“Why not?” asks Hicks. “You get the most out of life when you do what you enjoy doing. I enjoy helping others. To me, this is what I am supposed to do.”

New site puts Deer Park inside community news

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Latest

Deer Park is about to go Inside.

InsideDP.com, Deer Park’s newest and most comprehensive source for Deer Park news, events, sports and features launched this morning. The online publication is the brainchild of local businessmen looking for a new service venture to the community.

“We’re looking to offer residents and business owners an alternative means of receiving their news,” said Gerald Cothran, lead investor of InsideDP.com. “InsideDP.com is a project that can and will involve the entire Deer Park community in that it will only have Deer Park-related content.” InsideDP.com’s coverage area includes all of the city of Deer Park and the Deer Park Independent School District service area.

“If it happens in Deer Park, our readers will hear about it,” Cothran said. “They won’t need to worry about digging through Pasadena, Clear Lake or Baytown news to find what they are looking for, unless it directly affects us in Deer Park.” With a product focusing solely on Deer Park, readers will always be up-to-date on the latest in local news, sports and events “InsideDP.com is for Deer Park and is produced by people who care a lot about this community,” said Ryan Taylor, also an investor in the venture. “I think it’s important that people know that everyone involved has a deep connection to this community and its well-being.”

The website features coverage of Deer Park government, education, sports, crime, business and general news. InsideDP.com will be updated every day as news happens around the community. By each Monday, the site will be completely refreshed. With its hyper-local coverage, Ken Donnell, also involved in the formation of InsideDP.com, said the website will become a gathering point for citizens and business owners. “As a community, we are concerned and passionate about what goes on in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We will give our readers the news about the people, places and events they visit and deal with in their everyday lives, with Deer Park being the common thread.”

InsideDP.com can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“Deer Park is such a close-knit community and many things that affect our neighbors affect us,” said Bobby Vasquez, editor of InsideDP.com. “In Deer Park, we live together, play together and worship together. Our kids go to the same schools and play sports together. We shop at Deer Park stores. That’s what we are going to capture with InsideDP.com.”

Vasquez is no stranger to community news services in Deer Park. He has more than 10 years of journalism experience, with five of those years in Deer Park. He graduated Deer Park High School in 1996 and attended San Jacinto College in Pasadena and Southwest Texas State (now Texas State) University in San Marcos.

InsideDP.com offers unlimited retail, classified and announcement advertising space on its website with reasonable rates. “In these tough economic times, people need a reason to spend their money, whether you are a retailer or a customer,” Vasquez said. “For as little as $20 a week, a business can advertise on our site. We don’t want our Deer Park businesses to break their banks re-investing in the community they support.”

Although InsideDP.com will be exclusively online initially, there are plans to make the paper a printed product in the near future.

“That all depends on the community,” Cothran said. “Right now, we want to concentrate on securing InsideDP.com’s place in Deer Park. As the demand grows, we will prepare to go to print.