Matthew Blakelock was named the Conroe ISD chief of police in June, replacing William Harness, and he is responsible for overseeing the 82 officers that make up the CISD Police Department.

Going into the 2022-23 school year, Blakelock said his department is focusing its efforts on maintaining a safe environment for students and staff as well as defining the overall role of the police department and the future law enforcement needs in CISD. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Can you describe your career up to this point?

I have been a law enforcement officer for going on my 28th year, all of that being in Montgomery County and the last 24 years here with the Conroe ISD Police Department. I was a sergeant here for 14 years before serving the last four years as captain, which was a new position with the police department at the time.

I always had an interest in public service. I was a volunteer firefighter getting ready to go to the fire academy, and when we would answer calls, we would often arrive with law enforcement. As I watched, I thought that looked really cool and something I might want to do. I got to see law enforcement be there to support other first responders and help people, and I always had an interest in police work but never saw myself going there. I was about 20 years old, and I decided when I turned 21 that I thought it was for me. I went to the academy and never looked back, and I have enjoyed every single year of it since then.

What do you see as the role of the CISD Police Department?

Our role is to [ensure] our students, our staff and our visitors can come to our campus, kids can receive an education and our teachers can continue to teach, and they cannot do that unless they feel safe. We are only a part of the safety matrix; a police department cannot keep a school district safe; it takes everybody. But the police department does play a vital role by being there and by interacting with the staff.

Our officers take part in the safety committee for the different campuses; they are part of the threat assessment process. They are on campus every day, and they are where the kids are. As people arrive at school, they see a CISD police officer making sure everybody is safe. When kids go to lunch, the officer is there so they can interact with them, get to know them, and be a mentor or role model. They let them know they are there to help and keep them safe. Really, we fall into the bigger matrix of safety being a top priority because kids do not learn when they do not feel safe.

What else do police officers do in the district?

There are not a lot of duties that law enforcement officers will do that are not police related. The Texas Education Code states that police officers cannot be assigned to regular administrative duties, so you are not going to see them enforcing tardies or kids wearing hats in the hallways, stuff like that. What you will find is that we enforce the laws in the state of Texas in and around the campus. That is primarily going to be what the officers do throughout the day.

The overwhelming part is we are there to protect our campuses from outside threats. You are going to see our officers where people are, making sure they can go to events and kids can go to class without any problems. They are going to be there in any kind of emergency, such as calling an ambulance if a kid fell down in the playground. You will see officers walking the halls and make sure visitors are wearing their visitor badges ... and checking that our doors are secured.

What are you seeing as the future needs of the department?

Well, the district is growing rapidly. That means the police department needs to grow along with the district. We answer to our constituents; that is the CISD community and community at large, and safety is extremely important. We are working every day to maximize the police presence we have on campuses. Currently, we do not have an officer at every campus all day long, and we rely on our other law enforcement partners. ... We reach out to some of the other agencies whose jurisdictions lie where some of the schools are, and we ask them to assist us. I think having a presence there is extremely important, and we are hiring. If you ask any law enforcement agency in the state what the biggest aid is, it is good people who want a fulfilling career in law enforcement. For us, that is a campus environment where we are protecting our greatest resource, and that is our kids so they can get their education. That is our biggest need.