By George Slaughter
The Katy City Council Monday night approved Texas Ranger Joel “Noe” Diaz Jr. as Katy’s fourth police chief. Diaz will be sworn in as chief Monday afternoon at City Hall.
Diaz Discusses Goal to Grow Department
Diaz said he hoped to make the police department “a little friendlier,” and that his top priority would be officer retention. He said he wants to see the department grow because the Katy community is growing.
“We want to grow a little bit bigger but we want to keep the same values,” Diaz said.
The police department has three openings now, but Diaz said the department always risks losing officers to other agencies, such as police departments in neighboring cities.
“We want them to feel welcome and that this is the place to work,” Diaz said. “We have the greatest football team in the state and the greatest band in the state. Our schools are fabulous, and our community is fabulous. It’s a very loving, nurturing community. Baytown and Sugar Land are great, too, but obviously Katy has more to offer.”
Diaz said he wants officers to live in Katy and be responsive to the community.
“We don’t want them to live in Houston and work for us,” Diaz said. “The police department is a fantastic place to work.”
Diaz said has had an office at the Police Department headquarters for several years.
“I’m excited, humbled, and honored by the opportunity.”
Diaz has been a Texas Ranger since January 2008, according to his LinkedIn profile. He began his career as a correctional officer in 1986 with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He went on to become a deputy constable in Harris County Precinct 5 in 1994, then joined the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1996.
Diaz earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice/political science in 2011 from the University of Houston-Downtown, and his master’s degree in criminology in 2014 from Lamar University. He completed the FBI National Academy in 2016.
Diaz knows that he, like the first Katy police chief, Pat Adams, served in the Texas Department of Public Safety before becoming chief.
It is a Ranger tradition that they wear Stetson hats. Diaz said he expected to continue wearing his Stetson as police chief.
Council Members Praise Diaz, Defend Selection Process
At the February 25 council meeting, Brawner planned to submit Diaz’s name for council approval. The police chief, like the fire chief and city administrator, report to the mayor but the council must approve their appointments. But at that meeting, Ward B Council Member Jimmy Mendez said he had received pushback from constituents expressing concern both over the selection and its timing. Mendez “tagged,” or postponed, the vote until Monday’s meeting.
Monday night, Mendez explained his stance and said he supported Diaz.
“The only information I had was, we were going to have an executive session and appoint a police chief,” Mendez said. “I had the same information that you people (he gestured to the audience) did.”
Mendez said he responded to the citizen pushback by seeking to postpone the vote, but things changed when he and the other council members visited with Diaz and reviewed the paperwork on the five finalists for the job.
“From the minute I met Noe, I thought he was a great candidate and I really liked him,” Mendez said, adding that after that meeting, he did more research on the candidates, including holding conversations with Hastings and current Katy police officers about Diaz.
“The consensus is pretty clear among them, they’d prefer to promote from within,” Mendez said, but if not, they would be happy with Diaz. Mendez said people mistook his actions as him having a problem with Diaz, but that was not the case.
“I see absolutely no reason for him not to be in that position, and he has my vote,” Mendez said.
Ward A Council Member Frank Carroll said the process was difficult because two conflicting priorities were involved. One, this was a personnel decision, where candidates’ strengths were being compared, and two, the issue of public trust in law enforcement.
“If you all lose faith in those folks, then they can’t do their jobs of serving you,” Carroll said. “That’s very important to us.”
Carroll said the council was looking for someone with deep ties to community, and who shares existing commitment to community policing. He said Diaz’s scores were at the top and he was satisfied with Diaz’s answers to community policing and being part of the community.
“On three of five assessments, he was listed as a compassionate leader,” Carroll said. “I think as a police chief you have to have compassion if you’re going to partner with the community.”
Ward A Council Member Janet Corte said she first became aware of Diaz last year when she participated in the first Citizens Police Academy, sponsored by the police department. People spoke very highly of Diaz whenever his name came up, she said.
Council Member-at-Large Chris Harris said the vote was not about the selection process, but about longtime Diaz. Harris said that Diaz was recommended by both Brawner and Hastings, and that he’s had many positive conversations with Katy police officers and their families about Diaz.
“He’s going to be a great pick for only our fourth police chief in the City of Katy,” Harris said. “He’s a long-time resident who understands our small-town culture.”
The police chief job drew 76 applicants and the field was narrowed down to five finalists, two of which were Diaz and Assistant Police Chief Tim Tyler. Other finalists were Brian Davis, deputy sheriff, and training coordinator, Waller County Sheriff’s office; Paul Follis, commander, Houston Police Department, and Bryon Woytek, patrol captain, Katy Police Department.
Candidates took a written test and underwent a peer review in which they were interviewed by a panel of three chiefs and a former chief from smaller police agencies in the Houston area. Mayor Chuck Brawner said a peer review process for promotions is a common practice.
Diaz succeeds former Chief Bill Hastings, who retired in January to run for mayor against incumbent Brawner. The council in January appointed Tyler to serve as interim chief.