The mission of the Lone Star College Police Department is simple: to maintain a safe and secure environment where education can thrive.
However, it's no surprise that it takes diligence to ensure the thousands of LSC students, faculty and staff members remain safe. Our Police Department works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to patrol every area of the College. Here, meet a few of the department's top leaders who focus on our community's safety and security.
LSC Police Department
Paul Willingham, Chief of Police
Many days, LSC Chief of Police and Senior Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Safety Paul Willingham heads to his office when it's still quiet and prepares to lead the LSC Police Department of about 190 authorized personnel. After nearly 30 years in policing, this is his favorite time of day.
Willingham, a Houstonian, initially wanted to teach English and coach baseball. Yet, when he saw the University of Texas MD Anderson police cars while picking up his mother up from work one day, it sparked an idea. His family had instilled in him the value of public service, so what if he became a police officer? He then attended the University of Texas System Police Academy, returning to patrol the Texas Medical Center after being sworn in. Policing had become his professional pursuit.
"It energizes me to know that I can have a positive impact on people who serve other people. It feels like it is a forced multiplier for my philosophy on how to serve, take care of others, influence others and be mentors to them," Willingham said.
Willingham has since moved into leadership positions as he obtained a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and then a master's degree in criminology from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, where he served as the police chief for eight years.
In 2015, Willingham applied to and secured the police chief position at LSC in part because his niece, Isabella, who he and his wife Camber Rae raised, was preparing to attend classes here. Willingham now motivates his senior commanders and his philosophies trickle down to the staff in the form of five core values: seek excellence, leave nothing to chance, preserve dignity, build trust through integrity and focus on service.
"I have to teach folks to be able to think critically, handle emergencies, make the right decisions and build a team of people who value service. We focus on what we can do to be the best law enforcement agency we know how to be. We have to create an environment for people where they feel like they can come and talk to us, and we can help teach them to be part of their own safety," Willingham said.
Willingham is proud of his personnel for genuinely caring and always being ready to help. He recommends visiting the department's website, LoneStar.edu/campus-police, for the full scope of services and safety information. Outside his official duties, Willingham has a soft spot for his girls: his wife, niece and mother. His family also has weekly dinners and attends church together.
Jerome Powell, Deputy Chief of Police
Whenever someone tells LSC Police Department Deputy Chief and Patrol Operations Bureau Commander Jerome Powell that one of his officers is excelling, it motivates him to continue mentoring all uniformed LSC personnel to be the best officers, sergeants and captains they can be.
Powell is originally from Corpus Christi and still has family there. He attended Kentucky State University on a basketball scholarship and Alabama State University for his undergraduate degree, then went to Alabama A&M University for graduate school in urban and regional planning. Not only is he a first-generation college graduate, but he also made his way to the Texas Department of Public Safety Training Academy to become a state trooper.
From there, Powell was off. He spent 26 years as a state trooper, promoting to different ranks and positions that kept him traveling around the state as well as earning a lifesaving Medal of Valor for his service from then-Governor Rick Perry before retiring as a commander in 2009.
Not much time later and wanting to stay active, Powell jumped at the opportunity to become an officer with LSC and was quickly promoted to his current position in early 2011. The policing done here is proactive, Powell said, and it's this community policing that carries an important weight.
"Officers have to come into our culture and impact it in a positive way. We can mentor kids and really make a difference in their lives...I think that's really important from a police perspective. We're there to be a colleague, a resource for them and provide guidance," Powell said.
Now at LSC for nearly a decade, Powell focuses on making sure the community knows that the police department respects and protects all while he leads the system-wide collegiate personnel in mentoring, team building and active threat exercises to ensure that safety and security remains the number one priority.
"I think it's critical that we understand that our purpose is to serve the collegiate community and do it at a high level, but also to facilitate and initiate a bond, a relationship of mutual trust and respect. That's key in any organization," Powell said, reiterating that his officers are genuinely concerned about student, faculty and staff well-being both on and off campus.
In his free time, Powell visits his family members and enjoys working out, traveling and entertaining. Powell and his wife, Denise, have been married for 32 years and they have an adult son, Jeremy.
Sandra Joachim, Deputy Chief of Police
As a young officer, LSC Police Department Deputy Chief and Chief of Staff Sandra Joachim was the second female police officer ever to have worked in the Brenham Police Department-and she has continued to break the mold throughout her professional career.
In high school in Sealy, Texas, Joachim competed in several area beauty pageants. While she was waitressing to pay for the pageant fees, she often overheard the town's police officers discuss their jobs and thought it sounded like fun. She was also exposed to the first responder world when she became an emergency medical technician. At 20 years old, she entered the police academy at Wharton County Junior College and then became an undercover officer for the Brenham Police Department.
"I worked really hard, because I knew that in the '80s, there weren't that many women in law enforcement. In order for me to get a job and succeed, I had to show that not only could I do the job, I had to do it a little bit better than the next person," Joachim said.
After a few years on patrol, Joachim was preparing to become the first ever female Texas Ranger in the state's Department of Public Safety when she found out she was pregnant with her daughter. Family comes first, so that called for a career change. Joachim became an officer with the Jersey Village Police Department and worked her way to sergeant, retiring in 2012 after 25 years of service there.
Wanting to stay busy, Joachim became a captain at LSC-University Park a few months later and was promoted to her current position earlier this year. Joachim said joining LSC was one of the best moves she ever made.
"I feel like I still have a lot to offer. We're here for the students and here to take care of them. I tell people that those are not just words they're hearing, it's really true. We can make a difference, and I'm proud to work here. I'm Lone Star through and through, and it's too bad I didn't find it sooner," Joachim said, who also teaches self-defense classes and hosts several safety awareness events throughout LSC.
When she's not working or finishing up her bachelor's degree at the University of Houston-Downtown, Joachim enjoys spending time with her husband, Michael, who is a lieutenant with Harris County Precinct 5. They enjoy the outdoors, going camping and traveling together. Joachim also spends time with her daughter, Brittney Alvarez, her step-children Christopher and Kimberly and her three grandchildren.
Edwin Gomez, District 45 Police Captain
Chasing after adrenaline is a favorite pastime of LSC Police Department Captain Edwin Gomez, who grew up in Miami, Florida, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy four days after he graduated high school. He spent eight years in the Navy: four years on sea duty, deployed around the world on an aircraft carrier and then four years on shore duty near Jacksonville, Florida. During that time, Gomez met his wife Maria and they had their two children, Edwin and Milianie.
Gomez then enrolled in the police academy, becoming a deputy with the Broward County Sheriff's Office in Florida. There, he was an undercover narcotics detective and a member of the SWAT team, doing intense and often dangerous work to stop crime.
"I loved it. It was extremely hard, but everything was about comradery and working as a team. You do the job that needs to be done, and I felt like I was getting paid to play with all of the action," Gomez said.
While doing undercover narcotics work, Gomez was unfortunately involved in a shooting and had to take a year-and-a-half off to recuperate. When other deputies and a sergeant in the department were killed in the line of duty, Gomez' family convinced him it was time for something different: they moved to Texas, and he worked as a translator for a family member's construction business.
The pay was good, but Gomez wasn't happy and desired police work again. So, he chose to become an officer at LSC in 2011 and was quickly promoted to sergeant and then captain in 2017. Gomez is now the Commander of Patrol District 45, and he said he loves this work and is motivated by his fallen comrades to educate the LSC community through initiatives such as active shooter trainings.
"This job is about serving our LSC community and working closely with them, and we've gotten to be as close as a family-that is really what has kept me here. I'm a believer that things happen for a reason. I think I was meant to be here in Texas, and I think I was meant to be here at this college," Gomez said.
Gomez' experience at LSC also extends into the classroom as he secured his associate degree in mechanical engineering technology at LSC-Montgomery; Gomez' son obtained the same degree, and the two were able to walk across the graduation stage together. Gomez' daughter is also in LSC's Physical Therapist Assistant program.
Pushing forward, Gomez is about to begin classes for his bachelor's degree in criminal justice through Midwestern State University. At home, Gomez enjoys spending time with his family: watching movies and eating meals together.
Felton Pete, District 59 Police Captain
LSC Police Department Captain Felton Pete cares about people, and they care about him in return-as is evident from a surprise electric guitar gifted to him by his staff when Pete was transferred from LSC-CyFair to LSC-Kingwood earlier this year to become the Commander of Patrol District 59.
The present catered to Pete's newfound hobby of playing guitar, which he now takes lessons for at his new location. Though Pete has been with LSC since 2011, first as an officer and then as a captain, he is a Louisiana native who obtained his associates degree in industrial technology from Lamar University and his bachelor's degree in business administration from LeTourneau University, and he initially worked in the oil industry.
When the 1980 oil bust hit, Pete enrolled in the police academy and went on to serve as an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for nearly 26 years before a brief stint with Harris County Constable Precinct 1's office, but he maintains that working at LSC has been the most enjoyable part of his career.
"We take care of students and faculty. We have a job to make sure that people are safe and feel safe. Getting out of the office, being visible and helping people makes a difference," Pete said.
Pete's favorite moments on the job are commencement ceremonies, rescuing students who need help and hosting "Coffee with a Cop" events to chat about safety with students. He and his team of officers work well together, he said, to keep the patrol area safe.
"We are making a difference in the community and in society. I see it every day when I'm out, and I see it in the young people here. I retired once, and people ask me when I'm going to retire again. But as long as I stay healthy and I get to interact with people, that's what keeps me here. At the end of the day, I can say that we did some good," Pete said.
Throughout each day, Pete is motivated by helping others even when it isn't noticed: a nod toward his late father's passion of always staying busy. In addition to practicing guitar in his free time, Pete enjoys traveling, cooking and attending his church.
He also has a son, Anthony, who is a veteran currently working on his doctorate degree as well as a daughter, Ashleigh, who attended LSC-North Harris for nursing and now works at Women's Hospital of Texas.
Michael Tymniak, District 249 Police Captain
Policing runs in LSC Police Department Captain Michael Tymniak's blood. In his role as Commander of Patrol District 249, Tymniak has continued the legacy of law enforcement left by his grandfather, who was an officer in Ukraine, and his father, who retired as a sergeant with the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Born and raised in Houston, Tymniak always knew he wanted an active career where he could help others. At first, he thought that was working in biomedical engineering to develop prosthetics for amputees, but Tymniak settled on policing and obtained his bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State University in criminal justice because the concepts of policing just made sense to him.
When Tymniak began looking for a position, someone told him about the police academy offered through LSC (when it was still the North Harris Montgomery Community College District). Tymniak attended, successfully completed the program and eventually secured a position as a part-time officer at what is now LSC-Houston North Fairbanks. He was hired as a full-time officer in 2005.
Since then, he has patrolled several other LSC locations and was promoted to sergeant and his current role as captain. While he is focused on protecting and leading his own officers, Tymniak said that the family-like atmosphere is what has kept him at LSC.
"Being part of the police department is like being part of a family: you don't always get along with your brothers and sisters, no one ever does, but we're one team. We roll with the punches, do what we need to do, and back each other up," Tymniak said.
His days are spent immersed in the LSC community: hosting policing awareness events and promoting a culture of service within his department, urging his personnel to be role models for others while carrying out their normal duties.
"I am in awe of the amount of sacrifice that these guys give to each other and what they're willing to do for each other. That is an awesome responsibility to be able to lead that kind of group. My motivation is not letting these guys down, because they're not going to let me down. The students are going to be here, and we're going to make sure that they're safe and that the teachers can teach," Tymniak said.
In his free time, Tymniak enjoys mountain biking, gardening, building furniture and woodworking as well as spending time with his wife, who is an instructor at LSC.
Patricia Vidito, District 290 Police Captain
It was a psychology elective class about the criminal mind that opened LSC Police Department Captain Patricia Vidito's eyes to the career she was positive she wanted to pursue. Today, after 15 years in law enforcement, Vidito's resolve remains unchanged as she is currently the Commander of Patrol District 290.
A Houstonian, Vidito received her bachelor's degree from Stephen F. Austin State University where she played basketball and double majored in criminal justice and psychology. In 2003, she became an officer with the Houston Police Department, those early years in the force setting the foundation for her career in law enforcement.
"I enjoy putting on the uniform. I enjoy serving as a guardian and a protector...I think that is what motivates me every day. I made that commitment, and I'm not turning my back on that. I love it. Every day is different," Vidito said.
After getting married and starting a family, Vidito transitioned to work in a specialized investigation unit with Child Protective Services for more than six years. There, she was assigned to high-profile cases to act as a liaison between the law and the social workers, and she didn't take lightly the burden of standing up for children who often didn't have a voice. She then worked as an undercover agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, rounding out her wide range of law enforcement roles.
A few years later, Vidito became an officer with LSC and was promoted to sergeant. Now promoted again to captain, she focuses on teaching self-defense classes and mentoring her officers by working with them to set self-goals. Vidito's favorite thing about working at LSC is the family-oriented environment-a college campus, she said, is a great way to build a compassionate bridge with the students, faculty and staff instead of interacting with them in a crisis only.
"It becomes a family. You can interact with the community and meet people on their level and let them know that we're human too: we have kids, we have families, and we have dogs-but we're accessible and here to help. We come to work every day to provide safety and security," Vidito said.
When she's not in uniform, Vidito spends time with her family and three children who love to be active and play sports. And when she's not working on her master's degree in management and leadership from Western Governors University, she also loves to read, watch movies, travel and cook.
by Jane Stueckemann
LSC Board of Trustees: Alton Smith, Ed.D., Chair, District 3; Myriam Saldívar, Vice Chair, District 6; Art Murillo, Secretary, District 4; Linda S. Good, J.D., Assistant Secretary, District 7; Ken E. Lloyd, District 9; Ernestine M. Pierce, District 2; Mike Stoma, District 1; Mike Sullivan, District 8; and David Vogt, District 5