North Central Texas College gets first police department

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GAINESVILLE, Texas -- In less than a week, classes will be back in session at North Central Texas College. This year, students and staff will notice something new on campus -- a police department.

Recently, Gainesville Municipal Judge Chris Cypert swore in Chief of Police James Fitch and Assistant Chief Christopher McLaughlin.

There are 52 community colleges in Texas, and until now, NCTC was one of few without a police department.

Chief Fitch said it was about a two months process to become a recognized and certified police institution in the state of Texas.

"We're going to do everything a regular police department does. We're there to protect and serve the community that is ours, so a little over 10,000 students plus the faculty and staff that are employed here," Fitch said.

But not only will these officers act as a police force -- Fitch and McLaughlin will act as the go-to people for emergency management operations.

Specifically, McLaughlin will serve as the associate director of emergency management, heavily focusing on what to do in emergency situations, like, if a natural disasters strikes.

"If there was an emergency in the dorm and the dorm is not able to be resided in, how do we house students? Where do we have classes if we have damage in a building?" McLaughin said as an example.

Emergency management even includes preparing for an active shooter, which is just one reason why the new role of these police officers is so important.

"We've been looking at this for several years, and knowing that we need to upgrade our safety and security procedures and what we do," Robbie Baugh, the senior director of campus operations, said.

NCTC currently has five campuses in four counties, including Cooke, Denton, Montague and Young.

Right now -- in terms of police officers, there's only Fitch and McLaughlin at the Gainesville campus, but there are plans to soon hire a full-time officer for the Corinth campus.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, the department has a $300,000 budget to build from the ground up -- all of which comes from NCTC.

"So, just grow out from there so that we have officers at all the campuses, and maybe one day get 24-7 coverage," Fitch said.

The department is currently not taking applications, but might in the future.

Fitch said the department's goal is to create a good working relationship with students, staff and parents. He plans to do so by attending events throughout the campus and creating social media accounts for the department.