FIRST RESPONDERS — Alton Baise making positive changes as PAISD police chief
Published 2:20 pm Saturday, February 1, 2020
Alton Baise has an energy about him that is seemingly endless.
Baise, police chief for the Port Arthur Independent School District Police Department, bounces from phone call to phone call with a smile on his face, while behind the scenes his duties make home visits for truancy issues, sit in on parent-administrator conferences and head up school safety.
Baise began his job as PAISD police chief Aug. 1 with a few officers. To date there are now seven, including him and recently hired assistant chief Eugene Wilson, who is a former Beaumont Police Department detective.
“We have the students’ best interest at heart and want them to become productive members of society,” Baise said when asked about his job and sitting in on conferences.
Officers are present at the high school, ninth grade campus and the middle schools and check in with the elementary schools, he said.
Sometimes the presence of an officer is enough to deter negative behavior.
“This has been an incredible year with the implementation of our police force,” PAISD Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie said. “We have some very qualified, energetic, creative police officers that actually care about our students, and that’s a great thing that helps with the climate. Students know the police officers care about them.”
The interaction isn’t always about criminal issues and arresting but redirecting.
A number of changes have been made since the police force was formed and Baise named the leader. Traffic patterns at the very busy high school/ninth grade campus have improved drastically.
“If you see a problem, you fix it,” Baise said. “We have parents dropping off and picking up from both schools. We work traffic every morning and every evening and it takes about 20 minutes to get through. We’d had lots of compliments from parents.”
Since the police force was formed there have been upgrades to some camera systems outside the schools and some are being installed inside as well.
“In addition, security at sporting events is heightened and the spectators are happy,” he said.
For example, there are now two entrances to Memorial High School stadium, one on the home side and one on the visitor’s side, with officers there to “warn people down.”
There’s generally more to attendance or truancy than a student skipping school.
“It all has to do with relationships,” Porterie said. “If things happen in home we have to take the initiative to help the student — if they don’t have a uniform, or there are no utilities in the home or food in the home. Also discipline contributes to truancy. Now we have to figure out how to address all of those issues. Yes, all of those things are getting better but it’s not where it needs to be. We have to start somewhere and it’s been a better year for that.”
With a police presence in the schools, Baise is hearing a lot of compliments.
“We have an excellent rapport with the community and people are excited we’re here,” Baise said, adding teachers, staff and students tell him how much they approve of the PAISD PD. “They tell us ‘y’all look out for us, we feel so much safer.’ We want to create a safe environment for teachers, staff and students in a safe learning environment.”
Working with others
The PAISD police force has a fantastic working relationship with other law enforcement in the area, he said, naming Port Arthur Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Port Neches, Groves and Nederland police departments.
“We have an excellent working relationship due to our good history with other law enforcement officers,” he said.
Vehicles and radios
The PAISD PD currently has five older model vehicles for use and three new ones have been ordered, he said, adding that it will take a little time to outfit the vehicles for police work.
The department is waiting on radios and walkie-talkies to come in to outfit the vehicles with. When that happens they will be able to communicate with other law enforcement.
Baise has 34 years experience in law enforcement having worked for the PAPD in various capacities including detective and working undercover with other agencies throughout the U.S. He was recruited by the FBI as a Task Force Agent, where he made many federal cases, worked as a fugitive warrant officer for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, was a founding member of PAPD’s first SWAT team and more.
Baise likes the place he’s in right now, seeing the positive community response from the work that has been and is being done.