El Campo’s police department has realigned its command structure, a change made to boost public service, officials say.
The department eliminated its assistant chief post in favor of three lieutenants. “The changes will bring better oversight and accountability to the department while also bringing better efficiency,” Police Chief Gary Williamson said.
Department veterans Jennifer Mican and Justin Soza were tapped to fill the new roles. Each had previously been a detective sergeant.
Mican takes command of support services including dispatch and the jail while Soza will take charge of patrol, school resource officers and the like. Long-time Lt. Russell Urban remains in charge of criminal investigations.
“We had five qualified candidates ... Mican and Soza had the overall highest scores. They both have experience in patrol and investigations,” Williamson said, adding Mican’s past service as a dispatcher makes her a good fit for the new post. Both hold master’s degrees and have graduated from the FBI National Academy.
Overseeing dispatch isn’t anything new for Mican, but, as lieutenant, she replaces the case rotation of the detectives’ pool with oversight of the community service division, jail, animal control, records, IT services, social media, public information and more.
“I have been the supervisor over dispatch for the last 12 years. I have always played a support role in the department and helped out in just about every division of the department,” Mican said, adding that, with the new post, “I will have more focused time to dedicate to overseeing the operations assigned to me to make changes and improvements that will benefit the department and the community.”
Starting her law enforcement career as an ECPD dispatcher in February 2003, Mican was named the ECPD Support Staffer of the Year by the Wharton County 100 Club in 2005 and 2006.
She then opted to enroll in the Wharton County Junior College Police Academy graduating as class valedictorian in July 2006.
Remaining with ECPD, she worked patrol and, by 2008, the uniformed Officer Mican was a familiar sight for children in El Campo schools. By 2009, Mican made detective.
A master peace officer, Mican attended the FBI National Academy in 2009, and has a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Houston-Victoria.
“My work experience in law enforcement and my formal education in business management provides a well-rounded foundation to assist in performing and understanding the duties and responsibilities of a law-enforcement leader,” Mican said.
The new command structure creates more specialization, more focus.
“Each lieutenant can focus on the operations of their divisions which allows more responsiveness and more accountability,” Mican said. “The most challenging part of this job will be recruiting and retaining talented, team members. Law enforcement is changing and, with that, we need to be able to hire team members that are capable and willing to face the new challenges and changes.
“It has become increasingly difficult to recruit qualified applicants and even more difficult to retain them when larger surrounding cities pay more,” she added.
Citizens will see changes, she predicted, due to the evolving technology and community as a whole.
“We are looking at becoming more automated to help streamline the functions of the department,” Mican said, but she won’t be completely removed from field assignments.
“I anticipate I will continue to assist in major investigations and in cases that need specialized assistance,” she said.
Focus On Patrol
Soza steps away from criminal investigations and into administration with the promotion to lieutenant.
“My primary duty is to ensure that all El Campo Police Department officers have the proper training and equipment to provide the best police services to the citizens of El Campo,” he said.
Soza takes command of all patrol officers, school resource officers and the Special Response Team (El Campo’s version of SWAT).
“I want to create more opportunities for constructive, purposeful community engagement/collaboration and opportunities to obtain feedback from our citizens,” he said. “I would encourage any citizen who would like to discuss concerns (or) who just have some ideas about what they believe the police department can do better to contact me.”
Soza can be reached at 979-543-5311.
Soza’s first job in law enforcement came right out of high school. Just 18 years old, he worked as a jailer for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for about three years before taking a jail sergeant’s post in Matagorda County.
About six months later, at the age of 21, he joined the El Campo Police Department as a patrol officer, ultimately moving up the ranks while earning a bachelor of science in Criminal Justice from Lamar University, graduating Magna Cum Laude, and a master of science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management from Sam Houston State University.
“During my tenure, I have served as the department’s Texas Police Chiefs Association Recognition Program (TPCRP) program manager (and) Special Response Team Leader,” Soza said.
A graduate of the 262nd session of the FBI National Academy, he was named the Wharton County 100 Club Officer of the Year in 2009 and the city’s Employee of the Year in 2016.
“Justin was instrumental in helping to solve a rash of commercial burglaries that occurred within the city limits of El Campo and throughout West Wharton County,” then Police Chief Terry Marek said when presenting Soza with the 100 Club honor. “His diligent efforts, persistence and hard work subsequently resulted in the apprehension of several suspects and the recovery of thousands of dollars in stolen property.”
Now, his focus remains on community involvement with plans to develop the department’s first Citizen’s Police Academy while keeping up the standards of a recognized force.
He also wants to cast more of a focus on resource officers.
“I believe School Resource Officers are an incredible asset to the entire community whose job is not completely understood,” Soza said, adding they “have all the same arrest powers as any Texas Peace Officer. In addition, ... they are an immediate defense to any threat to our children in ECISD schools, they are mentors, they are a friendly face who students reach out to for help.
“In my new role I look forward to collaborating with El Campo ISD administration to ensure that we are continuing to do everything possible to ensure the safety of all ECISD students and staff,” Soza said.