The paperwork is in the mail, and all that's left is to wait.

In early November, the Winona ISD police department took its final step toward independence - connecting into the Smith County Sheriff's Office dispatch system.

It was the last thing needed for an application packet to be sent to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to approve the school district police department.

The district began making its move to create a separate and formal police department over the summer after the city of Winona disbanded its force due to budgetary reasons.

The application was overnighted to Austin Wednesday evening, said Winona ISD Police Chief and lone officer Mike Pehl.

A Texas Commission on Law Enforcement representative will come to the school to make sure everything checks out, and from there, the school will be given its own identification number and be placed into the system.

"I'm really excited," Pehl said. "It's a big step for Winona ISD, and I'm really excited about being in on the ground floor in the creation of a police department. It's been an exciting process."

In the meantime, Pehl's peace officer certification is held by the Smith County Fire Marshal's Office. The Smith County Commissioners Court approved the measure for 90 days, which will be up in mid-December. The court can extend that time frame to maintain his certification through the entire approval process, Pehl said.

"I'm really happy with the way the commissioners court has stepped up to assist us in this endeavor," Pehl said. "I have gotten so much support from the sheriff's office and Constable John Smith. Everyone has come together and have been very helpful in this. It has been a pretty smooth ride."


Digital Content Manager

Faith Harper is an East Texas native working for her hometown newspaper. She specializes in digital content for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In her spare time, she loves tacos, road trips and is currently learning to sail.

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