Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades administered the oath of office Thursday to Keith Quirk as the new chief of the Dumas Independent School District (DISD) Police Department. "Excited to be in this position," said Quirk after taking the oath. "I know it is a big opportunity. … I look forward to serving the school and the community."
Quirk takes over from Larry Payne, who retired at the end of December after more than 20 years on the job. Payne was the founding chief of the department when it was organized in the late 1990s. Quirk, who spent six years as an officer and investigator with the Amarillo Police Department (APD), was hired as Payne's replacement. He was sworn in as a DISD officer in November to begin the transition to chief. He assumed the office on January 4. On Thursday, DISD Superintendent Monty Hysinger said, "We are very excited to have our new chief in place. We are looking forward to a lot of great things he is going to bring to the department, the school district, and the students, and so we are very excited. We are looking forward to big things."
Though Quirk comes to Dumas from the APD, he has connections to Moore County. He is a graduate of Sunray High School. His wife, Taylor, and his mother, Cindy, are both DISD teachers. Both were on hand Thursday in the board room of the central administration building to witness the swearing in.
Rhoades said he had known Quirk and his family for a long time. "I have known him since he was a kid," he said. "You kind of have a local guy that is probably going to stick around. His family is here. He was raised here. And, he brings something from a big department … knowledge from a big city but fitting in a little city. I think there's good things coming."
Though more common in other parts of the state, school district police departments are rare in the Texas Panhandle. In addition to Quirk, the department has one other officer, Brian Hatch, who works out of Dumas Jr. High School. Together, they are responsible for the safety and security of over 4000 students and staff in five elementary schools in Dumas and Cactus, North Plains Opportunity Center in Dumas, Dumas Intermediate School, Dumas Jr. High School, Dumas High School and various other facilities.
When Quirk began at DISD, he said he looked forward to interacting with the students and said he understood that, in addition to providing security and enforcing the law on school property, a big part of the job would be teaching and helping students and families. He said he hoped to be able to give students a positive image of law enforcement. "I want to reach out to the kids and let them know we are regular human beings too. 'We are here to protect you. There is nothing else we are out here for. It is to help you and help the community.'"