KLEIN, Texas (KTRK) -- Policing is personal for Klein ISD's Marlon Runnels.
"I was about 11 or 12 years old, and I received the news from a Houston police officer that my dad had been taken from us," Runnels explained during an interview with ABC13. "And so, just the way he showed empathy and compassion to my brother and me, the professionalism that I saw in that officer that day, it impacted me."
Runnels, who served nine years in the Marine Corps, says several circumstances in his life, not all as tragic as losing his father, have molded the man we see in uniform. One of those events, the Uvalde school shooting, took place mere days before he took over as the first Black Chief of Police in Klein ISD history.
"It really just reaffirmed my commitment to this work and to my community," Runnels said. "The responsibility to ensure that all 54,000-plus kids, all 7,000-plus employees know our community and our schools are a safe place for their kids."
In a little more than two months on the job, in addition to ensuring every building on all 50 Klein campuses is safe and secure, Runnels has helped lead numerous active shooter trainings. These include collaboration with local first responders and the FBI.
However, the native Houstonian is also committed to keeping Klein safe at home, emphasizing mental health.
"One of the things we try to utilize to keep everyone safe is behavioral threat assessment teams," Runnels said. "We've designed a framework to help us identify what type of mental health needs our students may have and provide those supports as needed. Our officers are trained in that as well."
Because if all kids in the district remain a priority for Chief Runnels, his kids remain a priority.
"I am a parent in our district and the chief of police," Runnels pointed out. "So I take that role very, very seriously. I treat every person's child in our district just like they're my own."
Some make it a point to separate personal from professional, but not Marlon Runnels. It's all personal.
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