By Joe Southern
It was a commitment to community that attracted Richard Ramirez to police work and that same dedication 23 years later carried him to the top spot on the Stafford Police Department.
Ramirez, 48, was appointed police chief in April, formally replacing Bonny Krahn who led the department for 45 years and retired last fall.
“I knew at an early age I wanted to be a police officer,” Ramirez said.
Born and raised in the Fondren Park community in Missouri City, Ramirez was inspired by a young police officer who took the time to play with the kids.
“He used to come out to the neighborhood and run around with all the kids out there,” he said of Elmo Cepeda. “He would get out of the car and talk to us, throw the football with us … He made a huge impression on me at an early age.”
Cepeda was only nine years older than Ramirez but the impact was profound.
“He was doing community policing before the term was even coined,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez graduated from Westbury High School and earned a degree at DeVry University. He applied for a job with the Stafford Police Department but was turned down because he didn’t have a peace officers license. So he went to the police academy at the University of Houston, received his license and tried again.
“I wasn’t selected,” he said.
Ramirez said Stafford’s police department had the best pay and “the best of everything” in the late 1980s and turnover was almost nonexistent. So, he took a position with the Houston ISD Police Department to start his law enforcement career. After about 2 ½ years he returned home to Missouri City.
“Elmo (Cepeda) still worked in Missouri City. I had the opportunity to work with the person who had the biggest influence on me becoming a police officer,” Ramirez said.
Although he was just an officer and Cepeda was a detective, Ramirez still considered it a huge honor to work with his mentor.
After another 2 ½ years with Missouri City, Ramirez applied for a third time to Stafford and this time he was accepted. From there he began his climb to the top. After a year on the job, Krahn created a gang unit in the department and Ramirez became one of the first two gang detectives in Fort Bend County. A short time later he was promoted to the newly created position of corporal (the equivalent of a sergeant today). He held that position until he became a detective in 1996. He became a lieutenant in 2010 and the assistant chief in 2013. When Krahn retired, Ramirez was named interim chief and then finally chief in April.
“You need to set a long term goal and then you set and achieve short term goals,” he said, noting he had the goal of becoming chief almost from the time he joined the force.
Ramirez is naturally a strong advocate for community policing. Although he lacks enough personnel to do full-fledged community policing, he has adapted a hybrid version where officers get out and become involved with the neighborhoods.
“We can’t be effective without the community’s help,” he said.
In 22 seasons, Ramirez has attended all but three home football games for Stafford. He was hospitalized for two of those games and out of town for the third.
“I live in the community,” he said. “I raised my family here … this is home.”
He and his wife Teresa have three children ages 14, 19 and 24, and one granddaughter. He raised his family in Stafford and is happy to be there. He tries to be at as many community functions as he can.
“What happens in this community is very important to me,” he said.
Internally, he has always admired the family-friendly atmosphere Krahn nurtured within the department and he is striving to maintain that with all 54 people on staff.
“When I look out there, I know their name,” he said.
Since becoming chief, Ramirez has made a few changes. Among them is the promotion of Glynell Horn to assistant chief.
“I’m doing the best thing to move the department forward, not because I think the former chief was doing anything wrong,” he said of the changes he is implementing.
He said he is accessible to the public and wants his department to have a solid relationship with those they serve and protect. That’s what got him into law enforcement and that is what drives him in is career.
“The citizens should know who we are,” he said.