After months of planning and completing state required paperwork, the Bells Independent School District officially has its police department up and running.

Bells ISD Police Chief Otis Henry said the department got the official thumbs up on Oct. 4. The process began back in July when the district hired Henry as its safety coordinator with an eye toward making him its chief of police once the police department was in place.

Henry has 32 years experience as a peace officer, most of it at the Sherman Police Department.

He was forced out of his job as chief of police in Sherman in December 2017 and later sued the city claiming age discrimination was at the root of his removal from the chief’s position. The city countered by saying that there were deficiencies in Henry’s leadership. The two sides settled the federal case in April with the city issuing a statement that said, “Former Chief Henry honorably served the citizens for more than 32 years and the City applauds his service.”

This week, Henry said he has enjoyed working with the children of Bells ISD, especially those in the elementary school because the environment is so much less stressful than what he was used to at the SPD.

“It is just a real positive environment,” he said. “The teachers and staff love the school and the kids.”

Henry added that the children at the elementary get really excited when a police officer walks in and he enjoys the way they ask questions about the items on his belt. That interaction between the officer and the students and staff is the purpose behind the police department, Henry said. Getting to know the students and have them know him well enough to confide in him is the key to preventing problems before they start, he said.

Henry said the one officer department just recently acquired its first patrol car. There are plans, he said, to add another police officer in the new year.

Bells ISD Superintendent Joe Moore couldn’t be reached for comment on the police department Thursday.