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Law Enforcement's Many Hats

Alumnus Mark Denham has been a local Police Commander, FBI Agent, State Trooper, Professor and Security Director.

Mark Denham (MS ’10) was only 18 years old when he took his first job as a law enforcement officer as a campus police officer in Mississippi.

During his 36 year law enforcement career, Denham served at every level of law enforcement, including local, state, and federal positions. He was a Mississippi State Trooper, an FBI Special Agent, and a Shenandoah Detective and Command Staff Officer before joining the private sector as a Regional Security Director for the Memorial Hermann Health System.

Now he watches over patients, visitors and employees at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann, the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza, and the Katy Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as 67 outpatient facilities throughout the Houston region. He is also responsible for the oversight of all investigations, education and training for the entire security system.

“It has been very rewarding,” Denham said of his career. “If law enforcement or security is your calling and passion, be proud of it. I am a good example that if you begin your career with passion, you don’t have to ever experience burn out. Any day I can help someone during their time of need, I feel like it is one more day my chosen profession was a wise choice for me.”

Denham caught the policing bug when he was 13 years old, doing ride-along with his neighbor, a Constable, and his teacher’s husband, an officer with the Jackson, Mississippi Police Department – all before he could even drive.

“My mother would drop me off and pick me up at the police station,” said Denham. “Even as young as I was then I was able to learn the difference between good and bad procedures.”

Denham worked his way through college while attending the University of Southern Mississippi, taking classes in the morning, sleeping in the afternoon and working the night shift at the campus police department. After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi, Denham became a Mississippi State Trooper, where he learned the importance of appearance which translates into professionalism. As a trooper, his uniform was pressed and his boots shined, a belief he passes on to his officers to this day.

“The initial judgment by others is from your appearance, and it communicates ‘I am a professional or I am less than professional,’” said Denham. “It is a common perception that a well-dressed and groomed officer is a professional who is trained, educated and better prepared to do the job of protecting the public they serve.”

Denham also was a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the majority of his career, where he was involved in major investigative matters such as kidnappings, extortions, public corruption, bank robberies, and homicides, as well as white-collar crimes, foreign counterintelligence, organized crimes, civil rights, cyber-crimes, and terrorism.

As an FBI Agent, he also served on crisis management tactical response teams. He responded to several historical criminal justice events, including the 1986 Edmond, OK. Post Office massacre by a disgruntled employee, which led to the term “going postal;” the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the police beating of Rodney King; the 1993 siege involving David Koresh and his Branch Davidian followers in Waco; and the search for Top 10 Fugitive Eric Rudolph, who was responsible for bombings at the Atlanta Olympic Park in 1996 as well as several abortion clinics in 1998.

Denham credits his education and experience for getting him the FBI job. He also took advantage of every training opportunity and assignment available at the agency.

“Education is important,” said Denham. “It created opportunities that would not have been available to you. When I started my career, a Bachelor’s degree was the equivalent of a Master’s degree today. To currently be competitive in our profession, you must consider obtaining an even higher level of education with a Master’s degree!”

After the FBI, Denham took a position as head of the Criminal Investigation Division and training program, and was a member of the Command Staff with the Shenandoah Police Department, a community with a population of 4,000 and 23 sworn officers. It was quite different than his federal assignment with a jurisdiction that spread across the country and his trooper position where he covered the entire state of Mississippi. But the mission was the same – providing for the safety of citizens.

“There was still important work that needed to be done,” said Denham. “Residents expect you to help them in their time of need and provide the professional services that they deserve.”

In July, Denham was recruited to his current position at the Memorial Hermann Health System, one of three regional security directors protecting the vast network of hospitals and clinics throughout the Houston area. His job oversees state-of-the-art technology and training of security personnel.

The system uses technology to promote safety and is equipped with cameras, electronic doorways and badging system to monitor movements throughout the facility. It also relies heavily on the presence of armed security officers, with a knack for customer services, to provide security on the ground.

“A lot of what we do is presence, and we are very customer-service oriented,” said Denham. “Being visible is a large part of the officer’s job. They defend the campus by knowing the area, but they also provide assistance to employees and visitors in need of help.”

After receiving his Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management at Sam Houston State University in 2010, Denham became an adjunct faculty member at the College of Criminal Justice. He also was invited to Poland to teach firearms and tactical operations at their national police academy, as well as instructing leadership and management courses at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Roswell, New Mexico. He is also a subject matter expert instructor at the prestigious Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He enjoys the opportunity to share his passion and experience with others.

“Even though I have been a peace officer for this length of time, I still receive enjoyment and satisfaction from the job,” Denham said. “I love the part of our system that helps people in need and I want to be in service to others.”

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