Brothers Anthony “Tony” and Paul Chapa are born and raised San Antonians, graduates of SAISD’s Jefferson High School, and career law enforcement officers. With high ambitions and years of hard work, the two brothers who grew up on Bradford Street near St. Mary’s University have gone on to lead HAPCOA, the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association.
HAPCOA, the oldest and largest organization of its kind in the nation, aims to empower Latinos in law enforcement. The association celebrated its 40th anniversary in November with an annual training symposium here in San Antonio.
Paul Chapa serves as chief of police and assistant vice president of public safety and enterprise risk management at Trinity University. He received his undergraduate degree from Wayland Baptist University and his masters in organizational leadership from Texas State University.
“My father, a former Marine who served time in the Korean War, inspired me to work in law enforcement, Paul said. “He did not allow me to join the Marine Corps – he said that he had served enough time in the military for all of his children.” But when Paul’s older brother Tony joined the San Antonio Police Department, his own calling to the force was illuminated.
“With the many stories that [Tony] shared, the service to the community that he performed, and the difference that he made ultimately led me to law enforcement.”
Paul’s career began with in Bexar County Sheriff’s Office. He went on to serve in university police departments, first at St. Mary’s, then at Texas State, and finally at Trinity. He was selected in 2009 as Trinity University police department chief of police and promoted to assistant vice president of public safety and enterprise risk management in June of 2013.
“I became a member of the San Antonio chapter of HAPCOA in 2000. I was recruited by my brother to join,” he said, “as I aspired to be a police administrator.” Paul joined the national board of HAPCOA four years ago and serves this year as the association’s national president. “The interaction [Tony and I] have had this year with the development and implementation of HAPCOA’s national training symposium … has been a tremendous experience,” he said.
Tony Chapa began his career in the San Antonio Police Department and later earned his masters degree from St. Mary’s. He began to teach at and recruit for the police academy. One day while meeting with potential recruits, Tony found himself sitting in a restaurant booth right next to two U.S. Secret Service members looking to do their own recruiting.
“They invited me to take the test on Friday and I took it on Saturday,” said Tony, likening the entrance exam to the GRE in terms of length and typical preparation. “Fifty people took the test, three passed, and I was hired.”
His tenure with the Secret Service took him from San Antonio to Los Angeles, Mexico, Washington, D.C., Colombia, and back. For four years, he belonged to Vice President Al Gore’s security detail. In Bogotá, he worked with Colombian police to locate counterfeit currency plants, and upon returning to Washington, served as agent-in-charge of counterfeit investigations worldwide.
“I worked in 25 different countries, where we would go on investigations in advance of a protective mission for the president or vice president,” Tony explained. He led the security detail when the president of Colombia visited the U.S. and he worked on protective details for the president of Spain, prime minister of Germany, among many others.
He retired in 2008 from his post as the first-ever Hispanic assistant director of the Secret Service.
“I don’t know that I would have been as prepared to present my credentials without the nearly 20 years of training and conferences that HAPCOA provided,” Tony said.
Shortly thereafter, he stepped into the role of HAPCOA executive director.
Tony returns to San Antonio regularly to speak to students at St. Mary’s University and Jefferson High School. “I feel it’s my responsibility to share these experiences with young, impressionable students. At their age I had no idea what was possible, and I have an affinity for students in San Antonio.”
Both Chapa brothers credit HAPCOA for providing meaningful connections and valuable training. “The mentorship, the networking, the leadership training – it has all enhanced my professional development,” said Paul. “Being able to reach out to the assistant director of the United States Secret Service, the FBI, or to the assistant director of the Department of Homeland Security can help in a time of need.”
Tony joined the organization as a young Secret Service agent. “I made a lot of contacts who are still my friends to this day, and they’re not only in federal law enforcement but state and county departments – people I otherwise would never have met,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (U.S. Army-Ret.) gave the keynote address at the 2013 annual Aguila Awards Luncheon. “Our responsibility,” he said, “is to embrace the task of preparing the leaders of the future to handle the challenges and responsibilities of command.”
Subject area experts provide trainings and lectures at the annual symposium designed “to give members a competitive edge in front of a promotion board,” Paul explained, noting the value of being able to intelligently discuss specific emerging topics when interviewing for a leadership role within any sector of law enforcement.
The Aguila Award is the highest honor that the association bestows for “exceptional contributions by an individual or an organization in support of HAPCOA’s mission and goals.” SAPD’s assistant chief of police Jose “Joe” Bañales received the 2013 award for his leadership and contributions to the department.
Maj. Gen. David Garza, (U.S. Marine Corps-Ret.) neatly summarized the organization’s mission in his closing keynote speech: “What is HAPCOA committed to? We’re committed to selection, retention, promotion and education.” With individuals like the Chapa brothers at the helm, HAPCOA’s future looks bright.
Miriam Sitz is a freelance writer in San Antonio. A graduate of Trinity University, she blogs on Miriam210.com. Follow her on Twitter at @miriamsitz and click here for more stories from Miriam Sitz on the Rivard Report.