The Hesperia Unified School District has a new police chief, a veteran of civilian and military law enforcement.

Department veteran Sgt. Mike Graham, who has been serving as the department's interim chief for several months, was given the top job in the HUSD school police Monday night.

Formerly Security Police with the Air Force (the service's police force are now known as Security Forces), a deputy with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and a deputy marshal with the now-defunct San Bernardino County Marshal's Department, Graham has been with the police department for the Victor Valley's largest school district since 2001.

"I retired from the marshal's office, but the late Judge [Tony] Piazza talked me into becoming a private investigator. So I did private investigation, doing criminal defense, for just over 10 years. So I worked the other side of the fence, so to speak," Graham said Thursday. "A whole different realm."

"Because I was a certified background investigator ... back when school police started here, they were dispatched through the marshal's office. The first chief, Dale Boatman, he had me do background checks here." Boatman and Sgt. Bob Mosley asked him to come on board. "I wasn't too sure at first, I liked being my own boss."

In the end, they convinced him, and Graham got back into uniform for the first time in 10 years.

"They wouldn't let me do my own background, of course."

Seven years later, Graham sits behind the big desk first occupied by Boatman.

"He got the department off the ground, and Chief Mosley got it running, and now I'm here," he said. "When Chief Mosley left, it was a well-oiled machine. We just need to keep the momentum going."

Graham plans to staff up the department.

"Eventually we want to have two officers at each high school and one at each middle school," he said. "From there, we can springboard to the elementary schools if needed. We very rarely have any issues at elementary schools."

Graham is close to hiring two of the five additional officers he plans to add to the department.

"Right now, we're looking into equipping the officers with tasers, and that is for officer safety, and also for student safety and also suspect safety," he said. "You recover a lot quicker with a taser than with pepper spray. That can last about three hours and you also have to evacuate the [area] for a while."

Overall, he said, the Hesperia Unified School District is one of the safest school districts in the Victor Valley.

"We're well-equipped, well-funded. The district isn't going to skimp when it comes to the safety of the students or the district as a whole."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.