New Universal City police chief back where he started

John Siemans is back where he started.

“I’m back working with some of the very people I started with here,” said Siemans, the new Universal City police chief, who got his start in law enforcement in U.C. back in January 2003. “It’s surreal to be back home, where I started.”

On the job since Jan. 19, Siemans was hired to replace the retired Chief Gary Speer.

Siemans said his institutional knowledge and familiarity with the city, its employees, the police department, and its residents were on his side when he applied and was selected for the job.

“I’ve always stayed close to this agency and the folks that make up the police department, civilian and sworn,” he said. “Chief Speer and I have maintained friendships, chief (Bill) Gabbard, some of the lieutenants and patrolmen, I had my finger on the pulse a little bit anyway.”

Siemans comes from Castle Hills, where he spent the past three years as its police chief after serving as a captain for the four years prior. He was on the force in Boerne for six years before his Castle Hills arrival.

U.C. City Manager Kim Turner said Siemans’ passion for the job was one of the selling points when it came time to select a chief. The city used four department heads to filter through the seven applicants for the job. Their role was to produce a “top two” for Turner to interview.

“I was here when he was here before,” Turner said. “It’s the same thing he carries today, a passion for law enforcement and the integrity with which he carries out his responsibility. It’s undeniable, when meeting him for the first time, that the passion is there.”

Turner said her role was to select not just a chief of police but a department head who blends well with the rest of the city, and its staff, to form a cohesive unit.

“From my perspective, I wasn’t just looking for a chief of police,” Turner said. “I needed someone who understands the roles and responsibilities of all departments, and how they work together to perform as one.

“We are a huge proponent of training and education. The greatest way to inspire others is if you are a life-long learner. It was very clear that Chief Siemans is a life-long learner,” she added.

Siemans is the second vice president of the Alamo Area Police Chiefs Association. He said he’s “spent a ton of time” in Austin helping get legislation passed and has even helped to author a few bills.

He was recently appointed to the Texas Police Chiefs Association board as the area representative. Siemans has been to the FBI National Academy, and the Texas Leadership Command College (LCC) Module. “I was able to go to those and make the most of the opportunities and the networks that came about from those,” he added.

Siemans earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from Tarleton State after undergrad work at Texas Lutheran in information systems.

“In my past life I was an IT analyst at USAA,” he said. “That has paid dividends. I was involved in (Universal City’s) IT support during my first tour here.”

But the job at USAA wasn’t fulfilling to the former U.S. Air Force veteran, who signed up right out of high school and spent seven years there.

But his years at USAA were not among his favorite.

“I was good at my job, but I was miserable and … it doesn’t serve you well when you’re doing something you’re not happy at,” Siemans said.

Once he put on the uniform, he said he never looked back, or away. “You never work a day in your life when you like what you’re doing,” he quipped.

Siemans was involved in two officer-involved shootings in 2010 and 2013. He said it is unfortunate any time an officer must resort to tactics needed to end hostile situations.

For one incident, in 2010 while with the Boerne Police Department, Siemans was award the Medal of Valor, which since its establishment in 2001 has been awarded “to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.”

A short time later, he said, he was involved in the second fatal shooting in 2013 as a new member of the Castle Hills Police Department.

“Those did come up in the interview, primarily from a ‘what did I take away from it’ angle. I provided more insight than what people really saw at face value,” he said.

Siemans was recognized as the 2007 U.C. Officer Of The Year and has served as a warrant officer, CID investigator, even a school resource officer for one year before becoming a SWAT officer. He was promoted to sergeant and said he’s spent time on every shift.

“I couldn’t just talk the talk, I could walk the walk, I have served I those capacities,” he said. “I could speak with passion about it … about being well-rounded. About how to handle the stress of the job.

“I’m a high-energy guy. I have that energy coupled with that passion,” he added.

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