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Making history is more impactful when that history encompasses passion, faith, and a true love for change and growth. Houma Police Department Chief of Police Dana T. Coleman has proven to love his community and continues to aspire to lift those around him to create a stronger and more beautiful community.
Dana did not always aspire to be in police enforcement, but God has a funny way of always placing you right where he feels you need to be. His original dream was to become an attorney, and he aspired to become Terrebonne Parish’s first black judge.
“But that was Dana’s plan, not God’s,” he chuckled.
Dana always admired his brother, Bruce Coleman, who worked for the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office. He picked his brother’s brain constantly about the highs and lows of becoming a police officer, “He told me how at one moment you can be helping the elderly and the next moment you can be rescuing someone from an accident, then at a blink of an eye, a fraction of a second, you can be doing something totally different,” he explained.
Dana went on to work at the Sheriff’s Office for two years while going to school. After some time, his little league baseball coach, Johnny Lopez, suggested he apply with the Houma Police Department.
The interview didn’t exactly go the way Dana had planned.
The interviewer asked Dana where he was from: “I’m from Houma,” Dana responded. That’s when the man across from him asked again, except this time he asked about his neighborhood, “I had no idea where this was going and I
kind of felt like I was being attacked,” Dana shared. His baseball coach, who was in the interview with him, said, “Dana, just tell him what neighborhood you’re from.” After responding with “Mechanicville,” Dana said the next comment was “Show me a kid from Mechanicville that has never been in trouble.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t Dana’s time to join HPD, as he was denied after the first interview.
Fast forward six months later when he received a callback for another interview, with a new panel.
He specifically remembered the man sitting directly across from him was the police chief, Jack Smith, “He said, ‘sir, where do you see yourself in 20 years?’ I said, ‘Well sir, hopefully in 20 years, I can have your job. I want to be the police chief here.” That answer did the trick, as Dana joined the force at the Houma Police Department in January 1995.
Chief Dana Coleman earned his official title exactly 20 years later in 2015. Not only did he achieve his goal, but he made history when he became the first African American Chief of Police in Houma. Chief Coleman said he would have never thought that specific answer in that interview would come to fruition. It took a magnitude of hard work, dedication, faith, and passion to get where he is today and he gives God all the Glory.
Growing up, Dana’s parents instilled strong faith and perseverance in him. They taught him that no matter what, he was to do what was right, always look to God, and give thanks to Him for everything. It’s these strong values, along with a strong support system consisting of his wife and children, that has gotten him through the unthinkable. When asked about how he continues to be righteous and keeps strong through those low times, he simply said, “My faith is stronger.”
Dana recalled growing up in a home built on a strong foundation, “As a kid, my parents believed in God and serving the Lord. They built a strong foundation with their kids to put God first in everything and I remember times when my mom would grab the kids before school and go into the living room where we would have prayer. She would always stress that you should pray before you get your day started, pray throughout the day…if you’re faced with adversity, you go to the Lord and ask Him to help with that adversity,” he explained. His mother also taught the children that when you are celebrating a victory, you thank Him for those victories as well, “We are a faith-driven family,” he explained, “I carry those characteristics and attributes with me in my daily life which allows me to get through those highs and lows of this profession.”
The lows of the job always pull Dana into prayer. He reminisced about three specific incidents that shook him to the core in his time as an officer. The first incident was a murder-suicide involving a male who jumped off into the Intracoastal Canal after murdering his live-in girlfriend and their young child. He recalled having to take a moment with his responding officers to allow them to cry it out, pray it out, and resume serving justice. The second was a recent tragedy that shook the Houma community when two-year-old Ezekiel Harry was found deceased in a trash can. Dana’s heart not only goes to the innocent life that was lost but he said his prayers go out to all involved, especially the family. The third horrible tragedy that left him shaken was the “Bayou Strangler” case. Ronald Joseph Dominique was arrested in 2006 after a slew of murders that began in 1996 totaling 23 men and boys. Newspaper clippings from this case still hang on the walls in his office. These memories have haunted Chief Coleman’s mind, however, he gives an ode to his family and his support system to get him through tough times. He looks to the celebrations and the highs in his career to find harmony in the chaos.
Dana always looks forward to passing on the knowledge, skills, and abilities that he has learned throughout his career to those that have aspirations of becoming leaders. “I love passing that torch to others. I enjoy networking in our community, we have a great community! I really enjoy people, I love talking to people, I love helping people, and I love the people that we protect and serve. My goal is to try to do my best and try to do my due diligence to make this community a better place to live, work, breathe, and raise a family.”