St. Louis Fire official, CHDS Master’s grad wins awards, promotion

It’s been a whirlwind year since Derrick Phillips completed the Center for Homeland Defense and Security Master’s Program in December 2020.

St. Louis Fire Deputy Chief Derrick Phillips graduated from the CHDS Master’s program in December 2020.

Since then, Phillips has been awarded the American Society for Public Administration’s Doris A. Davis Thesis Award for his CHDS Master’s thesis entitled, “Fire Service Intelligence: Informed Strategies, Operations, and Tactics,” he was named a Mission Award winner for a second time by the Government Technology & Services Coalition publication Homeland Security Today, and he began working with the Charlotte, NC FBI field office and Charlotte-Mecklenberg Fire Department on research and development of a regional fusion center in the Charlotte area.

St. Louis Fire Deputy Chief Derrick Phillips graduated from the CHDS Master’s program in December 2020.

Finally, the 27-year fire service veteran earned a promotion from Battalion Chief to Deputy Fire Chief in his St. Louis Fire Department, scoring the highest on the exam among his peers.

And, he credits his recent success to his time with the CHDS Master’s program, which he called an “extremely profound experience” and praised the “curriculum, knowledge of the professors, and the incredible insight of all the members of my cohort” as “both refreshing and rewarding.”

While the CHDS Master’s program was the second he had completed in a year, following a Master’s of Public Administration from Arkansas State University, Phillips said his experience at CHDS “remains the most challenging yet rewarding experience in my life.”

“A great deal of what I learned at CHDS has already been put into practice and continues to influence the decisions I make daily,” Phillips said. “Regarding my career, the education I received through CHDS gave me a distinct advantage over my counterparts while competing for advancement to the rank of Deputy Fire Chief. Obviously, CHDS witnessed its share of former students promote to higher ranks, and I believe the education provided by CHDS plays a significant factor in how past students analyze and manage real-world problems. Being able to analyze and synthesize information are foundational approaches at CHDS, and that analytical thinking allows past students to excel in promotional exams.”

As Deputy Fire Chief, Phillips is responsible for all operations on one of three shifts and serves as the Administrative Services Deputy Chief in charge of developing policies for the entire department, while continuing his role as Commander of his department’s Office of Homeland Security as the resident subject matter expert thanks to his CHDS experience.

Phillips called the Doris A. Davis Award a “validation of my work” on his CHDS thesis, as well as a “testament to the high standards of academic rigor in these at CHDS.

The award is given based on the “quality of the work, the utility of the research to the study and practice of public administration, and the creativity and the originality of the research question, policy proposal, or other guiding elements,” according to the award announcement.

Phillips’ thesis proposes that first response agencies engage in joint intelligence processes similar to that of the Joint Intelligence Doctrine of the U.S. military and identifies the intelligence requirements needed to support the fire service and how the fire service can use intelligence to guide strategic policy development, operational planning, and tactical decision-making.

He said he was “pleasantly surprised” to be named a two-time winner of the Homeland Security Today Mission Award, which he said he was told was based on his thesis and thesis product, adding that he was able to present his work via webinar to more than 250 registered attendees – a wider audience than is typical for such theses.

Phillips said the invitation to work with the FBI’s Charlotte field office and Charlotte-Mecklenberg Fire Department also came as a surprise because he didn’t have any contacts in the area, but FBI and fire officials reached out because they were aware of his thesis, awards, and then-pending webinar. He said an FBI official requested pre-published access to his joint intelligence guide developed as part of his thesis to possibly incorporate it into their own. And, he participated in information sessions with fire officials as they conducted initial research and development into a new fusion center for the Charlotte metro area.

Meanwhile, Phillips said he is also involved with several other initiatives, some of them with fellow CHDS alums, including the following:

  • Worked with Alex Cardella, Deputy National Coordinator for the Interagency Fire Intelligence Exchange (IFIX), as an IFIX Region 7 coordinator in the planning stages of developing a national model for fire service intelligence needs based on their joint experiences and the findings from his thesis.
  • Sent a policy memo to CHDS alum Chief John Donnelly of the Washington D.C. Fire and EMS Department, who serves as the co-Chair of the Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, with plans to engage in conversations about the policy memo that suggested incorporating the recommendations of his thesis.
  • Continued participating in the Big City Fire Think Tank, established by CHDS alum Joseph Russo and sponsored by the National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL), which brings together representatives from the largest fire departments in the United States to discuss shared issues and concerns that are not addressed by other groups and associations.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment |, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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