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Eight questions with … Chief Amir Henry, director of campus police

Amir Henry, WSSU chief of police, shares the importance of building and sustaining community trust and safety. 

Chief Amir Henry has served as deputy chief of Winston-Salem State University Police and Public Safety Department since 2017. During his tenure, he led the day-to-day management of the department, providing overall direction and coordination of police operations, as well as advisory support to senior university administrators.

Henry, a native of Bronx, N.Y., has more than 14 years of experience as a law enforcement officer and public servant in the state of North Carolina. He has served in various roles as a law enforcement officer throughout his professional career and has extensive knowledge in command level supervision, risk management, incident command center implementation, security threat groups training, and intelligence documentation.

Here's an inside look at the leader of WSSU’s law enforcement division.

Given the heightened mistrust of police, what will you do to build trust with students and our campus community?

I do not expect to see people knocking at our door to engage us. We must meet the students where they are and engage them in meaningful ways. We will be seen on campus not just in cars but on foot, visible and available to the campus community. We will also continue to partner with others on campus and be part of events that will help our students become more familiar with us. Being in the community helps people know us by name and adds a level of accountability.  My intention is for people to see us often enough to feel comfortable engaging us in conversation. Creating a culture of integrity within a department is crucial to building and sustaining community trust, effective policing, and safe communities. A clearly defined standard that guides all actions of every member of a department lays the groundwork for a trusting relationship with the community. When we work with members of the Ram community to establish how they want to be policed, it not only builds trust within the community, but opens lines of communication. It strengthens the idea that the police and people of the community should be partners, not opponents.

How has COVID-19 impacted the way you and your officers do your job? 

COVID-19 has been a struggle for all of us personally and professionally. Officers are wearing mask more often, having to conduct meetings in uncommon places such as outside or in space with lots of room between them. This has not affected their level of service but for some people it seems strange looking at an officer with a mask on.

What’s the #1 thing that students do to put their safety at risk?

One thing I see and have heard a few faculty and staff members mention are the unsafe practices students use when crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. At times, I see students walking across the street while the traffic light is green for vehicular traffic and along the gate located in the middle of the street. This practice is dangerous. Unfortunately, I have investigated many collisions involving our students being struck by cars. I ask that they cross at intersections when the light is red for vehicles and that they not be distracted by texting or listening to music at a volume where they cannot hear what is going on around them.  

What’s the most common law/rule people unknowingly break? 

Crossing a street against the light and impeding traffic. I do not think people realize if they cross a street or walk in the street and traffic must slow down for them, they are breaking the law and creating a hazard.

Why did you choose law enforcement as a career?

I think because it was my way of giving back. I have always enjoyed watching others have fun. I know the only way to do that is to feel safe. I chose this profession because I want to see others doing what makes them happy and achieving their goals. I like to think I play a part in seeing people achieve their goals by making sure they are safe.   

Do cops really like doughnuts?

Who doesn’t like doughnuts? I know officers who will not eat them in uniform or in front of others. I happen to be one of them. However, if I am out of uniform and I have a craving for one I will eat it, but please don’t tell my wife. 

What’s your ideal method for relieving stress?

I think it is important to create good habits. I try to wake up most mornings with appreciation and gratitude. I think about how I want to act towards others, and I embrace the responsibility I have to this community. I also like to meditate for about fifteen minutes.

What would you tell anyone considering entering law enforcement today? 

The first question I would ask is why you want to be in law enforcement? It is important that you know why someone wants to be an officer. If someone is doing this for power, to look tough, or to just lock people up; I would say this is not for you. This profession is and should always be about serving and protecting others. If you are willing to protect people’s constitutional rights, putt your safety aside for others, and want a challenge, this may be for you. You won’t get rich doing this job, but it can be fulfilling.

WSSU Police and Public Safety employees are dedicated to providing a safe environment for the university and the greater Winston-Salem community. Find out more about becoming a Police and Public Safety Officer. 

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