/Clarksdale Police Chief, Sandra Williams A sit-down Q & A

Clarksdale Police Chief, Sandra Williams A sit-down Q & A

Aallyah Wright, Mississippi Today’s reporter, spoke to Chief Sandra Williams from Vicksburg about her experience as the first woman to hold this position in a male-dominated industry, and the challenges that come with fighting crime and engaging in community life. Mississippi Today: There is often resistance or apprehension when “outsiders’ enter a community. This is what you mentioned. Is it possible that some of the resistance you have received is due to being a woman in this position? Sandra Williams, Clarksdale Police Chief: I believe it was a mix of being outsider and being female. This job was not given to me because I am female. Because of my education, my experience, and my background, I was hired. This traditionally is a male job. You would expect to see men in leadership roles in law enforcement, especially when it comes to the leadership of any department. It’s 2019, and we are beginning to see a shift in the proportion of women running police and sheriff departments across the country. Yes, I have felt pushed back at times. It feels like being a woman in this role is a plea deal. They had to see that I was capable and qualified for the role. Mississippi Today: There was a lot of crime in Mississippi when you arrived. Crime was very high at this time last year. You mentioned a few months ago that you had been able to reduce the crime rate by half. According to CPD-released data, the city’s homicide rates have fallen by 92 percent this year and burglaries have dropped 40 percent. How do you lead a team to achieve these results? Sandra Williams, Clarksdale Police Chief: Violent crimes have fallen dramatically since 2017, when I joined. I am trying to find my niche. I am trying to get all my ducks in order, so to speak. 2018 was a year of crime. I had to deal with so many things, that it took me away from focusing on the crime. I needed to gather my team. I had to gather my officers and arm them with law enforcement gear. Also, I had to explain to them their respective roles in law enforcement under my administration. It was a new person from the outside that took some time. We have only had one homicide as of August 2019. Homicides are always bad. Homicide is a crime that results in the death of a person. We had 12 homicides last year. We’re only at the half-way point of last year. That will allow me to help replace the officers who have left. I have lost many officers, both through retirement and other means. Mississippi Today: What would you have done differently to make things easier or speed up a process? Sandra Williams, Clarksdale Police Chief: I am a single parent with twins. I am hustling, trying to make ends meets. At that time, I was searching for a job that would pay me more than what I was earning. After I entered law enforcement, I stayed there for a few years. What I wish I had is a female mentor. Show me how to do it. Show me the ropes and tell me about your options in law enforcement. That was not what I had in mind. As I grew up, I promised myself that if I had the chance to mentor a young officer or female who is interested in becoming an officer, I would. Since I started at the (Clarksdale), department, there has been only one female mentor. I also have responsibility for the males. They all receive the same training and guidance. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to us today as part of the Spring Member Drive.