For Criminal Justice Month, Daymar College is honoring educators and graduates of our Criminal Justice Degree program who are making a difference every day in their communities. Since the US Congress established it in 2009, the purpose of National Criminal Justice Month has been “to promote societal awareness regarding the causes and consequences of crime, as well as strategies for preventing and responding to crime”. Those who pursue careers in criminal justice contribute to crime prevention every day, and we would like to use the month of March to thank them for their commitment.
Officer Shartez McHenry may not be the first African-American woman to be sworn into the Owensboro, KY Police Department, but officers in her own department can’t recall any predecessors.
“I just hope I’m not the last,” Officer McHenry says.
She hopes that when young girls see her out on patrol in her uniform, they’ll see real-life proof that women can succeed in the criminal justice field. It’s that community spirit and desire to give back that led Officer McHenry to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice.
After graduating from Owensboro High School in 2005, Officer McHenry began working at Wendell Foster’s Campus for Developmental Disabilities to assist in the mission of “empowering people with developmental disabilities to realize their dreams and potential.” A few years later, she began contemplating making an even larger commitment to the community: becoming a police officer. When a Daymar College student suggested she enroll in our Criminal Justice Degree program, Officer McHenry started attending night classes.
It was the right choice. The support she received from her Criminal Justice Degree program mentor Michelle McMannis, along with the small class sizes and accessibility of instructors, helped her enjoy her time at Daymar College.
“The atmosphere felt like home,” she says. “I had my instructor’s home phone number and knew I could call at any time.”
She felt confident that she was getting the right education because her instructors were working in careers in criminal justice.
“The teachers didn’t just learn out of a book; they experienced it first-hand.”
Officer McHenry graduated from Daymar College with a Criminal Justice degree in 2010. She continued her work at Wendell Foster’s Campus until 2014 when she began her basic police training. After 18 weeks at the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Department of Criminal Justice Training’s Basic Police Academy, she was sworn into the Owensboro Police Department on March 17, 2015. In her 15 weeks of training with the department that followed, Officer McHenry experienced each patrol shift.
In July, 2015, she went out on patrol in her community of Owensboro. Officer McHenry plans to stay on patrol for the next 5–6 years while she pursues her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice to aid her in her goal of becoming a training officer. Even with her continuing education and career in criminal justice, she is determined to add community service to her busy schedule. She hopes to be involved in Owensboro Police Department’s Adopt a School program, which would give her the opportunity to visit the various elementary and middle schools in Owensboro a few days a week.
“I am my grandmother’s granddaughter, for sure,” she says.
Miss Shirley, her grandmother, was a veritable Owensboro celebrity, remembered for her work with local youth through the HL Neblett Community Center. Officer McHenry carries on that poise and sense of purpose, instilling in those she meets a desire to give back to the community without any thought as to whether anyone has done it before.