Michelle Henderson
Capt. Michelle Henderson

Captain Michelle Henderson joined the Patrol in May 1989 as a member of the 118th Academy Class. She was commissioned that November and assigned to the Cambridge Post. In September 1993 she transferred to the Zanesville Post where in 1994 she earned the Post Trooper of the Year Award. In January 1996 she transferred to the Office of Investigative Services. In July of 2000 she was promoted to the rank of sergeant and in December of that year was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. In August 2003 she transferred back to the Office of Investigative Services where in June 2004 she was promoted to staff lieutenant and to captain in July 2006. Capt. Henderson currently lives in Dublin with her husband Gerald. They have three sons: Johnifer, Jamel and Daniel.
 

In My Own Words

Becoming a law enforcement officer was not something that I set as my goal growing up, however, I am very fortunate that I have the opportunity to be part of one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country: the Ohio State Highway Patrol. I grew up in a small town in southeast Ohio and I was one of four girls in my family. My mother worked in a traditional health care field as a nurse’s aid and my father worked in a factory. Although more and more women were crossing over into the more non-traditional work fields during that time, it was still pretty uncommon and not widely accepted for women, and especially women of color, to join law enforcement agencies.

When I first joined the Patrol in 1989, there were approximately 30 female troopers. None of them were in supervisory positions at that time. I recall asking myself as I entered the paramilitary environment at the Academy, “What I am I doing here?” At that time, I remember seeing all male troopers dressed in freshly pressed uniforms adorned with shiny name bars and ribbons. As I looked around the room, I did not see one smiling face. Each of the troopers, although professional at all times, made it clear we were not there to have a lot of fun. Rather, we were there to learn to be state troopers, and that was a serious matter.

Each of the troopers appeared to be in top physical condition and they all carried themselves confidently. The entire experience was exciting and intimidating at times. However, the words spoken to me so many times over the years by my parents rang loudly in my mind, “Michelle, you can do anything you set your mind to accomplish.” I took their advice to heart and always believed what they had taught me. In my mind, I knew it really did not matter that I was a short, small-stature African American female who just happened to be a single parent also. I had made up my mind that I would be a trooper!

Truthfully, while I was in the Academy, there were some days that were so rigorous both mentally and physically that I questioned myself. I wondered if I really wanted to go through with this. The thought of leaving and continuing my college engineering degree seemed a lot easier to me at that time. After all, being an astronaut for NASA was what I had always dreamed of doing. But, something inside of me told me to finish what I had started, and that was pursing this tremendous challenge I had ahead of me at that time.

It did not take much convincing, especially after I considered the responsibility I had of taking care of my sons. The trooper salary was more than I had ever earned, plus, the medical and retirement benefits along with the tuition reimbursement programs were all excellent benefits. I realized leaving my children behind while I stayed at the Academy for 26 weeks would be a tremendous challenge, but I also knew the reward and benefits of completing my training would make our lives much better in the end.

The Academy training was physically challenging for me, however, each week with the encouragement of my family I gave it my best and eventually persevered. When I finally reached the 26th week of training, it occurred to me that I had not only faced a very difficult challenge, I had actually conquered it. The time had come that I was about to embark on one of the most honorable careers a person could have: public service. During the graduation ceremony, my classmates and I stood in front of our family and friends, raised our right hands and repeated the oath to serve and protect. Finally, we too had earned the right to wear the freshly pressed uniform that we all were so impressed by on day one of the Academy training. At that point it dawned on me, finally, I was now a state trooper!

It was on that day, I made up my mind that I wanted to be a leader in this organization. I vowed to be an encouragement to those around me. Carrying out that vow was not always easy. Quite frankly, working in a male dominated environment posed some difficult times throughout the years. During that time, female officers were not as readily accepted as they are today in law enforcement agencies. However, the fellowship with other females and minorities who were associated with the National Organization of Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Central States Trooper Coalition (CSTC), International Association of Women Police (IAWP), and Ohio Women’s Law Enforcement Network (OWLEN) was extremely instrumental in helping me develop strong leadership qualities. I have been fortunate to have also been mentored by non-minority officers and commanders as well. I not only feel an obligation, I have a deep desire to mentor and help each and every person I encounter throughout my career and everyday life.

A lot has changed since 1989, and my career has been quite rewarding. After graduation, I was assigned to the Cambridge Patrol Post where I worked the midnight shift. Eventually, I transferred to the Zanesville Patrol Post where I was assigned to the afternoon shift. I decided I wanted more of a challenge, so in 1996 I transferred to General Headquarters into the Office of Investigative Services. I was promoted to sergeant in 1998 and assigned to the Administrative Investigative Unit. In 2000 I was transferred to the Office of the Superintendent where I served as the Colonel’s Executive Officer and promoted to the rank of lieutenant. In 2003, I transferred back to the Office of Investigative Services where I was promoted to the rank of staff lieutenant in 2004. I was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2006 and remained at the Office of Investigative Services where I serve as the Executive Officer.

Today I have three sons, and my husband and I often talk about how much the boys and I missed each other during theses times because of our schedule conflicts. However, we all agree the lessons we learned from our sacrifices and support for each other is invaluable.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol has a total of 1,540 uniformed law enforcement officers. Although, strides have been made in the hiring and promoting of females and minority officers there is still work to be done. Unfortunately, other than myself, there has never been another minority female promoted within the Division. However, the recruitment and retention of females and minorities is very important to the Division. Currently, we have 142 females with the following number serving in supervisory and command ranks: 1 major, 2 captains, 5 staff lieutenants, 5 lieutenants and 20 sergeants. There are currently a total of 358 minority officers, including all females. Although, we are not where we would like to be pertaining to minority recruitment, females and minorities do have more promising career opportunities today than in the past.

Although the Ohio State Highway Patrol has made great strides over the years, we continue to look for ways to recruit, retain and promote hard working, qualified, energetic women and men to join us in our leadership efforts to serve and protect. If you feel you are up to the challenge, please sign up to join one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country.

 

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