Editor's Note: Clarksdale Police Chief Sandra Williams was named the 2021 Woman of the Year in the Clarksdale Press Register, Best of Poll taken last month.
Sandra Williams didn’t grow up wanting to be in law enforcement, but life and her talents drew her to a career she has grown to love.
“I grew up in the country in Warren County with my family all around me,” said Williams. “My grandparents, a great aunt and great-grandmother all lived near and we were a close-knit family.”
She talked of a nurturing environment where she grew up around people who watched out for each other.
She also learned the value of hard work as everyone - she has six siblings - was expected to contribute in some fashion.
“My parents had jobs and then peddled vegetables in town,” she explained. “One of my first jobs was working for my uncle in his garden for $10.”
She told of haggling with her two uncles, agreeing to work for the one who paid the most.
Education was also important and her parents never let work interfere with school.
Williams said she was shy but did well in school - she was a member of the honor society - a cheerleader and set her sights on college.
She attended Jackson State and answered an ad in the Vicksburg newspaper. She ultimately graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice.
“No one in my family was in law enforcement,” she explained. “My mother was a nurse, my dad worked at a factory and my grandfather was government worker.”
But her career path was set.
She remembers how excited she was her first night patrolling and how the second night seemed to last forever. She explained that law enforcement is made up of a lot of boring days and a few very hectic and dangerous ones.
“I took the test to become a sergeant and did well, but my commander had different plans,” said Williams. “He put me in charge of the community relations division.”
She met with the public and was put in charge of juveniles and combatting gangs.
It was a job she excelled at and that led to her being named to investigation.
“I worked in Investigation from 1996 to 2017 going from lieutenant to captain to Chief Investigator,” said Williams. “I loved it.
Williams said Investigations is where crimes are solved.
“It’s putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” said Williams. “I saw a lot, but I also did a lot to make my community a better place.”
Williams got the call from Mayor Chuck Espy in 2017.
She said she felt she was read to take command.
“I’ve dealt with being a female in a male dominated profession,” said Williams. “But I know what it takes to be a good police officer.”
Treating people with respect, being firm when the situation called for it and being “the tough guy” when the job demanded it.
She spoke quietly of things she has seen and decisions she has had to make.
She says she never asks someone under her to do something she hasn’t done or wouldn’t do.
“When you put that uniform on you provide a needed service to the community,” said Williams. “Everyone in Clarksdale deserves the very best service from their police department.”