Metro, Features

Amanda Henrickson Becomes Second Female Lieutenant in NPD History

Amanda Henrickson distinctly remembers what her background investigator told her when she first entered law enforcement. 

“He said, ‘Oh, Amanda, you don’t look like the type of person that would want to become a police officer,’” Henrickson said. “And I just remember always thinking to myself, what’s a cop supposed to look like? What is that? What does that mean?”

Henrickson, the highest-ranking female officer within the Newton Police Department (NPD), is only the second female officer to ever be promoted to lieutenant in the department’s history, according to Carolyn Curry, a detective with the department and one of Henrickson’s mentors at NPD.

While most bureaus are run by captains, Henrickson’s Community Services Bureau is the first within NPD to be commanded by a lieutenant, Curry said. 

“To be to be completely honest, I didn’t ever see myself here when I first became a police officer,” Henrickson said. “It’s amazing where your life takes you because I never had aspirations to climb up amongst the ranks, you know. I just kind of take life as it goes.”

Henrickson graduated with an undergraduate degree in sociology and psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2008, she said. She considered going into social work or law school after graduation, but she hadn’t yet found a specific career that she was passionate about.

“I knew I wanted to help people and have a type of career where I felt that I was giving back to humanity and community in some way,” Henrickson said. “So for me, I wanted to have a career where I felt that I had some type of purpose, but I didn’t really know exactly what that career looked like.”

Henrickson’s older brother and some of her friends inspired her to consider law enforcement as a line of work. 

“I remember having conversations with him, and friends who had become police officers, and they said, have you really seriously considered doing that type of work where, you know, I’d be active, I’d be hands on, I could help people in various types of capacity,” she said. 

After a lot of reflection, Henrickson decided to take the civil service exam, an oral and written test required to enter work in the public sector. In the summer of 2008, she and her brother joined the Worcester Police Academy, where Henrickson was one of two women, she said.

Before they could graduate, however, Henrickson’s entire academy class was laid off by the City of Worcester in 2009. 

“I ended up on the civil service layoff list and started applying for jobs in other municipalities across Massachusetts that were hiring in 2009,” she said. “And at the time, Newton was hiring and that’s how I came to work for the city of Newton.”

When starting her new job at NPD as a day officer, Henrickson was surprised by what she thought at the time was a strong presence of female officers. 

“For the size agency that we were, at the time I looked, it seemed like they had a really good group of strong female officers that were working in patrol,” she said. 

Among the 140 officers at the NPD, there are only around 20 women, according to Curry.

“There are not a lot of women in policing, and I have always tried to reach out to different females that come on the job to help them feel comfortable here,” Curry said. “It can be a tough job for women. There’s not a lot of us. So I think it’s important for us to stick together and support each other.”

Henrickson said it’s valuable to have female mentors within her profession. 

“There are a lot of unique circumstances that happen to women in this job,” she said. “It happens to any woman that’s working in a job that’s predominantly male, that you have to kind of overcome, and it’s nice when you have strong women in leadership roles.”

Having more gender diversity in law enforcement leadership fundamentally changes the way crime and punishment are perceived, according to Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Students for the Lynch School of Education and Human Development Julia DeVoy, who is a researcher of social work and the impacts of elevating women in the workplace, said. 

“Whether it’s food scarcity, whether it’s housing, shelter and housing, whether it’s domestic violence, I think the more gender diversity we have in these positions, the healthier our approach to offenses will be going forward,” DeVoy said. “And I see that as an intervention in the pipeline into the incarceration system.”

Henrickson said that she explored several positions at NPD, most recently as a police prosecutor. This job had stable hours, something Henrickson valued as a mother of two children, according to Curry. 

Many mothers do not take promotional exams, civil service tests applicants can take to advance positions, because it is hard to sacrifice a stable schedule, according to Curry. 

“They don’t necessarily take exams, because you end up going back nights, you know, working the last and the first, and that’s difficult for mothers,” Curry said. “It’s you know, it’s not conducive to family life.”

Henrickson made that sacrifice, deciding to leave her job as a police prosecutor to study and receive a leadership position in the department, according to Curry. 

Henrickson said it would not have been possible for her to balance this without the support of her family and peers. 

“It is not easy to be a working mom, and I’m sure my colleagues will say it comes with a lot of challenges,” she said. “And then depending on where your journey takes you, working nights, it’s a lot. It’s a difficult balance, but it can be done and it can be done with support by your peers and by your family. But it’s definitely not easy.”

NPD has around the same number of women working now as they did when Henrickson first started, she said. She hopes to support her colleagues in any way she can. 

“If there’s things that I can do for other female employees here, to talk with them, to support them, to lift them up, motivate them and just know that sometimes it’s it’s important for us here to just keep like motivating each other and letting people know that they have support,” Henrickson said. 

Only 2 to 3 percent of national leadership in law enforcement are women, allowing Newton to set an example of where the country should go moving forward, according to DeVoy. 

“Newton is a progressive community,” DeVoy said. “So imagine how much harder it is in other communities that probably are a little bit more stifled by gender norms, the structural isms? This is a big step. I think Newton can be a model in this space. I feel like [Henrickson] is a trailblazer. And being a mother of two children, I think she’s not just a role model to women, she’s a role model to professional women that are also raising children and their families.”

Curry said she would not be surprised if Henrickson became the first female chief of NPD. 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Lieutenant Henrickson ends up becoming a chief,” Curry said. “She’s driven. She’s focused. I’m sure she’ll take another promotional exam. She’s smart, she makes good decisions. And I see her going places here.”

February 19, 2023