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 Officer Sandra Hernden recently received the Officer of the Year Award from the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety. She was recognized at the Dec. 16 City Council meeting by Mayor Kenneth Poynter, left, and Public Safety Director Vincent Smith, right.

Officer Sandra Hernden recently received the Officer of the Year Award from the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety. She was recognized at the Dec. 16 City Council meeting by Mayor Kenneth Poynter, left, and Public Safety Director Vincent Smith, right.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


Harper Woods honors officer for efforts to fight auto thefts

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published January 14, 2020

HARPER WOODS — The city of Harper Woods recognized one of its finest, Officer Sandra Hernden, at its City Council meeting Dec. 16.

Every year, the Harper Woods Department of Public Safety likes to recognize one of its members for going above and beyond their job’s normal duties.

“We always look for officers who go the extra mile,” said Harper Woods Director of Public Safety Vincent Smith. “Just this last week, we had two officers track down a lost phone. It’s something little, but a missing phone can be very important to a resident. … We like to highlight the officers that put in the extra work to make this community a better one.”

Hernden said she was happy to be honored and credited her success to being able to work in a strong department.

“It was nice. Every officer wants to see they made a difference or a change, and I was lucky to see that I did,” Hernden said. “We have a really good police force. Our officers are out there 24/7 working tirelessly to make sure this community stays safe. I’m thankful I get to work with these guys every day.”

Hernden was the 2017 Officer of the Year, an award she should have received in 2018, but was overlooked at the time. Smith, who took over the department in November, said one of his first goals was rectifying the oversight.

“There was a scheduling conflict and I noticed it when I took over as director of public safety,” he said. “We did award a 2018 winner back in May, Officer Bill Alford, and we will be awarding the 2019 recipient this coming May.”

Hernden said she wasn’t fazed by the error, adding that recognition isn’t why she does her job.

“I knew I had gotten it. Unfortunately, our other director had retired. With my job, I was kept really busy, so I understand it fell to the wayside. It’s not a big deal. I don’t need everyone to know what I’ve done, because I know what I’ve done,” Hernden said.

Much of Hernden’s work comes as part of the Stolen Car Action Team, a multi-jurisdictional task force centered around auto thefts.

“I am with a multi-jurisdictional auto theft task force,” she explained. “We follow current auto theft trends. We perform surveillance on vehicles, follow up on carjackings and work with investigations of crimes that use stolen cars. It’s a lot of work, because a lot of crimes boil down to stolen cars.”

Smith credited Hernden’s hard work and commitment for her being recognized.

“Her dedication with the Stolen Car Action Team, which operates throughout the Detroit area, stood out to me,” he said. “She has found new ways of detecting trends in auto theft. Last year, for instance, she saw suspects were pushing cars out of driveways and helped determine what kind of cars were being stolen. Her attention to detail and dedicated attitude really make her a great officer.”

Smith hopes that seeing officers singled out gives the public an idea of what law enforcement does on a day-in and day-out basis and what challenges they face in the course of their duties.

“It’s good to see what officers have to deal with,” he said. “I think the general public has some vague ideas, but this lets us highlight specifically what they are doing and the challenges they have to face in the course of their duties. It lets us show off their special skills and qualities.”

Always thinking of the job, Hernden said her advice for the community is to take precautions to protect themselves and their vehicles.

“Take your keys out of your car and keep your doors locked,” she said. “If you have any information about a stolen vehicle, please call us. A lot of stolen car investigations lead to other crimes as well.”

Her advice for fellow officers is to remain determined and keep at it despite frequent difficulties.

“You can never give up; it’s the best advice I can give as a police officer,” said Hernden. “Sometimes things can get very frustrating. It’s not a race; it’s a marathon. Just keep doing what we do every day.”