Channa Henry just wants to help people. She knows how people need compassion and someone who can understands what others are going through.
Unfortunately, the 32-year-old Lewis-Clark State College graduate had to go through a personal tragic event to find such a calling.
Henry was a victim of a violent crime at the age of 19 and had to describe in great detail what happened to an all-male investigation team.
“Just having a female officer present would have made a world of difference to me,” Henry says. “I was sitting in a room full of men trying to explain what happened to me. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be a police officer.”
Fast forward to the present and Henry is now in her third year as a patrol officer for the Nez Perce Tribal Police Department and is one of two females currently on the force.
“I got into the job because I wanted to help people,” Henry says. “People have different judgments when they see a (police) uniform. The badge isn’t always a positive image to some people and can cause mental, emotional and physical stress. I want to help them know I am here to help them.”
Describing herself normally quiet and reserved, Henry says the early challenges for her being a police officer was being able to handle confrontation and having to take charge of the situation.
“But putting on the uniform makes it feel more like you are a superhero,” she says. “You just have to make that switch into the alter ego.”
It may not be the only superhero uniform involving law in Henry’s future. She recently took a practice Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and she says she did fairly well. She is still weighing her options, but does have an interest in law school and eventually working in the area of United States federal Indian law and policy.
Henry is a native of the area and an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe. She grew up in Lapwai and attended school there. Following high school graduation, she spent seven years working in the gaming area for the Nez Perce Tribe and began to attend LC State part-time. She focused on both creative writing and publishing arts, and Justice Studies, and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in 2017.
“I really like writing poetry and editing books,” she says.
While at LC State, she also took justice studies courses, which helped her with confidence in pursuing a career in law enforcement.
“I loved it there,” Henry says of the college. “I liked the size of the classrooms and how personal the classroom settings were. The teachers knew you and your struggles. They understood what you might be going through and wanted to help you succeed.”
Following graduation, Henry was hired with the Nez Perce Tribal Police Department and completed a 13-week Indian Police Academy course in New Mexico at the Federal Law Enforcement Trailing Center and graduated October 28, 2017.
As a tribal officer, Henry spends a lot of time in a patrol car. She knows several people in the Lapwai and Kamiah areas, and realizes she may catch an acquaintance during one of their worst days.
“Seeing people under the influence of illegal drugs and alcohol can be really disheartening,” she says. “I want to help them and show them I’m not that bad guy. I want them to know it’s not personal. I’m still learning from other officers. It’s taken three years to get adjusted to certain aspects of the job. And I’m still learning.”
Henry usually works four 10-hour shifts and says the department tries to keep an officer in Lapwai and Kamiah at all times. She also is on call during her off hours.
Henry says she is putting her degree to work with her love of writing. She recently submitted some of her poetry for PoliceOne.Com publications, which is geared to police officers and law enforcement. She also interned and had some work published in Talking River, a journal of literary works published biannually by Associated Students of LC State.
She says she is also looking at ways of self-publishing her writings, which mainly focus on her personal experience and struggles.
“I write about personal self-struggles and try to capture the moments of life,” she says. “I keep a journal and write about my law enforcement career and what happens, but keep names and personal information out of it.”
In December, she had more time for writing as she suffered an injured shoulder while making an arrest and was sidelined to recovering for a few months.
“I work with a really good group of people,” she says. “Sometimes I think it’s an advantage being a female officer. Females are more emotionally in tune. I know I’ve made some officers uncomfortable because I’m open, I reach out to talk to people. I sometimes talk to male officers after I process all of my emotions. I’m not reaching out because I need help, I’m reaching out to talk and be supportive.”
Henry says she also gets strength from her son, who she strives to be a role model for.
“If I can do this for him, I can do it for other people as well and help them,” she says. “I just want to help people.”