New Haven police officer turns tragedy into history

Amber Woodson was sworn in as New Haven's first African American full-time officer on November 1, 2015.
Amber Woodson was sworn in as New Haven's first African American full-time officer on November 1, 2015.

NEW HAVEN, Ind. (WANE) – The first African American full-time New Haven police officer wanted to become an officer from an early age after tragedy struck her family. She never thought she’d make history because of it.

It’s not often more chairs need to be put out during a swearing-in ceremony. More than a dozen family members, community leaders and police officers packed into the New Haven Council Chambers for a historic ceremony.

“It makes me feel very great,” Officer Amber Woodson said. “I just believe diversity is important in any aspect in life whether it’s the workplace or school.”

Woodson became the first African-American full-time officer at the New Haven Police Department on Tuesday.

“It’s always important to have different representation on the department, but bottom line is when it came to Amber’s hiring it just had to do with Amber,” New Haven Police Chief Henry McKinnon said.

Most recently Officer Woodson has worked as a confinement officer at the Allen County Jail. She’s currently finishing up a criminal justice degree at Indiana Tech. It’s her extensive experience with the mental health system that stuck out to Chief McKinnon.

“When someone has a background in mental health it means they truly care about people because that’s not an easy job,” McKinnon said. “It also shows they have compassion and they have de-escalation skills.”

In a stressful job like law enforcement, family support is key.

“I feel so loved,” Woodson said. “They have been great. They have been my support throughout the whole process. I don’t know where I would be without them.”

Amber is one of ten siblings. All her siblings except one were at the ceremony. That one who was not there was killed earlier in Woodson’s life. That inspired her to become a police officer.

“My family experienced the death of my brother,” Woodson said. “He was shot and killed through gang violence. I believe that is what inspired me to become a law enforcement officer.”

Woodson heads to training at the police academy in Plainfield next week.