OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Chief Deputy Wayne Hudson with the Douglas County Sheriff’s office has been serving his community for nearly three decades.
He began his career in the Air Force from 1986 to 1992. After serving two years in Maine and four years overseas in England, he traveled back to his home in North Omaha to figure out his next step.
He initially got a job with the Douglas County Department of Corrections while he applied to colleges. He applied to Wayne State College Nebraska and was accepted but considered staying with DCDC.
“Part of me said I’m going to stay where I’m at, but my oldest brother said you can always make more money, you can always get another job, but this is the time to get your education,” said Hudson.
He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and applied to law enforcement jobs in the Omaha metro.
“I applied for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, the Omaha Police Department, and the Nebraska State Patrol. And I said, whoever calls me first is where I’ll go. And the Sheriff's department called me first,” Hudson said.
Throughout his 26 years with the DCSO, he’s been able to move up the ranks, starting with sergeant.
“I got challenged by another deputy who said I'll probably never be able to do it. I did it. So, I was made sergeant, a few years later I was made lieutenant, years down the road I was made captain, and on January 1, 2021, Sheriff Wheeler appointed me as Chief Deputy.”
That promotion made him the first Black Chief Deputy for DCSO.
“It’s a little disappointing that it's 2021 and that we’re still saying, ‘The first of this,’ but I'm happy to be it. I stand on the shoulders of those African-Americans that came on this department before me because without them I wouldn't be in the position I am now,” added Hudson.
Hudson is now responsible for the day-to-day operations for the Sheriff’s office, which includes taking care of the budget, media relations, the county attorney’s office, legislative issues, and leading more bureaus.
“I'm always up for a challenge and this is definitely a challenge going from being responsible for one bureau to six different bureaus,” he said.
As Chief Deputy, he’s enforcing the commitment to serve the public and community service. An active community member himself, he believes law enforcement officers’ work in the community can benefit police-community relations.
Hudson is a board member of the Black Police Officers Association. He’s also a member of the Latino Police Officers Association, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, The National Coalition of Negro Women, Men Against Domestic Violence, the Women’s Center for Advancement, and 100 Black Men. He recently became an advisor for the Metro Community College Criminal Justice Program.
It’s important to Hudson to represent the good side of policing.
“I know everybody can't spend hundreds of hours each year extra off duty, not getting paid to do things I do, but the difference is I really care about our community, and I want to see our community and law enforcement build that bridge and come more together, so if I have to do it, absolutely no problem,” he said.
One of Hudson’s goals as Chief Deputy is to diversify the department.
“What I'm trying to do is tweak a few rules when it comes to our hiring process so that we can try to get more minorities on. I think having more minorities not only ethnic, but gender brings different diversity of thought. So, it can only make us a better agency,” he said.
Hudson says he encourages minority kids to join law enforcement to create more diverse representation in policing.
He says he tells groups of kids, “If you don’t go into law enforcement, who do you think is going to be policing your neighborhoods? It won’t be somebody from your neighborhood that knows the people in the neighborhood.”
Under Hudson’s leadership, DCSO will also soon be putting out a community survey to get more direct feedback from residents on how they believe the department is doing and adjust or improve if needed.
Another focus for Hudson is to be a bridge-builder and connect DCSO more with communities of all backgrounds and break down negative perceptions some may have of law enforcement.
“As the 100 Black Men motto says, 'What they see is what they will be.' I'm hoping young people will look at a path into law enforcement. But if they don't look at being a law enforcement officer, hopefully, they'll at least look at me not as the enemy; not as someone who wants to oppress them or put them down and instead look at me as someone who's trying to help them and be their friend,” he said.
According to Hudson, recruitment within law enforcement across the country is down. He wants to increase recruitment and make law enforcement careers appealing, despite cries to defund the police, police brutality, and protests.
As a Black law enforcement officer, Hudson says it can be an emotional experience.
“It did have an impact on me. As I'm protecting protesters, I'm getting people yelling at me saying Black Lives Matter. Well, I understand that — I'm an African-American male. I'm here protecting your right to yell at me,” he added.
While in and out of uniform, Hudson hopes to change people’s perceptions, and continue serving his community.
“I want the public to see that before I put this uniform on, my name is Wayne Hudson, but even after I put it on, my name is still Wayne Hudson, I'm the same person,” he said. “Don't go against me just because I have this uniform on. Talk to me. Let's sit down and have a conversation and humanize each other. It's hard to hate each other when you're sitting across the table from someone."