For the first time in University of Maryland, Baltimore County history, a male African American police officer has been awarded as Employee of the Quarter. Lieutenant Derrick Johns has served on the UMBC Police force for the past 19 years, moving through the ranks from police officer, then Sergeant and subsequently to Lieutenant. Outside of his police work, Lt. Johns is also the Vice President of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, and on Sept. 8 was honored by his BFSA colleagues and by UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski.
In an interview with The Retriever, Lt. Johns reflected on being the first Black police officer to receive the award in university history.
“I believe it’s something that should’ve been done before and wonder why it hasn’t,” he said. “But, being the first one, it’s an honor. I’m proud, humbled and very surprised.”
Lt. Johns was nominated for the EOQ by BFSA colleagues Wanda Soares Nottingham, Antonio Silas and Emma Sellers from the Black Faculty and Staff Association. On the Department of Human Resources webpage, each wrote how Lt. Johns is a “team player” and how he is “committ[ed] to serving our campus community.”
BFSA further stated that Lt. Johns’s work as the association’s Vice President exemplifies his dedication to “promoting change from within the UMBC campus community,” as well as his leadership skills. Lt. Johns emphasized the support he has received from the group, which led to his current BFSA executive position.
“They were very welcoming as far as letting me know when the meetings were, anything that was going on. That led to them asking if I wanted to be a part of the executive committee…and I happily accepted,” he explained. “They’ve just been great.”
Lt. Johns also discussed BFSA’s growth from a “dormant” organization to one with growing plans to continue building community among the Black population at UMBC.
“We are getting more Black faculty and staff nominated for this and other campus awards, and are a bridge and a liaison with Black students, students of color, or any students that want to come with any issue they might have,” he continued.
Of his 19 years in the UMBC community, Lt. Johns said that the best part is getting to work every day with his “family.” He has not even considered doing anything else, since he loves the community, the campus atmosphere and his fellow officers.
Because UMBC is a campus with growing inclusivity values, Lt. Johns hopes to see even more change for the better in the future of UMBC Police. The goal is to continue building upon positive interactions between the campus community and law enforcement.
“I see our police department growing in size, with new younger officers coming in that can give the community a new perspective, a new way of thinking, new blood really,” he explained.
As a Black police officer who is a 28-year law enforcement veteran, Lt. Johns said that putting on the uniform is a way to change an often negative narrative of policing. He explained that he is trying to be something different so that “not everyone looks at all police that way.”
“My service means everything to me,” said Lt. Johns. “The UMBC community means everything to me.”