Applying Compassion to Community Patrols

At a crash scene or in the classroom, Ofc. Angela Hart-Joseph seeks to understand

Be Sure to Buckle: As an accident investigator for the Houston Police Department, Officer Angela Hart-Joseph knows all too well how seat belts can save lives.

 

As a teenager growing up in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Angela Hart-Joseph was fascinated watching the psychological thriller film The Silence of the Lambs, featuring Jodie Foster as a young FBI trainee. “I was inspired seeing a strong female who could solve a case and bring killers to justice,” Hart-Joseph said. “That movie definitely pushed me in the direction of a career in law enforcement.” While her career so far hasn’t pitted her skills against any Hannibal Lecter types, Hart-Joseph has made it her life’s work to uncover the truth and make both Houston and Westchase District safer places.

 

From hair salons to HPD

After graduating from Vicksburg High School, Hart-Joseph obtained her certification as a hairdresser and worked in various salons as she put herself through college. She moved to Jackson, MS to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Jackson State University, then went through the Jackson Police Academy.  While working as a patrol officer for the Jackson Police Department, she earned dual Master’s degrees in Criminology and Sociology. “I’ve always had two to three jobs; it’s just something that I’m used to,” she said. “Why should I just sit at home when I could be working?”

 

Looking to advance her career, Hart-Joseph transferred to the Houston Police Department in 2006, initially patrolling the Westside, Clear Lake and Midwest divisions, before finding her niche for the past decade in Accident Investigations. “I travel all over Harris County following up on a lot of motor vehicle fatalities as well as any collisions involving police officers and government employees,” she said. “My work is about reconstructing the scene to arrive at the truth of what happened. For me, the most difficult cases are those involving children, but at the same time they’re the most rewarding ones to solve.”

 

Hart-Jospeh joined the Westcahase District Patrol last summer, working two shifts per week. “I was already familiar with the area, so when Lieutenant Paul George, my shift commander, told me about an opening, it seemed like a good fit,” she said. “I enjoy interacting with the business owners and I think they appreciate our presence and our visibility in the District.”

 

Lessons taught and learned

An adjunct professor with Houston Community College since 2007, this semester Hart-Joseph has increased her visibility in Westchase District by teaching Introduction to Sociology classes at HCC’s Westchase District campus located at 2811 Hayes Road. “Sociology and criminology both look at the factors that motivate people to act the ways they do,” she said. “As both a police officer and a teacher, I’m always mindful when I arrive at a scene of the possible biases and experiences that people may have about law enforcement.”

 

Hart-Joseph added that whether it’s a victim or a suspect, her experience has taught her that everyone wants to be heard. “I try to be compassionate about where people are coming from and remain open to understanding all perspectives,” she said. “As a police officer, I’ve learned it’s all about how I present myself, how I speak to someone and remembering that listening is everything.”

 

When not working or teaching, Hart-Joseph said she enjoys family vacations with her teenage daughter to island locations: “Anything dealing with blue water and sand – I’m there!”

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