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‘It was a blessing’ Chief looks back on 43 years in Police Dept

Editor’s Note: The following story is the second of a two-part series on local officials who are retiring at the end of this term of office. Mayor Les Bumgarner was featured in the previous article.

     At midnight tonight, Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson will step down from a 43-year career with the Brookhaven Police Department.

     When he began as a patrolman on June 1, 1970, he never expected to move all the way up to the top.

     “When I started out, I really was just thankful to have a job,” Henderson said.

     Over the next 31 years, Henderson rose through the ranks until he was elected the first black chief of police in 2001 by a landslide in the Democratic primary.

     Henderson credits two things for giving him the strength during his years of service: God and dedication to the Brookhaven and Lincoln County.

     “It was a blessing,” he said. “I love this town, and I certainly love this job. I’m certainly thankful to the people of Brookhaven and Lincoln County for the support.”

     And he said most importantly, he would not have survived without God.

     “You’ve got to have faith,” he said.

     Looking back, Henderson said his greatest accomplishment is easy to choose, and it simply is being able to serve the people. He said he always tried to help everyone the best he could, no matter the time.

     Ever since he was promoted to assistant chief in 1989, Henderson said his home has functioned as a kind of second office. He said throughout the years, many people have come looking for his help at home, and he has never turned anyone away.

     “I have been able to serve and help the people of this town and this county,” he said.

     He said he always had to put the job first, but if anyone needed help on how to procure a bond or anything like that, he was happy to help.

     “I leave here knowing we’re not perfect,” he said.

     He said some cases over the years were not closed, but he is proud to say he will leave no homicide cases unsolved.

     When asked why he decided to retire, Henderson simply cited his 43 years of service as the reason, but it was not an easy decision.

     “I really feel if Chief (Bobby) Bell hadn’t run, I would have said I’ve got to go again,” Henderson said.

     As Bell transitions into office, Henderson offers three main points of advice. First, treat people as you would like to be treated. Second, never forget where you come from. Finally and most importantly, have faith and believe in God.

     “Don’t worry about it because He won’t let you fail,” Henderson said.

     Henderson said he believes that he was placed as police chief because God wanted him in that position, and Bell has been chosen to take his spot because God chose him.

     Looking back, Henderson is proud of the legacy he leaves behind and the memories he will take with him.

     “I’ve had some good friends here and some great chiefs I’ve worked under,” he said.

     Local residents who would like to offer their best wishes to the outgoing police chief upon his retirement will have an opportunity to do so at a reception in his honor being hosted by Trustmark on Tuesday, July 9, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m at the main banking office in Brookhaven.