“Grateful” is the perfect word to describe Durham’s newly-appointed Sergeant in Investigations Antoine Fredric Harris. An N.C. Central University alum, Harris has quickly climbed the ranks in his field fast despite his young age.
”I wake up and put my pants on the same way as the next man,” Harris humbly stated. “I just try to show [people] that I’m just like them. I’m just in a different position. A better position to help out whenever needed.”
Graduating with his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2007, Harris immediately starting working within the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and at just 35 years old, he has become a respected 12-year veteran in the office.
According to the Sergeant, a senior internship working at the Durham courthouse led him to pursue a job as a deputy.
“I got the chance to pretty much see and get to know the deputies that were within the courthouse so heck, I don’t know of anything I’m going to be doing so why not?” Harris said. “I filled the application and the rest is history from there. It was just being in the right place at the right time.”
Harris was originally denied the job but given the opportunity to become a Detention Officer at the Durham County Detention Facility. He credits this opportunity as a major stepping stone in his career.
After three months of training, a 21-year old Harris working alone managing over 80 inmates. At times, inmates would try to “get over” on Harris but he remains headstrong through difficult situations.
One day, in particular, a riot broke out in his pod because he refused to let inmates spend extra free time outside of their cells.
“I was able to survive that but I stood my ground,” Harris said.”I knew that there were rules and regulations and I knew that if I had to follow them everybody else was going to have to follow them too.”
His bravery and commitment to doing the right thing on the job made his name known around the office. This notoriety would soon lead to his rise in the ranks.
After a year-and-a-half working at the jail, he applied for the Academy and graduated in 2009 with Academy Class #31. Throughout his 12-year journey, Sgt. Harris has previously worked in Court Security, Transportation and Uniformed Patrol. He is also a current SWAT team member.
Growing up in Elizabeth City, NC, Harris said that the thought of becoming a police officer never even crossed his mind. He added that as a kid, he wanted to be a firefighter but never took the time to figure out what it took to become one.
“ I, more so, wanted to be a firefighter as a kid, I just never pursued it,” Harris explained. “When you’re a kid the first thing that comes to your mind.”
Despite wanting to be a firefighter in his younger days, he never saw cops in a negative view but instead as “authoritative” figures who told you what’s right and what’s wrong.
“I just always saw them as someone to look up to.” Harris said.“I always saw police as being the good person to help you separate the positive from the negatives.
Sgt.Harris explained how his time at NCCU truly affect him in a positive way by molding him into who he is.
“[NCCU] molded me into to be open. It definitely made me more vocal. It made me more aware,” Harris said. “It made me proud of doing something positive and I knew that I would have to go in the right direction if I continued to follow the steps that were set before me.”
He also credits the military background of his best friend’s mother for instilling into him the characteristics that make him the man he is today.
“She was definitely respect-ridden,” Harris explained. “She would stay on me and with me, I didn’t have that at home. My mother wasn’t that “you make sure you do this and do that” [type]. She made sure you had what you needed and it went from there. Thanks to my best friend’s mother because that militarist background definitely helped mold me.”
Despite his love for his job, Harris admitted that it has major challenges that lead to many long, hectic days.
On a daily basis, the Sergeant reviews report from patrol units and assign them specific investigators to examine in an effort to solve every case that occurs.
“It’s always hectic,” Harris said” There’s never a dull day in Durham. You always hope and pray that nothing too dangerous happens.”
According to Durham County Sheriff’s Office Communications and Public Relations manager David Bowser, Harris remains a true family man regardless of the chaos his new job may bring.
“Sgt. Harris is a family man, first and foremost,” Bowser, explained. “He mentions his wife and children all the time despite the fact he works daily to make Durham County a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
With his new position. Harris admits that he is still learning but his goal to use his title to be more “service-oriented” and give back to the community.
Something that he learned after becoming an undergraduate member of the Gamma Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at NCCU in 2006.
“Alpha Phi Alpha promotes manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind,” Harris explained. “Those fraternity aims encompass all that I have strived for throughout my matriculation as a college student and law enforcement officer.”
“Adaptable” was a word used by Harris to describe himself when it comes to interacting with different people. In any encounter, he tries to approach each individual with an open mindset, whether it’s talking about sports, politics, etc.
“Sgt. Harris is a credit to our community,” said Bowser. “He is a role model not only here internally, but to current students and graduates from his alma mater.”
Harris never forgets the lessons that he learned from throughout his 12-year journey from growing up as a kid to his time at NCCU and to his time working in the jail system.
“I stay true to what I learned there and pretty much what I learned as a kid,” Harris said. “You start doing the right thing and things will work out for you and they definitely have been working right for me.”