Sheryl Boykins is new chief of University Police. (Photo: Barry Zepel)
Advancing from sales associate to chief of the University Police Department, Sheryl Boykins never guessed her career path would lead to such success.
Boykins was introduced to the field of law enforcement while working as a Sears sales associate in Hayward’s Southland Mall soon after graduating from high school. Each time a customer entered the building, she soon realized she could sense whether the person would attempt to steal from the store.
“I would tell the security to watch them, and I was always right,” Boykins said. “After a while of always helping them out, they asked if I wanted to join security.” Boykins took the job, and stepped into a new career field.
After several encounters with the Hayward Police Department as they picked up Boykins’ suspects, an officer suggested that Boykins take the test to become a police officer. She took the advice and was soon hired by the Hayward Police Department, where she worked for 28 years. She climbed her way up to commander but still yearned for more.
“I wanted to be a chief, and I didn’t want to wait any longer,” Boykins said. “I thought working (at Cal State East Bay) would be a great way to become a chief and still be a part of the Hayward community.”
Boykins, who joined UPD in April, plans on building relationships with the campus community and is encouraging the rest of the department to go out and meet students and faculty on a more personal level.
“The police department can’t select who it helps," Boykins said. "That’s why it is important to build relationships with different types of people. We have to remember that we stay here because of the trust and respect we get from our community.”
One way Boykins plans to continue building trust and respect within the community is by setting a positive example.
“I’m mindful of the African American community and the young ladies," she said. "It is rare to see a African American female chief. I try everyday to be as professional as I can be, because I know that some people see me as a role model.”
Her advice to young adults aspiring to professional success?
“You need to understand why education is important,” Boykins said.
In her case, she needed to earn a master’s degree to advance and eventually quaify to become Cal State East Bay’s chief of police.
“I tell my department all the time: ‘If you want to get promoted, you need to get your degree,’" she said. "I wish I would’ve gotten my degrees sooner.”
Boykins said the university environment is new to her and brings new challenges, but she is ready to conquer them.
“The campus environment is so different for me, but it has made me think critically,” Boykins said.
When making decisions she has to consider different members of the university community, including the opinion of Cal State East Bay students.
“I can’t wait until all the students get on campus,” Boykins said. “I love students and I love sports. I want to be one of the fans in the stands cheering on the team.” Boykins has already purchased her Cal State East Bay Pioneers sweatshirt and is ready to be a face seen regularly on campus.
“The chief is human and will make mistakes, but they won’t be mistakes that intended harm,” Boykins said. “We’re working hard to become the best law enforcement team possible.”
“I want people to see the department as ‘one of us’ not ‘one of them’,” she said.