When Cpl. Sherri Harris recently started a new job with the Baton Rouge Police Department, many people reached out with kudos and well-wishes.

But one text message stood out to Harris, the department’s first victim assistance coordinator.

The congratulatory message was sent by a woman whom Harris, then a homicide detective, met in 2012 while investigating the murder of the woman’s son. 

“That (message) meant so much to me because that means during my time (as a homicide detective) we connected,” Harris said. “She saw that my heart was in the right place and I was there for her. … I want everyone to feel that way.”

Now Harris is setting out to connect with other families of victims of violence to help them through the investigation process. She will be there to field their questions, keep them updated on the cases and provide support. She will meet with many of them Monday night at the first meeting of the Parents on the Frontline of Peace program.

Parents asked to help fight crime by sharing their experiences and to collaborate on crime-fighting initiatives

She knows firsthand how the investigations can take time and how detectives typically handle multiple cases at a time, so she hopes to bring that understanding to the families.

“The family is just as much a victim,” Harris said. “They need just as much help and aid as everyone else. They’re not just a number.”

Harris, who thinks of her career as a spiritual calling, has served in many law enforcement capacities in addition to the role of homicide detective during her two-decade career.

A few years after Harris, originally from Independence, graduated from Istrouma High School in 1993, she started working at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. While accompanying an inmate to the now-closed Earl K. Long Medical Center one day, she sat next to a female deputy from the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

The deputy convinced Harris to go work at the jail for the sheriff’s office. Harris later moved to uniform patrol with the sheriff’s office and then to the Baton Rouge Police Department in 2006.

Harris was most recently the director for the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program, the anti-gang initiative that ended last year when grant funding lapsed. She plans to bring her knowledge of community resources from BRAVE to the new job, as well as her experience working with mothers.

“I’ve had the opportunity to sit and meet with those mothers who want to see change for their child,” Harris said. “I’ve seen that hurt in those mothers’ eyes and to help them understand that when they’ve done all that they can, they didn’t fail."

BRPD officers volunteer, build relationships with local kids

Outside of her career, Harris, the mother of two sons, is the board chairwoman for a nonprofit organization called The BRidge Agency Inc., which focuses on entrepreneurship development. Last year she helped organize a program for officers to visit area schools and read with children.

As Harris embarks on creating her new role, she is starting with the most recent families. But in a perfect world, her reach would be even wider.

“I would love to be able to go back and simply make contact with every family that’s been affected by violent crime,” Harris said. “Of course, we all know that number is extremely huge and probably not feasible, but that is what I would love to do.”

The Parents on the Frontline of Peace gathering begins at 6 p.m. Monday at the Shiloh Early Learning Academy, 185 Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive. It is expected to run for approximately 1½ hours. RSVPs should be directed to Regine Williams at frwilliams@brla.gov.

Follow Emma Discher on Twitter, @EmmaDischer.