Positive attitude is everything for VPD’s Wheeler

Published 5:26 pm Sunday, September 6, 2015

Alberta Wheeler greets her “customers” with a smile, even though most of them aren’t happy to meet her.

Wheeler, a booking officer at the Vicksburg Police Department, offers a calming voice and a beaming smile to every inmate brought before her.

“You’ve got to be a real people person to deal with everything that comes through here,” Wheeler said.

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Vicksburg Police Chief Walter Armstrong commended Wheeler’s positive attitude in dealing with people who aren’t always excited to see her.

“She’s always been that way. It doesn’t matter that she’s putting someone in a jail cell. She’s always treating them with respect, even if some of them are not very kind when they come inside,”

Most people are upset at the officer who arrested them when they come in the backdoor of the police department, she said, but Wheeler greets them happily just the same.

“For some reason I felt like God put me back here to lead somebody in the right direction. Not everybody who comes through here is a criminal,” she said.

Of course as with all businesses, Wheeler has her regulars. Some come through after being arrested on major or minor offenses multiple times a year or in some cases several times a month.

“I try to help them. I’d rather see them outside than in here,” Wheeler said.

Friday, an intoxicated regular came in about noon, barely able to stand.

“Miss Alberta, I just want to talk to you,” he said as someone else stood in line at the booking desk.

Wheeler quickly searched him, emptied his pockets and took his belt and promised to hear him out as she put him in a crowded holding cell.

“If they want to talk, I try to listen to them. I don’t want to ignore anybody. I get someone like that probably once or twice a week,” she said.

Before moving to the booking room, Wheeler was a front desk clerk. At night, when her shift on the desk ended, she learned the ins and outs of booking so she could make the transition.

“You deal with a lot at the front desk, but you deal with people on the street a lot more back here,” she said.

Before working at the police department, Wheeler was a shipping supervisor for Yorozu Automotive at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex in Flowers. But when the plant closed in December 2008, Wheeler wasn’t sure what her next move would be.

“I would get out and walk six and a half miles every day for my health. I had been out of work for months. One day I walked by here and asked if they were hiring,” she said.

Armstrong said he’s glad Wheeler joined the department.

“She’s an excellent employee. She started on the front desk as a clerk. She’s a very vital employee,” he said.