Meet NEET: Amanda Schwenk
March 22, 2023
Detective Amanda Schwenk - Nantucket Police Department | Town of Nantucket
Police work in the United States has been under a microscope of late for a plethora of reasons. One factor that may be contributing to the disconnects between police departments and the communities they serve is a lack of awareness about officers’ humanity: their likes, dislikes, and aspirations.
This month’s Meet NEET invites you to learn about Detective Amanda Schwenk. Detective Schwenk is a Nantucket police officer to the core. Amanda’s entire professional experience, from starting out as a Community Service Officer (CSO) to becoming a detective, has all occurred with the Nantucket Police Department (NPD).
Detective Schwenk’s interview was filled moments of seriousness and unbound laughter, it was clear that being a police officer allots for professional satisfaction. Throughout the interview Detective Schwenk talked about women in policing, the close-knit comradery among employees at the Nantucket Police Department, the professional purposes of police motorcycles versus cruisers, and she occasionally referred to the heart of ‘Sconset as “downtown” where she and other CSOs would “walk to Claudette’s” for sandwiches from the barracks where they resided.
Before sharing Detective Schwenk path to the police force, it may be useful to know that Amanda’s Nantucket memories dates back to middle school. “I grew up on the Cape and played basketball and soccer… The first time I came to Nantucket was for sports, while in high school, no wait, middle school. I can remember when the Stop & Shop was the A&P. Back then we’d make a day of it. You’d get off the boat and we were allowed to walk around downtown for a little bit. Then you’d get on the bus, go to the high school, play your game, and get back on the bus. The big thing afterwards was to get a rotisserie chicken and raw cookie dough” for the boat ride back, she shared. “My first time staying and living on Nantucket was June 2013.”
When asked to describe a memorable Nantucket moment, Detective Schwenk talked about her overall experiences as a CSO for the first time in 2013, “because it kept me coming back,” she said. “I just really remember feeling like Nantucket was my own space and place; my home away from home… and living out in ‘Sconset for two summers was nice, you really got to appreciate the conservation lands, beaches, and just walking around [the quaint neighborhood].”
Detective Schwenk’s desire to become a police officer can be summarized in three words: to help others. “I don’t come from a line of police officers or anything… it’s just something I’ve always been interested in. When I was a kid, I wanted to become a police officer or a veterinarian.”
“I know it sounds cliché, but for me, police work is about helping people… You are likely seeing people on their worst days, but what has been rewarding for me is being able to help. In the moment, they may not see it that way, but we are there to help people,” she said. “There is also the community policing side of things.” Detective Schwenk shared that many officers volunteer in a variety of capacities throughout the community, primarily coaching youth sports, and she talked about her own contributions to the community such as administering NPD’s Giving Tree, which supports local families with a number of needs.
Inevitably, the interview switched to the tension and plights of policing today, which changed the atmosphere where the interview took place. It was as if the sensitivities of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) met the responsibilities of police work for the first time. Detective Schwenk was cogent and forthright when talking about the intersections of DEI, police work generally, and her responsibilities as a detective that specializes in handling civil rights and sexual assault cases.
“I think DEI can be a great tool for our department, it can build bridges of understanding between prevailing views of police departments and what we do. Or, maybe certain groups or individuals don’t feel comfortable coming to the police department, DEI and conversations like this can build that bridge of trust.”
With Nantucket Police Chief William Pittman preparing for retirement, Detective Schwenk was asked to describe his leadership style. She shared an example of a false alarm situation at Nantucket Public Schools, which she thinks is a testament of the Chief’s character and leadership. “I remember we were at an accident scene and Lieutenant Mack, my sergeant at the time, got a call and peeled off. Kids were jumping out the windows and we didn’t know what was going on… And, I’ll never forget, there was the Chief in the school hallways doing the same thing we were all doing. Sweeping the hallways and trying to figure out what exactly was going on. He didn’t have to do that, he could have showed up after-the-fact, but he didn’t. He was there, shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of us.”
As the interview was coming to a close, Amanda was asked what she likes to do for fun on island, without hesitation, she replied, “beach, boating, socializing, and walking my dogs.” She was also asked what she’d like the public to know about her personally, “I am very approachable,” she replied. Her answer was contextualized by noting that all NPD officers are approachable, depending on the circumstances or situation at hand. As for three words that best describe Nantucket, Detective Schwenk thinks Nantucket is beautiful, unique, and homely; her “home away from home.”