I have so many reasons to hate cops. I do not even want to think about them, let alone write about them. Besides, I already wrote about some of the reasons in Volume 1 of The War in America: One Black Man’s Battles against Racist Law Enforcement. I am that black man.
Over the course of 60 years of life, I have been abused by police officers a dozen times in a dozen ways—from petty harassment and false imprisonment to unwarranted guns pointed between my eyes and brutal beatings. I have known or observed many other black men with similar experiences or worse. So yes, I have every reason to hate cops.
But I cannot.
I have known too many good ones to hate them all.
You see, despite my repeated random encounters with bad cops, I have been blessed to have in my life some of the most honorable law enforcers you could ever meet. I have built relationships with them, and I love them all.
It is impossible not to love the ones I have known, for each one is incredibly, cool and kind. I cannot imagine any of them being racist, disrespectful or abusive towards anyone when I am not in their presence.
I say this without hesitation and without exception, and that is a really good feeling, because all Americans want to love law enforcers.
My law enforcement friends, neighbors and family members span the gamut of the justice system—black, white, Hispanic and Asian police officers, detectives, law enforcement spokespersons, judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, security officers and prison guards.
I have interviewed these great human beings as a newspaper reporter, hung out with them socially, partied with them, worked alongside of them as a law enforcement spokesman, and sought their counsel on more than one occasion.
I once dated a tall and vivacious cop. Her uncle was the Chief of the Metropolitan Washington Police Department.
I also have cousins who are police officers. I call them my “cop cousins.” They are not only the cream of the crop while in uniform, they are also the very finest of human beings when off duty. One of my cousins married one of the coolest cops I have ever met. I myself worked as a cop once. I was as a junior campus police officer while I attended the University of Missouri. I was assigned to help provide security for the huge, rowdy crowds that attended the Missouri Tigers’ football games.
A friendly and brilliant lawyer, who now sits on the federal bench, lived next door to me when I was a teenager. I was in awe of him—his character, his focused demeanor and his warm, genuine smile. Another judge also had my deepest respect and admiration. The Honorable Luke C. Moore, deceased, was an impeccably dressed, erudite older gentleman—the kindest, most unselfish and gregarious person one could ever meet. He, my mother and father were childhood friends from Memphis, Tennessee.
I had a pleasant encounter with the two white cops who came to my rescue one night after my black Porsche 924S slid off the slick asphalt of Washington, DC’s winding Rock Creek Parkway. It had rained earlier that summer evening, but the rain had stopped and the street leading to Rock Creek Park was dry by the time I headed towards the parkway, driving down a short hill at a moderate speed. When I reached the bottom of the hill, I rounded a curve, turning the steering wheel hard to the right. I immediately lost control of the car and quickly realized that down there in the chilly park, the parkway’s black asphalt was still wet and slick from the earlier rainfall.
The car veered far right and went off the road. It fishtailed across a wide patch of soaking wet grass and started slip-sliding towards the creek. I remained amazingly cool as I confidently pumped the brakes in the manner prescribed by safety experts. But I also quietly said to myself, “Woe … Woe … Noooo,” and swallowed hard as it became obvious to me that I could not bring the car to a stop. I shook my head, refusing to overreact to the scary situation. I refused to believe that my car would actually crash into the water. But, the creek was just ahead, to my right, and the car was sliding sideways towards it. I was at the mercy of my fate.
I am grateful that it was my fate that this story would have a happy ending. The Porsche slipped over the edge of the creek bank, but did not fall into the water. Instead, the rear passenger-side tire lodged against a stone—an ancient, unmovable, granite stone, about the size of a football—which brought the car to a dead stop. With the car slanted sideways towards the streaming water, I turned off the engine, set the emergency brake, carefully opened the driver’s side door and gingerly climbed onto the mushy earth, on my hands and knees. I was reminded how sacred the earth is.
I stood up and my feet started sinking into the ground. I raised my cold, wet, muddy hands towards the moonlit sky and shouted into the night as loudly as I could: “Thank you, Jesus!”
Looking back towards my car, which looked like a small spaceship had crash landed, I said softly, “Oh, my God, this is incredible!”
The two white cops who reported to the scene were officially called U.S. Park Police officers. They were jovial partners. It was evident that they liked their jobs as well as each other. I shivered in the cool air and stared at my car. I wondered whether the stone would give way, and let the beautiful machine tumble into the rocky creek. The jocular cops’ back and forth banter amongst themselves kept me calm. They were friendly and respectful as they assessed the situation. They called for crane service to pull my car off the creek bank and onto the park grass so I could drive it back onto the parkway and be on my merry way.
“Usually, when something like this happens, we have to pull the car out of the creek,” one of them told me while we waited for the crane to arrive.
“Yep,” his partner said, looking at me and smiling. “You’re lucky.”
“Blessed,” I replied.
“Yep, that too!”
The three of us laughed.
One of the most outstanding cops I have ever met was a white Washington, D.C. police homicide detective named Henry Joseph “Hank” Daly, a former U.S. Marine. I talked to him frequently when I worked the night shift as a Washington Post police beat reporter.
Daly was an easy-going man with a very serious side to his personality. He was beloved by his superiors and peers and highly regarded as a respectful gentleman who always assumed a leadership role among his colleagues.
He was consistently helpful to me. He gave me useful information, both on and off the record. Our relationship was of a business nature, but we related to each other as friends.
He wore his wooly hair swept forward like the famed disk jockey Wolfman Jack. He would look you directly in the eye whenever engaged in conversation. He was cool and calm at all times. He had a humorous side, but he was very serious about his work. And he watched after people, including nosey reporters like me. Typically, after joking around with me at the end of his shift, about 3 AM, he would make sure I had the most up-to-date press release on that night’s homicide(s).
Daly was murdered by a young black man, an ex-gang member, seeking to gun down a “dirty” homicide official who had tried to set him up to be killed by labeling him a snitch. The angry man shot the wrong detective. There was nothing dirty about Daly.
A couple of years after Daly’s terrible demise, the city dedicated the police headquarters building to his memory. The Washington Post ran the following headline on the dedication service.
In Honor of a Fallen Officer
Municipal Building Renamed for ‘Cop’s Cop’ Daly
The National Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation includes a tribute, excerpted here, to fallen cops like Detective Daly:
A man in blue has lost his life
In service of the law.
The love that makes this sacrifice
Is the greatest love of all.
Detective Daly deserved every accolade his remorseful city bestowed upon him. He is sorely missed by many, including me. I considered the gentleman a true friend. He was a damn good cop and I am honored to have known him.
Unfortunately, I have known some damn terrible cops as well. They are disgraceful people who should be barred from wearing a uniform, carrying a gun and standing in the company of great officers like Hank Daly. Unfortunately, good cops become enablers of bad cops by keeping racist and abusive transgressions secret.
It is my hope that one day soon American law enforcement will reform itself to the extent that good cops will purge such miscreants from their ranks. The ultimate goals of law enforcement reform are to: give all Americans the certainty that they will be treated with respect regardless of their race; ensure equal access to justice; and to hold racist and abusive law enforcers accountable. Achieving these goals would make America greater than she’s ever been.
Towards that end I have written this book.
“In a republic that honors the core of democracy, the greatest amount of power is given to those called Guardians. Only those with the most impeccable character are chosen to bear the responsibility of protecting the democracy.”