One person's thoughts may change the world
Thank God for officer Duncan. Yes, I said it, thank God for him. The reason why I said it because I’m black, and with all the reported shootings of black males by men and women of the badge, along with the “Black lives matter” movement, I want to thank officer Duncan for giving me an appreciation of what a policeman was all about.
Officer Duncan was the stepfather of a kid who I went to school with. Now the kid was a bully, whom I had a knock down drag out fight with on the last day of the 5th grade, to which I characterized it in my book, “In the waters of my mind” as “The fight that ended all fights”. The fight span the whole playground, had it’s eddies and flows, was vicious, and ended with me on top of him whaling away on him. I was so full of rage after the fight that when we were sitting down in the parish house waiting to see the principle, he was sitting two seats away from me, sobbing, and all I wanted to do was hit him again. Thankfully he wasn’t a product of Officer Duncan, so he gets a pass on that one.
Officer Duncan was on of the most professional down to earth officers of the Detroit police department that I’ve ever met. He help with the Cub Scouts. He came up to school and talked about policing, the consequences of wrong vs right, gun safety, and reporting to police when you see suspicious activity. He always spoke, was always nice and congenial, and knew everyone’s name. Officer Duncan was one of the few black officers on the force in Detroit at that time.
But, this blog is not directly about officer Duncan, but, rather, the effects of good policing, in the face of what we are dealing with across this country when it comes to policing. Back then, officers took pride in NOT pulling their weapons, instead of what we are dealing with in today’s world. All police are not bad, the issues and challenges they are confronted with are fixable, and, it’s about training. Because I had a pleasant experience with a professionally trained officer, my respect for the badge lives with me to this day.
Now, in my brief time on this planet, I have had 7, count them, 7 instances that I have had a police officer pull their weapon on me, and none of those incidents ended with an arrest, or being shot. Could have gone in a different way in each instance. Here is the first one.
There was a rogue cop in Hamtramck, the community I grew up in that was intimidating black kids around the city. My first encounter with him was at a gas station which was being robbed at the same time my little league football teammates ( neighborhood friends ) raced to a water fountain that was in the gas station. I was first, got my water, walked out, and about four police cars pulled up with officers getting out with their guns out pointing their weapons. Now we only had our helmets and cleats, and as I walked out, I raised my hands and put them on the car, which they demanded.
My teammates complied as well, and we watched as they demanded the robbers come out of the station with their hands up. The one guy came out, with the money in his hands saying, “Hey these kids had nothing to do with this”, to which they slammed him to the car at gunpoint. His partner didn’t fair too well. He was in the back with the station attendants tied up. At gunpoint, the police threatened to kill him unless he comes out and releases them. He came out alright, but they used the butt of the shotgun like a baseball bat, hitting him in the mouth, with several teeth flying out, then beating him down even further as he lay on the ground. At that point, I was in shock. I said to the rogue policeman in question the following, “Officer, my teammates and I were just getting water, we knew nothing about the robbery , we just came from practice”. He wore a black pair of wire sunglasses, just like the officer in the movie “Cool hand Luke”. His uniform was pressed, tight on him, and he had a pearl handled .357 hand gun, which looked like a cannon. He lifted up his weapon up, and pointed it at my temple, pressing hard on it. “Do you want a bullet in your brain nigger?”, he said to me.
At that point I said, “No sir”. I then looked over at my friends, and an officer had a shotgun to their backs. “Get your hands up!!!”, the police yelled. “HIGHER” he said. Aubrey and Kenny were reaching as high as they could. At this point, it didn’t look good. They handcuffed us, and were about to put us in the car when a polish woman who lived next to the gas station said, “Hey let those kids go, they come by here every day to get water, they had nothing to do with this!”.
I was somewhat shocked. I always made a point speak to her a her bridge card friends who sat on the back porch with her daily to play cards. The police then uncuffed us, and told us to go home. Now I was upset. I was the most vocal of my teammates and immediately began to complain to the officers. “What? No apology? You pointed your guns at us, thought we were part of the robbery then you set us free with no apology?”. Aubry, then began to push me along saying, “sssshhhh Tim, we were lucky they let us go, let’s just get home”. Then i said, “Are you crazy, they can’t treat us like that, to which the rogue cop then said, “You’d better get along before we find something to take you down for”.
At that point, I backed down, with the memory of that .357 magnum still fresh in my head. I walked home, now angry, with my friends and I reliving the incident as we walked. But that’s not the end of the story.
A few weeks later, the rogue cop stopped in a convenience store. He typically drove around Hamtramck in an unmarked car. He was wearing civilian clothes on that day, and the clerk in the store told him that two black kids stole some potato chips. He asked the clerk what direction the kids went, and drove down the street, looking for them. Three blocks later, he encountered Marvin, and another kid, who were walking. He rolled up on them, got out of his car with his pearl handle revolver yelling at them. Marvin and the kid did not know who he was began to run. The cop shot Marvin in the back, which the bullet passed completely through him, exiting his chest. Marvin passed out on the porch of the house that he lived in. He was rushed to the hospital, and lost the use of his right arm.
Marvin’s family sued and won the lawsuit against the rogue cop and the city of Hamtramck. Marvin was all of 14 when this happened to him. And, he wasn’t even the kid who allegedly stole the bag of potato chips. Now that was my first time a policeman had pulled his weapon on me. I have 6 more stories to go…