I worked fifteen years for Detroit’s Wayne County Sheriff Department, serving as a jail guard, undercover narcotics officer, uniformed patrol officer, detective, uniformed patrol sergeant, and detective sergeant in the narcotics bureau. I was also suspended four times without pay.
Like any Wayne County sheriff deputy hired in 1970, I had to work the county jail in Detroit. But since there was a drug epidemic sweeping the nation, our department needed young men, especially those of non-European ethnic descent, to work narcotics. The timing couldn’t have been better for me—I had just spent a year working in the stinking jail. When they interviewed me I sat there thinking, I don’t care where you send me, as long as it’s anywhere but here!
A few days later, I was sitting in our narcotics bureau without having attended the police academy. But after working the streets for seven months, I was sent to our academy and received my first suspension for accumulating four demerits. All minor things, really: twice being late for class, not calling our chemist “sir,” and taking a day off when I should have been at the firing range. And yet, I graduated in first place in physical fitness and as an expert with a pistol, and they sent me back to narcotics.
A year later, I received my second suspension, this time for a potential ten-year felony. It all started when one of our narcotic officers got shot during a raid in a Detroit barber shop. The bad guy and our officer were both armed with .30-caliber M1 carbines (semiautos), and I felt we needed more firepower. So I converted two M1 carbines into M2s (full autos) and carried them for a year until the feds found out. Because of my past work record, I wasn’t charged but was given the choice to work anywhere else in the department. I chose uniformed motorized patrol.
And that’s where I received my next two suspensions. One was for throwing away an arrested guy’s pocketknife; the other, for throwing away a leaky bag of marijuana. (I had found it on a traffic stop but didn’t want to take my car out of service for a petty arrest.) Odd thing is, that little crybaby drove right to our station and made a complaint, and nothing happened to him!
So much for suspensions. On the other hand, as if to balance these out, I received some awards, too. These included a Departmental Citation of Valor for repeated attempts to rescue two youths trapped in an overturned automobile in a frigid, fast-flowing river at night, a Departmental Citation for tracking two home invasion suspects three miles on foot, a Departmental Citation for leadership in subduing a barricaded gunman who had shot two police officers, the Sheriff’s Personal Citation for selfless dedication to the goals of the department (Metro Narcotics Bureau, crew chief), a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commendation for a narcotics trafficking investigation, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Commendation for an undercover firearms investigation, and three special assignment and four unit citations.
In 1984, I retired as one of the most disciplined and one of the most decorated officers in our 1,200-man department. I like to think those four suspensions made me a better cop.