“Now I’m not looking for absolution…
Or forgiveness for the things I do…
But before you come to any conclusion…
Try walking in my shoes.”
(Depeche Mode – WALKING IN MY SHOES)
This is not THE WIRE. This is not HOMICIDE: A YEAR ON THE KILLING STREETS. I am no David Simon and I do not claim to be. I have never investigated a homicide as a Detective, nor have I ever listened to a wire tap. I am not a drug Cop, nor am I an undercover Cop. What I am is a retired Sergeant with the Baltimore City Police Department. I was hired on 5 August 1999 and retired exactly twenty years later, on 1 September 2019. My Academy Class; Class 99-04; began at the Baltimore City Police Academy located on Guilford Avenue on 20 August 1999. When I was hired, I was assigned the Sequence Number G471. There are nine hundred ninety-nine people hired for each letter of the alphabet, starting with the letter “A”, and when I came on, the Department was up the letter “G.” I have no idea how many people were hired before the Department began using Sequence Numbers, but I know some were. There is only one person ever assigned to each Sequence Number, therefore, there is only one G471 that has ever worked for the Baltimore City Police Department… me. G471 would be my identification number within the Department throughout my career. I graduated on 11 February 2000 and hit the streets assigned to the Northwest District as a uniformed patrol officer on 14 February 2000. I was assigned badge number 3796. I would hold this badge number until 5 June 2003 when I became a Detective. My new badge number at that time became 796… a lucky coincidence.
When I began writing this book, it started out as sort of a journal; a way of keeping track of the good times and good work that I was a part of during my time with the Baltimore City Police Department. It was meant solely for the purposes of chronicling my efforts and my life for my children and grandchildren and future generations. I wanted them to know who I was. I quickly realized however, that in order to keep in line with the idea that I would cover only the good times, I would need to skip a lot of what I experienced. For starters, I would have to leave out any reference to the entire time I spent in the Academy as it was a mind numbing, monumentally stressful experience for me. Not because of the work load – which there was not much of – and not because of the length of time spent there – roughly six months – but because of the deep sense that most of the people I interacted with were undeserving of the honor of wearing a badge to begin with; coupled with the fact that the Department itself seemed to be highly political and largely lacking any sort of direction. I am not a political being. I hate playing those kinds of games.
I should have known when I started in the Academy that the things that I saw that frustrated and enraged me would become even more common place as I continued through my career. If I were smarter, I would have walked away on the very first day. Looking back, I am glad that I didn’t. But believe me, there were times I was tempted…
The idea of this book being a chronicle of only the good times was slowly replaced with the hard realization that there were few of those times to write about. I soon began to understand that the true nature of this book – and in fact the real reason for writing it – was to remind those that would take the time to read it, and to remind myself as I wrote it, that one man can make a difference. Despite the overwhelming odds that the citizens and Officers of Baltimore face, with the right convictions and strength of character, one man can affect change. Despite the fact that most of the men and women in power within the city, it’s Police Department and its government, really do not want things in this city to change. I needed to remind myself that I have helped people. I also needed to chronicle the stress and pain caused by years of working in an environment that saps the very best out of a man… and leaves him at the end of the day asking himself: “Why am I still doing this? Who gives a fuck about what I do?” Most days the feeling exists that the citizens of this City don’t and certainly not the upper echelon of this Department. And yet I still held onto hope and the idea that every man must make the most out of what he is given.
“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”
I want this book to be as inspiring and meaningful to others as the movie which I have just quoted is for me. I look to that film for inspiration and guidance whenever I feel like giving up. I consider it to be my favorite film of all time, and not just because my ancestors were Scottish.
So, I finally gave in to the fact that to do this book justice; and in fact to do my career justice; I had to tell it all. The good and the bad. And to hell with those that would have a problem with it. I also began to accept that in order for the reader to truly understand where I am coming from, I would have to chronicle a little bit of where I came from. So, this book will also include passages about my past, how it affected me, and how I pushed through the pain to find my true calling. At times I admit I have felt that this Department sucks. And so have many of the people that are employed by it. But never the job. The job is everything. (Well, not nearly everything, but when compared to the Department, there is a clear distinction between the two.) I still find a strong sense of pride behind my badge. I think that comes from a strong work ethic despite the setbacks. It comes from pride. It comes from hope.
In my time with the Department, I suffered many indignities and saw many injustices brought upon other members. Much unfairness has been leveled upon many. We’re not talking Serpico type stuff here, but wrong is wrong. And yet, I continued to get up each day and I ventured into the city in order to try and help. To try and make a difference. When I got frustrated, I thought of a quote I once read. It is a quote from Edmund Burke:
“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph in this world is for good men to do nothing.”
I am a good man, and the BPD is a good Department. I needed to do something meaningful with my life. Something selfless. Regardless of whether I ever envisioned this life or not… this was my destiny. Being a cop was and is my purpose. And “finding one’s purpose is a very profound thing”. So, this is the story of some of what I have said and done. Every word of it is true. I lived it all. I did it all. I have tried to leave nothing out. Of course, I can’t write everything that happened… I worked there for twenty years. But the most important events are chronicled here. You will, however, find very few stories about graft, theft, bribery or any other form of violation of the public trust. Not because those things do not exist within the Baltimore City Police Department, but because I never participated in any of these types of activities and because – with the exception of one incident that I will chronicle – I had no first-hand knowledge that these incidents transpired. I mean it. I have never stolen anything while employed with the Department. Not money – which I frequently seized from drug dealers – nor drugs, which I seized even more of. I have never taken or even been offered a bribe. I have never filed a false report, nor have I made an unlawful arrest. I can even state without equivocation that I have never personally known any cop who has done any of these things… except one. And again, that will be told later in this book. Believe me when I tell you, I am quite sure that these things went on everyday in the Department, it’s just that I never associated with anyone who behaved in that fashion. I don’t know why these individuals never entered my life; I can only speculate that they somehow sensed that I was not cut from the same cloth as they. When I would lock up a drug dealer, and he would have hundreds of dollars in cash wadded up in his pocket, there was never a moments temptation to take any of it. Of course, I seized the cash and submitted it to our Evidence Control Unit (ECU), but I never skimmed one dollar from anyone. It just never seemed worth the risk of losing my job and possibly going to prison for a couple of bills. I never understood why good cops with decent salaries ever crossed that line, and I doubt I ever will. It just wasn’t worth it to me.
For this book, I have chosen to leave out my entire Academy experience because the core of the job occurs after the Academy. Usually what is learned there is discarded once you hit the streets anyway, and any good cop will tell you that. But as for the rest… fair game. If something occurred and I was wrong, I wrote about it. When others were wrong, I wrote that. I have changed some of the names in order to avoid any conflicts with fellow Officers. But my mistakes are my own. I admit them. I think you will see that very few others in this book can claim the same thing. I truly hope this book shows that one man can do good despite the fact that so many would try to hold him down.
This is my story. This is the story of Sequence Number G471. There has only been only one G471, and there will only ever be one G471… me.