Stimulating narratives from police officers who have walked the most crime-ridden beats in inner-city America.
Author of a dozen police procedurals (Criminal Element, 2002, etc.), the late Holton was a 29-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department; many of the 28 peace officers he recruited for this collection also hail from his home turf. In testimonies often just a few pages long, they convey the treacherous nature of the terrains they patrol. Several are now retired and in retrospect view their former duties as excessively dangerous—a reasonable view of such tasks as serving arrest warrants to ultraviolent felons or hog-tying a 350-pound prison inmate. The captain of corrections officers at an Indiana maximum-security prison shares vivid memories of Vietnam, prison politics and the time he drove to Gary (“the Homicide Capital of the United States”) to confiscate an SUV from a friend’s enraged ex-husband. The first black commissioner of corrections in Massachusetts is happy to report that he still works toward prison reform after 50 years in the field. The female police officer’s perspective is well represented, and their adventures are as harrowing and hazardous as those of the men. Indeed, many also had to endure harassment, unwarranted scrutiny and prejudice from their male colleagues. Foster parent Florida Bradstreet of the New Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office believes that she’s successful at getting confessions “because many of the suspects look upon me as a mother figure.” Chicago’s Tanya Junior says she never takes her work home, even though she’s married to a policeman. A former undercover narcotics agent who operated out of West Harlem recalls his career in the underbelly of New York City crime fighting. Holton shares his own reflections on life as a lieutenant commander following in his father’s footsteps, and on the perils of simultaneously being a cop and a popular fiction writer.
Though these fleeting glimpses barely scratch the surface of what work as a peace officer demands, the African-American perspective is bracing.