Assistant Chief of Police Tilmon O’Bryant DC’s first “Community Cop of the City.”
Mediating a truce on Harrison playground with boys in the hood in NW DC: Officer Charles Robinson of the 3rd District talk with me, Ricky Dargan and Kirby Burkes.
A Police Community Relations success story was when Mayor Marion Barry came up with the idea of ‘Cops and Robbers’ on the same team to ‘Play Ball’ together. Harrison Playground coached by me won the city championship.

NBC WRC-TV 4 aired a Black History Month special on Sunday February 25, 2018. The program looked back on the 1968 riots in Washington, DC without an eye witness account. NBC WRC TV4 relied on he say, she say to tell our story and history. I was on the U Street corridor during the riots for 4 days. I was working as a Roving Leader (Youth Gang Task Force) for the Department of Parks & Recreation aka the DC Department of Recreation.

There were no present day reporters working for news outlets in 1968. The stations were, TV-4, TV-5, TV-7 and TV-9. The print media outlets like the Washington Post and the Evening Star had all white reporters and none dared to venture out into the inner-city for a eye-witness news report during the riots.

Max Robinson, Jim Vance, Fred Thomas, Paul Berry were all hired after the fact.

The eye-witnesses seen and heard on the NBC Special “April Up Rising” were all frauds especially, Saundra Butler Truesdale who was seen being interviewed in Ben’s Chili Bowl. She was nowhere to be found. The exception was Mayor Walter Washington. He spoke with me and my co-worker NFL Hall of Fame player Willie Wood at 7th T Streets, N. W.
iN 1967 Mayor Washington made a bold move when he hired Patrick Murphy the former Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department to overseen the DC police and fire departments. Mr. Murphy was known as “The God Father of Police Community Relations. One of the first things he did on his arrival was to make arrangements to meet once a month with The Roving Leader Program (youth gang task force). When the riots hit DC we were prepared to hit the streets. Thanks to Mr. Murphy and Mayor Washington many lives were saved.
Burtell Jefferson was the first black Chief of Police in DC and he followed Tilmon’s lead in reach back efforts in the community.
Mayor Washington and ‘Boys in the Hood’ gather on Bannecker Playground on Georgia Ave. after the riots. The Mayor told us that FBI Director J Edgar Hoover wanted to shoot looters on sight. His response to him, “Not on my watch!” He earned our respect forever.
Former U. S. Marshall and DC Superior Court Judge Luke C. Moore and Chief Judge Gene Hamilton.

Luke was the first modern day U. S. Marshall appointed by the President of the United States. He joined Willie and I to walk arm and arm down the U Street corridor. The first businesses owners we spotted were Ben’s Chili Bowl owner Ben Ali and John Snipes. They were standing in front of the bowl with several other residents. Snipes came over to talk with me and Willie and Luke went over to talk with Ben.

Luke returned to tell us that Ben had received a call telling him to close his business. Luke was not a happy camper, he could not understand the order because there would be nowhere for the cops and military personnel to eat if all the restaurants were closed. He left us promising to return,

in the meantime, I had been summoned to the 3th District Police HQ by my friend “Mr. Community Policing”, Assistant Chief Tilmon O’Bryant. To my surprise he swore me in and gave me police badge and no gun. The badge was to assist me in getting through the police and military barricades being put into place around the city. I was not a happy camper with this idea, but Tilmon stroked my ego and send me on my way. He rose through the ranks as the civil rights movement was taking root in the nation. He was a tough-minded, but fair officer who spoke out on race issues. He was committed to his job. He withstood pressure and prejudice to become a leader. He encountered opposition when he moved to end segregation in the department even while some of the “Good Old Boys” didn’t particularly like what he was doing.

He began his career as a patrolman in 1947 in what was then the 2nd Precinct, a notoriously crime-ridden area of the city. Within six years, he achieved the rank of captain. His promotion came at a time when few black people held supervisory ranks in the department. It was widely believed on the force that that the highest position a black could attain was detective sergeant, a non-supervisory role. The so-called “Glass Ceiling” in the department never stopped him. In fact he shattered it, when he was named Assistant Chief in 1972 making him the highest ranking black in the history of the department.

In 1959, the police department installed a merit system for promotions that combined written examinations and supervisor’s ratings. Shortly after, Chief O’Bryant and then officer, Burtell M. Jefferson, started an off-duty study course in Jefferson’s basement for black officers interested in taking the promotion exams. In the first two years that the classes were held, 20 out of 21 of their “students” received promotions.

Burtell congratulates my brother Earl as he graduates from the DC Police Academy

When the city administration had difficulties attracting minority candidates to fill vacancies on the police force in 1968, it turned to Chief O’Bryant. He recommended that the times and locations of the tests be changed to accommodate the average worker. In his recruiting, Chief O’Bryant visited churches, civic associations and bowling alleys. His aim was to destroy the twin myths about police: “the department doesn’t want {blacks} and that {blacks} don’t want to be police officers.” In 1957, black policemen made up roughly 12 percent of the force. By 1969, the percentage had climbed to 30. Thanks to Tilmon.

Three months after he started his recruiting efforts, Chief O’Bryant was named commander of the 13th Precinct in my old neighborhood in NE DC, which had been heavily damaged during the riots that followed the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968. By then he had gained popularity from rank-and-file officers, as well as residents of the city.

In 1970, he became director of a newly created training and personnel division. His recruiting methods were innovative and sometimes controversial. It was his ideal to create an all-day radiothon to recruit cadets and dropped the minimum age to 20. Three years later, he was promoted to assistant chief in charge of field operations, becoming the highest-ranking black officer in department history at that time.
Kids In Trouble Police & Youth Gang Forum: Congressman Tom Davis (R-Va) and NFL legend Jim Brown are the co-host.

In the meantime, the Chili Bowl was allowed to remain open thanks to Luke calling President Lyndon Johnson and asking him to allow Ben’s to stay open to help with the feeding of the military personel and cops. The President gave Luke the okay and he called the Chief of Police and had the order rescinded. Any thing else is made up BS.

I was out there for 4 days and I never saw Marion Barry, Congressman Fauntroy, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Petey Greene or anyone from Lee’s Flower Shop and no one from Industrial Bank were on the U Street corridor during the riots. Snipes and Ben were always present. Ben’s Chili Bowl “Historian” Bernard Demczuk did not come to town until after the “April Uprising” but there he was acting like an expert witness on the black community? The Fake News account was orchestrated by NBC TV 4 who had no clue.

The rest of the “Usual Suspects” may have community ties, like Saundra Butler-Truesdale who was seen being interviewed in Ben’s Chilli Bowl telling lies about her community involvement, but was nowhere to be found during the riots. She was even quoted saying how change in the U street corridor has improved the lives of the black community. Evidently, she has not read the recent Washington Post story compiled by the Economic Policy Institute saying, “50 years after a major study on INEQUALITY, no gains seen for blacks!”

Some people will say and do anything to be seen and heard on radio and television. Most of these expert eye witnesses emerged after the tear gas and smoke had cleared. I am not sure about the body count stats that were given–my count was three dead, one on Minnesota Ave. NE and two in NW DC.

Another “Little known Black History Fact” as it relates to the media: The television format for 7 On Your Side was first heard on W-U-S-T Radio. Former WJLA TV 7 anchorman Paul Berry got the idea and concept for the first ever television consumer help program in a guest appearance on Inside Sports. I piggy-backed off of my mentor the legendary radio and television icon, Petey Greene. In 1967-68 I was the sports voice of “Petey Greene’s Washington” heard on W-O-L Radio on Sunday evenings.

Paul Berry made an appearance as a guest on my Inside Sports talk radio show in the early 80s. He was surprised by the number of phone calls I was receiving from my listeners asking me for advice and help. The problems would range from employment, politics, school, DC Superior Court Court, police harassment, sports, etc. The callers were all seeking my advice and assistance in these matters. One caller ask Paul for his advice relating to her boyfriend liking the Dallas Cowboys and she was a Redskin fan. She wanted to kick him to the curb. Paul took the 5th and she was not happy with his response. She than ask me if I was on her side and I said, “Lets see what the next caller has to say about that” and I took the next caller.

Paul and I co-host a Inside Sports Celebrity Fashion Show

After the show Paul asked me if the calls were like that every Saturday and I said, “Always.” He thought I should expand the show to another hour, but I was happy with the one hour time slot. He also tried to convince me to leave DC and go to a smaller market and come back to one of the major outlets here in DC.

His advice went in one and out the other, there was no way I was leaving my home town of Washington, D. C. for parts unknown. Anyone who was someone would eventually find their way to the Nation’s Capitol and I was right.

Two months later I turn to TV 7 NEWS and there was Paul with 7 On Your Side. He had convinced the management at the station to allow him to bring 7 On Your Side to the airwaves and the rest is television history. Now every local television media outlet in America has a 7 On Your Side or something similar. It all started in Washington, DC on Inside Sports.

Paul became a big star in TV news and would spent decades in the news department winning several Emmy Awards. In the 90s in a contract dispute the station refused his salary demands and shown him the door never to be seen on local news again.

Melvin Lindsey, Jim Vance and Dave Dupree attend Kids In Trouble toy benefit.
Jim Vance and I volunteer at ‘The Roy Jefferson Reading Center’ on K Steet, NW

The print, radio and television media personalities that came through Inside Sports and Kids In Trouble in there first ever reach back efforts in the community read like a who’s who in media. The list include, the late Jim Vance (TV 4), Fred Thomas (TV 7), Maureen Bunyan (TV 7), Paul Berry (TV 7), Lark McCathy (TV 5), James Brown (CBS), Cathy Hughes (TV One), Michael Wilbon (ESPN), Dave Aldridge (TNT), Melvin Lindsey (WHUR Radio), Donnie Simpson (WKYS/BET), Bill Rhoden (ESPN), Larry Fitzgerald (ESPN), sports personalities who turned TV personalities, John Thompson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Adrian Dantley, and Adrian Branch. The only trail blazer and media pioneer to escape my community and sports talk show programs was the great television pioneer Max Robinson (TV 7).

The gang is all here: The Kids In Trouble Board of Directors.

Max and I were like ships passing in the night. We would see each other at press conferences and wave or blew our horns as we encountered each other on the then mean streets of DC . Max would later become the first black news anchor on national television. He co-anchored ABC World News Tonight with Frank Reynolds and Peter Jennings from 1978-1983.

Maureen Bunyan, Lark McCathy and Donnie Simpson during Foxtrapp toy drive.

There was a moment I will never forget, the popular CIAA Basketball Tournament was being played in Max’s hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I was sitting in the Marriott Hotel where I was staying and having breakfast one morning when I looked across the room and spotted Max. We went through our usual ritual and waved to each other and I kept on eating and reading the paper. The next thing I knew, I was looking up and he is standing in front of me. He said, “Come on over I want you to meet someone.” I followed him over to his table and he introduced me to his mom and dad.

The next words that came out his mouth left me speechless, he said, “Mom and dad I want you to meet my friend Harold Bell, he has the best sports talk show in Washington, D. C.” It was a very emotional scene for me, because it was like I had found a long lost brother and he was introducing me to our parents. I knew he was seriously ill and fighting several demons. Two years later he died. I have never forgotten that morning at the Marriott in Richmond, Virginia–talking about a kodak moment—Priceless with a giant in media–my friend Max Robinson.


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