IN MEMPHIS: OFFICER FRIENDLY HAS NOT BEEN FRIENDLY FOR A LONG-LONG TIME!
Re-visit January 26, 2023
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the House passed a bill titled “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.” It is named after 46-year-old George Floyd who died Memorial Day 2020 after a racist Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This barberic act was seen around the world. The bill passed along party lines 220-212 with two Democrats voting against the bill and one Republican pressing a button that said “NO” meaning “YES.” He was Lance Gooden of Texas. He was allowed to change his vote.
The police racism and brutality has been so bad in Prince George’s County in 2008 the FOP aka the KKK cops had no problem hanging a young black man in his jail cell. He was awaiting trial for the hit and run death of a white Prince Georges police officer. The young man was not given his day in court and the guilty cops have yet to be caught. Instead, a black jailer in the Upper Marlboro jail was found guilty of conspiracy in Federal Court. Judge Alex Williams (former member on the board of Kids In Trouble, Inc) sentenced him to serve one year in jail. The more things changed the more they remain the same. I met Alex through my friend and mentor, the honorable Judge Luke C. Moore, a pioneering U. S. Marshall and DC Superior Court Judge. Alex a retired Federal Court Judge recently embarked on a Podcast titled, “A Prospective of Justice.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fkafk63frbg HERE COMES THE JUDGE
THE WAY WE WERE: FEDERAL JUDGE ALEX WILLIAMS-I HAD HIS BACK AND HE HAD MY BACK I THOUGHT!
The late Melvin High was the Chief of the Prince Georges County Police Department during those trying times. I knew Melvin from his time on the DC Police Department. He and my brother Earl joined the department around the same time in 1969. He would rise rapidly through the department retiring as Assistant Chief after 23 years. He would later take a job as the Chief of Police in Norfolk, Virginia. After 10 years of service he returned to familiar surroundings as the Chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department. My brother obtained the rank of sergeant as he battled the Code of Silence and the Thin Blue Line of racism in the department.
His career in law-enforcement came to an end on a cold morning on March 14, 1984. He was on his way for an temporary assignment to the Police and Fire Clinic when his car hit an icy patch on Southern Avenue SE overhead of the Suitland Parkway. His car slide into a 16 wheeler truck-it was no contest. The truck won. Sgt. Earl K. Bell aka Bull Bell would spend the next several weeks in the Intensive Care Unit fighting for his life. Chief Maurice Turner, and a slew of everyday cops and white shirts that included, Marty Tapscott, Ike Fullwood, Rodney Cato and Melvin High all came to the SE Community Hospital to pay their respects to the man they called “Bull Bell” among other names behind his back.
The doctors gave him a 50-50 chance to live, he beat the odds and left the hopital alive, but he was paralized from the waist down for life.
On April 2, 1984 Washington Post columnist Dorothy Gilliam wrote a column on Sgt. Earl K. Bell and the trials and tribulations of a good cop against all odds. Sgt. Irving Downs of the 6th District recalls that Bull Bell blew the whistle on a group of dirty cops who were using the system to benefit themselves. Sgt. Bell refused to look the other way and said, “Not on my watch.” The dirty cops were tried and convicted. His temporary assignment to the Police and Fire Clinic, was ‘Pay Back’ via Ike Fullwood.
Sgt. Downs, was quoted, “Bull Bell didn’t go along to get along. He got foot patrol and was told to keep quiet, but he would not. His priorities and principles were stronger than the job. He was an honest cop, when honesty was not the best policy.” The same holds true today with the present Mayor and Police Chief.
Sgt. Earl K. Bell, spend his last years in a nursing home where he died. His legacy as an good and honest cop still lives today.
Melvin High took over a Prince Georges County Police Department that was overrun with decades of racism and corruption. He was in over his head and left the department shortly after the hanging of a 19 year old black man in the Upper Marlboro jail in 2008. All this corruption and racism took place when Black Americans claimed, “Black Was Beautiful!” Jack Johnson was the County Executive, Glen Ivey was the State’s Attorney and Alex Williams was the Federal Judge. Still it was Justice & Just-Us!
High hrew his hat in the ring seeking the office of Prince George’s County Sheriff. He was voted into office and found a home for 12 years. He died suddenly November 17, 2022 waiting to sign his fourth set of retirement papers in law-enforcement.
My last encounter with High was outside of the Giant Food store on Excaliber Road in Bowie, Maryland. It was Christmas time 12 years ago. I was raising money for my Kids In Trouble annual Christmas toy party for elementary school children. He saw me and came over to my table to say hello. We were exchanging small talk when he said, “The department was not ready for Bull, he was ahead of his time!” The comment caught me off guard and my response was, “Yea I know.” He put a twenty-dollar bill in the jar and said, “Merry Christmas.” High’s response proved, the Bull Bell legacy lives on!
If you want more proof that Sgt. Earl K. Bell was ahead of his time, according to a recent report in USA Today, in 2022 cops killed more than 1,000 Americans this year – more than at any other point in the past decade, according to recent data from Mapping Police Violence. Who was first leading the list of homicides–unarmed black men and children.
Given the nation’s recent emphasis on police reform, this should be surprising. Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020, lawmakers have attempted to mitigate police violence by addressing illegal and fatal police tactics. Yet cops are still killing about three people a day.
And many of these deaths ocur during traffic stops. To protect motorists, we need better protocols and better leadership at the top.
As I looked back at the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, there has been no change in the racist policies and police shootings of unarmed Black men. The USA Today story proves my point. The only change, the Wild-Wild West is now cops riding in cars and not on horses. The lynching of Blacks in Ameica has gone fom a rope to a gun.
Body cameras were suppose to deter the shootings–today’s cops just turn their cameras off and its business as usual. Most cops know that the politicians are just as corrupt as they are so they could care less about another black man or black child dying in the streets. It is still Justice and Just-Us!
We can add Hispanics and those blacks from Africa and the Caribbean Islands who didn’t think they were black to the mix. They are in for a rude awaking once they are stopped on a lonely backroad late at night or in the wee-wee hours of the morning by a racist cop, be he black or white.
The cop approaches their car calling them “Nigger” with his hand on his gun. These blacks who don’t think they are black are trying to explain to the cop that they are not Black, because they are from Haiti or Nigeria. With tears in their eyes they are finally getting the wake-up call they have been waiting for–welcome to Black America!
I started out as a Neighborhood Worker for the United Planning Organization (UPO) in 1965. I remember a shooting in my old neighborhood in NE DC in 1966. A young black man had been shot in the back and killed by a white cop while running away.
His crime, he had allegedly stolen a 29 cents pack of cookies. The crime was committed on Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road NE in a convenience store on the wrong side of the tracks. The victim was Clarence “Bug” Booker. The shooting brought back memories that I would rather have forgotten.
I will never forget how my brother Earl and I left home to cross those same railway tracks that “Bug” crossed in search of food/cookies. Our destination was the Safeway store where I carried groceries on the weekend to help my mother make ends meet. Booker was shot in the same block of the Safeway store. I had flashbacks because there goes me or my brother Earl.
Twenty years earlier on a cold December night. Earl entered the Safeway store from the back and I entered on the Minnesota Avenue side from the front. I was known to the Safeway clerks and staff and no one paid me any attention while I made my way down the aisle pretending I was searching for someone to help carry their groceries to their car or their home in the neighborhood. Earl and I made a clean getaway or so we thought with lunch meats and cheese stuffed down our pants and in our coats.
We were about to cross the railway tracks to our home when a cop car jumped the curb with two white cops jumping out with guns drawn–they were yelling and cussing calling us niggers and telling us to put our hands up high. I was scared to death, but Earl was cool. He was trying to figure out how in the hell did they catch up with us?
The cops threw us in the back of the car and one of the rednecks held his gun on us while the other cop sped up Benning Road to the 14th precinct with the siren on full blast. When they got us to the precinct both jumped out of the car and Earl and I use the moment to hide our meat and cheese under their seats.
They pushed us into the precinct in front of a little old white lady. She looked up and said, “These are not the two niggers that snatched my pocketbook.” For the first time, the word nigger coming from someone white was music to my ears. One of the Redneck cops told us to get the hell out of his station house. Earl and I hurried and got out of his station house.
We started to take a shortcut home through the woods called “G Man Diamond.” We crossed the street heading into the woods and we looked at each other and turned around. We went back to get our food from under the cop car seats. Yea it was crazy-but we were hungry.
The moral of the story, we could have been Clarence ‘Bug’ Booker shot and killed for stealing lunch meat and cheese.
Back to the scene of the crime where Booker was shot dead. His walking partner and friend was a young juvenile delinquent name Rufus Catfish Mayfield, he was a known petty theft and had served time in reform school for stealing a car. He was raising hell trying to stir up things to confront the police, without my knowledge Marion Barry was hanging around the fringes of the crime scene checking things out.
He was working behind the scenes making a deal to quell the threat of more violence. He made a deal with the U. S. Labor Department to sponsor a program called Pride, Inc. The program received a grant the first year for $300,000 to hire hundreds of inner-city youth like Catfish Mayfield. The second-year the grant was worth two-million dollars, Marion and wife Mary Treadwell swooped in on Catfish who was in over his head and kidnapped Pride, Inc. Marion would use Pride as his platform and springboad to kick-start his political career that would make him “DC Mayor for Life.”
I was 10 years Catfish’s senior, but we grew up in the same Parkside Housing project. His family lived in the 600 block of Kenilworth Terrace and I lived in the 700 block of Kenilworth Terrace and that was all we had in common.
I had no love for the police simply because I had never forgotten the lunch meat and cheese encounter and how they use to kick my door down late at night or in the wee hours of the morning raiding my house. They would take my mother out in handcuffs.
She was arrested for selling bootleg liquor, and cutting a nickel on a dollar in a card game called Pitty-Pat on the weekends. She also had a number book during the week in the neighborhood. The number backer Mr. Billy Jackson who lived on Sheriff Road NE. a 20 minute walk from our Parkside housing project. Earl and I would walk to Mr. Jackson’s house with mother to pick up the payoffs for the lucky players. Unlike today there were no numbers played on Sundays. Her same entrepreneur efforts are now legal in local casinos, liquor stores and food marts in the black community seven days a week.
Earl and I would sit on the steps and cry, but my mother would always look back and say, “I will be back in time to dress you for the church in morning” and she always did, I never forgot. My great-grandfather Rev. James Tyler laid the first brick to build Mt. Airy Baptist Church in 1893. The church is located at North Capitol and L Streets, NW in the shadows of the Capitol.
For 50+ years I worked to bring peace to my community as a Neighborhood Worker for the United Planning Organization, Roving Leader for the DC Department of Recreation & Parks, Presidential Appointee for the Nixon White House, founder of my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble, and last but not least a pioneering sports talk radio personality with the Original Inside Sports.
During the 1968 riots, I walked the streets for three days and three nights with nothing but a police badge. My friend and mentor Captain Tilmon O’Bryant convinced me I could make a difference or die trying. He swore me in as a cop without a gun.
Instead of making a difference years later I watched The Thin Blue Line and The Code of Silence hender the growth of my brothers and other good cops. My younger brother, DC cop Sgt. Earl K. Bell was a 14-year vet and my older brother Bobby Bell, was a 20 year vet of the U. S. Marshall Service. I watched them fight a system that is still there today. There are some good cops out there, but they stand by and watch the cowards and bullies run the departments, via FOP/KKK.
My high school friend and teammate, Andrew Johnson was a good cop. He was a foot patrolman, and a decorated homicide detective. He retired as a supervisor for the DEA tracking the bad guys all over the world. We worked hand and hand in the community. I have seen the Good-Bad and Ugly when it comes to cops in the DMV.
During the riots I met a great brother who was an undercover FBI agent, Wayne Davis. He and I became fast friends.
I met the late Wayne Davis on the streets of DC during the 1968 riots. In 1970 he was assigned as a desk supervisor at FBI HQ in Washington, DC. The assignment made him only the second black in FBI history to hold that position. Wayne and I would have lunch years later and he reminded me who were the real heroes of the 1968 riots in DC. He named DC’s first black Mayor, Walter Washington, and Patrick Murphy, the Director of the Police and Fire Departments as the real heroes.
When I asked him to explain, he said, “When my boss suggested to shoot looters on sight, Washington and Murphy said, ‘Hell No.’ We will never know how many lives they saved. J Edgar never consulted with members of his staff, this decision was made solely by him and his inner circle.”
Wayne grew up in Newark, NJ where he was an outstanding high school athlete. He was the captain of the University of Connecticut basketball and track teams. He left DC and the next thing I knew he was the Agent in Charge in the Detroit Office of the FBI. In 1980 I was in Detroit covering Thomas “Hit Man” Hearn’s first title fight. I invited Wayne to attend fight. We watched Hearns knock out the champion Pipino Guevas in the 8th round to become the new welterweight champion of the World. He enjoyed the outing and thanked me for making it possible.
When Wayne retired and took a job to head security at a Fortune 500 firm in Philadelphia we stayed connected. He was my guest several times on my sports talk show Inside Sports during Black History Month.
When the FBI was making plans to catch Mayor Marion Barry with his pants down, Wayne asked me to warn the Mayor.
I found Mayor Marion Barry in Face’s Restaurant located on upper Georgia Avenue NW. The restaurant was a hangout for the “DC in crowd.” I asked his driver and security officer William Stays to go into the restaurant and tell the Mayor I needed to see him. Stays without any questions went into the restaurant and brought him out. I told Marion I had information that the FBI was on his trail and he needed to step back. His response, “Harold I appreciate the information, but I got everything under control!” Stays looked at me and said, “Harold what more can you do?” Several months later, ‘The Bitch Set Him Up.”
The Saturday before he was to go to jail on Monday, he stopped by W-U-S-T radio station with my college teammate and roommate, DC Boxing Commissioner, the late Dr. Arnold McKnight. The first world out of his mouth, “Harold Bell is always going to tell the truth.” He confessed, “Harold I should have listen to you.” Too little too late!
I have coordinated too many to count police and youth forums to improve community policing. I encouraged DC Superior Court judges, police chiefs and beat cops to be a part of the community to enhanced the growth of inner-city children via my non-profit organization Kids In Trouble, Inc. My problem, the white cops who needed the forum the most–were no shows. https://www.youtube.com/watchv=RvmdLzVSf38&feature=em POLICE FORUM.
Kids In Trouble, Inc Police and Community Relations Forum at Bible Way Baptist Church in NW DC. Co-host Congressman Tom Davis (R-Vir) and Jim Brown (NFL)
I testified during a DC City Council confirmation hearing against the hiring of Peter Newsham as DC Police Chief. He was not worthy and they hired him anyway. The murder and crime rate skyrocketed every year he held office. I forewarned Mayor Muriel Bowser (Black), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (Black) and Councilwoman Mary Che (other) with written proof. I gave to them personally. We cannot blame Newsham or Donald Trump for the lack of black leadership–This is Us.
REST IN PEACE CHIEF MELVIN HIGH