NEW YORK - He made history as the NYPD's first African-American Chief of Detectives and was recently promoted to the top uniformed position - Chief of Department. Now, less than 2 months in that role, Chief Rodney Harrison reveals why initially he never wanted to be a police officer.
Chief Harrison says, "Unfortunately I had negative experiences with law enforcement, growing up in Jamaica, Queens, and everything wasn't in Queens, some incidents happened in other parts of the city. and it kind of deterred me from even coming into this profession."
In a one-on-one interview with Chief Harrison in his police headquarters office, he explains what he went through more than 30 years ago.
"Cops being unprofessional, being very condescending. There was one incident where I was pulled out of my car and laid out on the ground, unnecessarily, I thought at the time. They were dragging me and my friends out of the car, and I remember one police officer pinned his foot in my back, it was definitely a frightening experience," Harrison says.
Harrison says his attitude changed when his father told him he could no longer pay for college, but the NYPD Cadet Corps internship offered tuition assistance.
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"I saw some of the great work they were doing how they were helping people. We had a cops and kids basketball game, and I thought wow, this is something I would like to pursue," Harrison says.
Chief Harrison feels so strongly about his career choice he's personally mentored police officers. WIth a new recruiting drive underway this month, he says the NYPD is looking for culturally aware applicants. "This is such a diverse city, and there are so many different cultures and different communities that we have to protect and serve. The police officers have to be able to understand that," says Harrison.
Harrison, who was awarded the Combat Cross in 1995 from former Police Commissioner William Bratton, says young men of color should nor let their negative experiences stop them from being the change.
"It's unfortunate, it does happen, but I'm going to sit here and say with confidence 99% of the New York City Police Officers are hardworking and want to do the best they can regarding protecting the city."
Chief Harrison says he plans to build on initiative outlined by Commissioner Dermot Shea....more community partnerships, precision policing on hot spots and habitual offenders, and ongoing training for officers, especially in crisis intervention techniques.