By Doni Glover, Publisher
Unapologetically Black: Doni Glover Autobiography
(BALTIMORE – June 6, 2019) – Back in 1937, Violet Hill Whyte was appointed as the first African American officer by then-Police Commissioner William P. Lawson in Baltimore. To this day, the very mention of her name still sends chills up the backs of Baltimoreans. She is remembered as a person who made a difference in our lives; obviously, she understood her role in the community. Ms. Whyte clearly had a lucid idea of what it means to be black, to be a cop – and what it means to be a black cop.
Here in Sandtown, the same community where the Freddie Gray Unrest began in April of 2015, we certainly have our own warped perspective of the police. Home to Western District, we locals know a thing or two about the history. Yet, we also know of a cop or two who have carried the torch first held by Violet Hill Whyte. One name that comes to mind is retired Police Sgt. Kirk Fleet.
I’ve had many, many chats with Sgt. Fleet over the past several years. He was typically stationed at The Avenue Market. I can tell you that from a distance, he has the staunch, stoic image of a gladiator. To say the least, he was not to be messed with. His rigid thousand-yard stare could pierce the thickest armor. He’s seen a thing or two, also.
At the same time, upon getting to know “Sarge”, you learn that the man was actually a coach for kids in West Baltimore. You learn that he has volunteered countless hours mentoring and giving of his time – trying to be a difference maker. Despite the perception the community has of cops, people like Sgt. Fleet paint a different picture. He represents the character we like to see in our leaders.
Yes, cops can be leaders.
You see, we can sit around and complain all day, or we can roll up our sleeves and go out there and make a difference. After all, that’s what grown people do: They see a need and they fill it.
We all know about Freddie Gray. We all know about the drugs bought and sold because we see it every day. But, a lot of times, we miss the beauty in all of this. Sgt. Fleet could have taken a “to hell with it” attitude a long time ago. Instead, he chose to give the most precious gift any of us can give: his time.
Well, the Sarge retired last year. And while we miss him, I can tell you that he did what any good leader is supposed to do. He found some young people – some younger cops – to pass the ball to: Iris Martin; Chuck Lee; and Evan Anderson. These three Baltimore City cops represent the next generation of Violet Hill Whytes and Kirk Fleets.
I can assure you that while many people in the community may still be scarred and leery of cops because of decades of traumatic experiences, these three are not of that ilk. In fact, I trust them with my life.
My very first experience with a cop as a lad was with a black cop over on Warwick Avenue. I had broken law and while the white officer was going to let me go, it was the black cop that said, “Lock him up.” I could have been jaded for life. I could have made it up in my mind right then and there that black cops were worse than white cops. However, I didn’t. Fortunately, I was wise enough to know – even at 18 – that you cannot make a blanket statement about any group of people.
On this Saturday, June 8, 2019 beginning at 11 am at Penn-North, Historic West Baltimore will kick-off the first Historic Pennsylvania Avenue parade in 9 years. A music festival is to follow. And I am so very proud to announce that Officers Martin, Lee and Anderson spearheaded this effort. We’ve been working collectively since the beginning of the year and finally, it is here! (I’m geeked!)
I just had to take a moment and let the world know – from the heart of Sandtown – that not all cops are bad. Like any group, we can’t let the bad apples set the tone for all of them. I am so happy for this community. For the first time in a long time, we are going to have some positivity in the community like we haven’t seen in years. Now, let me say – these officers have been doing smaller events for the past 4 years, but this one is very special. A wonderful ensemble of people – including 10 marching bands and the Baltimore County Corvette Club – have come together to bring a little bit of joy to this part of the world.
I’d like to add that historically, these officers have gone in their own pockets to serve the community. In fact, I have seen them buy people food, get people into treatment, and help people find jobs. I have seen it with my own eyes. Just last Friday, I watched as a young brother came up to Officer Anderson and was excited to tell him that he’d finally found a job. The joy on that young man’s face was priceless. He was so proud to give this cop the good 4-1-1.
So, all that to say – hope to see you Saturday! It’s going to be a lovely day!
FMI, call Officer Evan Anderson at 443.890.0466 or Officer Chuck Lee at 443.675.8222.