Give the gift
that gives back all year

Make your tax-deductible gift before December 31st!

The Intersection Ike McKinnon Shares Stories of Racism in 1960’s Detroit Police Department

Courtesy of the City of Detroit

My first night as a Detroit police officer… I was on the midnight shift and I was the only African American on that midnight shift. And no one spoke to me… I can’t say on the radio [what my assigned partner that night] said, but he swore and he said the racial epithet that we hear so often. And, of course, I’m working with this person.”

There are few individuals that have served the city of Detroit like Ike McKinnon.  McKinnon’s service to Detroit began in 1965 when he became a police officer.  In the 1990’s he was appointed chief of police and as of July 1st, he will become a private citizen. Now that he has retired as deputy mayor of Detroit, McKinnon plans on travelling, visiting family and teaching at the University of Detroit Mercy’s Law School.  McKinnon joins host Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today to discuss his long career as a public servant.

McKinnon recounts incidents of racism he faced while on the force, starting from his first day on the job.

My first night as a Detroit police officer… I was on the midnight shift and I was the only African American on that midnight shift,” says McKinnon. ”And no one spoke to me… I can’t say on the radio [what my assigned partner that night] said, but he swore and he said the racial epithet that we hear so often. And, of course, I’m working with this person.”

For the next eight hours, I’m still waiting for him to say something to me,” he says. ”And it was awful, it really was. And you think about this in terms of, if he’s treating me this way, how is he treating the citizens of Detroit?”

He also revealed how surreal the 1967 riots seemed to him at the time and told of an incident where he was driving home on the second day of the riots when he was pulled over by a pair of white officers who began shooting at him.  McKinnon was in his uniform and managed to drive away unharmed.      

Various experiences over the years have led McKinnon to realize how important the vetting process is when recruiting potential officers.  ”To have a job where you can take a life is a great responsibility,” McKinnon tells Henderson.  ”We have to find out the intentions of a recruit, why they want to become a police officer.”     

To hear the entire conversation, please click the audio link above.

Original air date: April 24th, 2016

Image credit: Sandra Svoboda

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at detroitjournalism.org.

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.

  

 

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

detroittoday@wdet.org  

We want to hear from you.
Share your thoughts and opinions: