Thin Black Line: True Stories by Black Law Enforcement Officers Policing America's Meanest Streets

Overview

Meet the black men and women policing our meanest streets . . .

LaVerne Dunlap - She infiltrates drug gangs and testifies against them in court . . . only to have the drug lords come gunning for her.

Dep. County Sheriff Winroe Reed - He goes into America's "Homicide Capital" alone to apprehend a 6'9" homicidal crack dealer . . . a man so dangerous no other cops would ...

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Overview

Meet the black men and women policing our meanest streets . . .

LaVerne Dunlap - She infiltrates drug gangs and testifies against them in court . . . only to have the drug lords come gunning for her.

Dep. County Sheriff Winroe Reed - He goes into America's "Homicide Capital" alone to apprehend a 6'9" homicidal crack dealer . . . a man so dangerous no other cops would accompany him.

Robbie Robinson - A movie actor/martial arts star/probation officer, he takes down LA's toughest gangs.

These are just a few of the courageous black heroes in Hugh Holton's The Thin Black Line.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I've never read a more revealing, riveting account of being a police officer before. The African-American men and women here tell true stories that are terrifying, funny, sad, powerful and even profound. And ultimately the stories tell us as much about our society as the do about the officers involved."

—Ed Gorman, author of Sleeping Dogs

"Holton uses words with the economy of cartridges and chooses his targets with precision. No one who reads these fact-based accounts of the ongoing war on crime will ever again take the phrase "to serve and protect" for granted."

—Loren D. Estleman, author of the Amos Walker detective series

"Inside stories of cops on the front lines. This is the real McCoy."

—Barbara D'Amato, author of Death of a Thousand Cuts

"The Thin Black Line is nothing short of stunning. These are the real stories of cops in action, in their own words. Sometimes frightening, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, these are the voices of the real deal men and women who are the front line of defense- us against the bad guys."

—David Hagberg, author of Dance with the Dragon

Publishers Weekly

Best known for his Chicago-based mystery series (Time of the Assassins, etc.), Holton, who died in 2001, compiled a compelling nonfiction collection of black officers' experiences in American law enforcement. While the majority of the 28 subjects, including Holton himself, belong to large metropolitan forces (Chicago, Los Angeles and New York), Holton also focuses on those who work for sheriff's departments, state police agencies and prisons. Notable highlights include Capt. Sam Welch of Indiana State Corrections, who observes that serving in Vietnam steeled him for working in prisons; Chicago PD Officer Tanya Junior, married to a fellow Chicago cop, who despite the dangers of her job considers herself just another public servant; and retired Chicago PD commander Hubert Holton (the author's father), who is proud that he and the author were the only father and son in the department's history to be commanders at the same time. Race is by no means the only unifying factor in these stories: the men and women Holton selected are all exemplary law enforcement officers committed to protecting and serving their communities. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School

Holton's collection of 28 first-person narratives will be useful and appealing to teens of color considering a career in law enforcement. The tales from the streets of Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Chicago, Louisiana, Philadelphia, Indiana, and Massachusetts vary widely in content and quality of writing. Early chapters are prefaced with brief third-person biographical sketches of the authors, but these introductory remarks are not included in every instance. Seven women are represented, and three of the chapters describe the experiences of corrections officers working in prisons. Some of the authors share one specific anecdote from law enforcement, while others have written mini-autobiographies that can be considered primary-source materials. The book opens with a well-written prologue summarizing the history of African Americans serving as law enforcement officers in the United States, from 1805 to the present. The tone throughout the book is conversational; sometimes reading it feels like watching the "law" portion of Law & Order , or sitting down with a family friend and listening to her life story.-Sondra VanderPloeg, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312868208
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Police Lieutenant HUGH HOLTON was a twenty-nine year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He wrote several bestselling novels, including, Time of the Assassins, The Left Hand of God, and Violent Crimes. At the time of his death, Hugh Holton was the highest ranking active police officer writing novels in America.

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Read an Excerpt

Winroe Reed is a retired sergeant in the LaPorte County, Indiana, Sheriff ’s Department. He is six feet tall and weighs two hundred pounds, and a longtime friend of Sergeant Reed said that as a young man he was an extraordinary athlete and utterly fearless. He also remembers Reed as having “a burning sense of justice.” Those same traits have obviously followed him through his law enforcement career.

I worked for the LaPorte County Sheriff ’s Department for thirty-one years—from 1968 through 1999. Much of my work involved “serving arrest warrants,” which means arresting people. When people are charged with a crime in LaPorte County, someone has to go after them—assuming they haven’t turned themselves in voluntarily—even if they leave the jurisdiction. Frequently that someone was me.

For decades I traveled the country serving warrants, but most of my work was done in the Indiana area—including Illinois and Michigan. I made many trips to the slums of Gary, Indiana, and the Cook County lockup in Chicago, which are pretty rough places. In other words, I’ve had to bring in some very tough guys—often single-handedly.

When I drove out to serve a warrant, I usually kept .ve sets of waist-wrist shackles and .ve sets of leg irons in the trunk. By nature I’m a nice guy and try hard to be respectful to the people I pick up. However, sometimes these people are just plain nasty. Not only do they have nasty mouths, even if they are shackled, they may well try to bite, butt, or rear back and kick you. The really violent people, I’ve been known to shackle with multiple sets of irons—legs and

The Thin Black Line

wrists. I tell these people in advance that I’m a kind man, but don’t mistake kindness for weakness.

I don’t know how many people I’ve brought to justice over a thirty-one-year career. Thousands, I would guess. I remember one guy lived right on the Indiana–Michigan border, and he was hard to catch. He was not only brutal, he had some “rabbit” in him. The .rst time I went after him, I was alone, and when I couldn’t cover both doors, he skipped out the back door and bolted across the state line. Later I spotted him laughing at me from the safety of Michigan, where I was not authorized to follow and arrest him.

Then he ran off.

I had quite a problem apprehending him and had to make several attempts. One time I let the air out of his tires so he couldn’t jump in his car and split. I was persistent, though. I .nally staked his house out from down the street and saw him sneak back home.

He wasn’t laughing when I caught him.

A lot of newspapers call Gary, Indiana—in Lake County—some pretty bad things, such as “the Homicide Capital of the United States,” and it does have an unusually high murder rate, frequently the highest in the country. As you can imagine, it’s not always easy to get of.cers to go in there and arrest people. I’ve had to serve a lot of arrest warrants in Gary all by myself. Usually I would stop off at the local precinct to let them know that the LaPorte County Sheriff ’s Department was in town and to ask if any of them wanted to keep me company. The answer was invariably, “No!”

Once I remember I had to go in alone and bring back a six-footnine-inch crack-addicted murderer. He was much feared and extremely violent. Now, a guy that big and wild isn’t exactly inconspicuous. Still, he’d been at large for a while. I don’t think anyone else wanted to go in and get him.

During most arrests you aren’t supposed to knock on the door

with your gun drawn. Some people will never see past the gun, will

bolt or pull a gun themselves. When I suspected the guy was

Winroe Reed

homicidal—if he had a really violent rap sheet, for instance—I would have the warrant on a clipboard, which I held in front of my stomach, upright. But behind the clipboard I kept a pistol.

More than once the suspect would pull a gun, only to see me drop the clipboard and put my own piece on him. Which was how I apprehended the six-foot-nine-inch crack-addict killer.

One of the weirder warrants I served was on a guy who had a wicked temper and a bad history of violence. He also had two terrifying dogs—a rottweiler and a pit bull. He also owned a lot of guns and threatened his neighbors routinely. He had a rap sheet. We had complaints on him and .nally someone had him charged. It wasn’t enough to send him to prison, but it was enough to arrest him.

The dogs had also terrorized the neighborhood, so before I went over there, I put on my Kevlar vest, cartridge bandoleers, multiple cartridge belts, pepper mace, extra clips, extra cuffs, and several sidearms. When I knocked, his wife answered the door.

“I have to serve this warrant on your husband and take him in,” I said. “Now, I know you have two dogs, and you don’t want them hurt. So I’m going to give you two hours to put them up someplace. Because when I come back, if they attack, I’ll shoot them.”

When I came back two hours later, the family had moved out, which satis.ed the terri.ed neighbors.

I was on the department marksmanship team and in fact helped to train the other members. I traveled with them around the state for eight or nine years, shooting against other teams in marksmanship contests. A perfect score was 300. I got so many 300s in a row that the judges asked me to step out and shoot by myself so they could watch. They didn’t think anyone could run up that many consecutive perfect scores. They thought I was scamming them.

Pretty soon, several of our guys began shooting consecutive 300s. We were beating everybody in the state, so they doubled the number of shots both sides had to take, and I once scored 599 out of 600.

Even though I’m retired I still instruct .rearms at the police

The Thin Black Line

academy. I teach them all the basics, including how to center their sights, how to be comfortable with their .rearm and not flinch. To that end I have them dry-.re their guns .rst, then .re one round, after which they continue dry-.ring. I’ve helped to produce some superb students.

Sometimes people ask if I’m happy in retirement. I answer, yes. I head up security at a local hospital, which is both interesting and challenging. You have a lot of wonderful people doing fine work in hospitals, but you also have drugs, vulnerable patients, agitated visitors, and occasionally unsavory people walk in. Hospital security requires a lot of tact, intelligence, and diplomacy. Another reason I enjoy retirement is that I don’t have to go into high-crime areas anymore and serve arrest warrants. I was afraid if I continued doing that, I’d shoot somebody.

Or somebody would shoot me.

Excerpted from The Thin Black Line by Hugh Holton.

Copyright © 20089 by Elizabeth Cook and Ed Gorman.

Published in January 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and

reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in

any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2009

    Research

    I know a few of the individuals in this book. The "facts" that are told about them are absolute lies. No department lets an officer go after a murderer "alone" because no other officer wants to go along because it's so dangerous. Some of these individuals did NOT work or go into the "drug and murder areas". These are stories that are entirely made up. Some of these people are already getting into trouble because of the lies they put into writing.

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