...at least at first.
David Durk died last month. And I didn't even know it. That really would have pissed him off.
(My excuse for missing the obits was that I was en-route to a conference in Chicago. Here's one. And another. And a third.)
Let me take you back a bit. In October, 2009, there was this strange voice mail on my school office phone. Some gruff guy with no phones manners said, quite awkwardly: "Call me I want to talk about your book!"
Hmmmm... No, thank you.
But I did save the message because it was so strange.
A month later the message turns up again before auto-deletion but now I'm sitting in front of my computer. He did actually spell his name, David Durk, D.U.R.K., so I punched it into google. The David Durk? I called him back the next day.
He proceeded to talk my ear off for a good 40 minutes. He hadn't read my book, but he had heard something I said that pissed him off, which seemingly wasn't very hard top do. He thought I was crazy because I said something like, "the culture of police today isn't corrupt." What can I say? I call 'em like I see 'em. I didn't know what else to tell him (nor did I ever get the change to say much). But I did offer to send David Durk a copy of Cop in the Hood. And I did.
A short time passes and he call me again saying, "I just finished reading the last footnote! Great stuff." That blurb from him has been on the right column of this blog for a while now. I'm rather proud of it. We got along better after he read my book. I like to think he respected my integrity. Or maybe he just had a soft spot for a college-educated cop. I don't know if I got in more than 50 words, edge-wise. Evidently, I later learned, I was not the first to experience this Durkian balance of conversation.
But I considered it an honor to listen to David Durk ramble on. I mean, he's David Durk for Christ's sake and my time isn't that precious. But I never did invite him to speak to my classes or the school, which (before his health issues became more serious) he was keen to do. We never met. I didn't really want to. We talked a few more times on the phone. These conversations each lasted about an hour. But over the phone, when push came to shove, I could simply hang up.
What David Durk told me, again and again, was that the world was corrupt, policing was corrupt, and he was forced out to retire on an officer's pension rather than the lieutenant's pension he deserved. I couldn't argue with any of that, because he would never give me the chance.
By many accounts, David Durk was a difficult personality. He struck me as not at peace with himself or the world. Mind you, had he achieved some zen-like state of nirvana, he never would have accomplished what he did. I mean, David Durk -- along with Frank Serpico -- changed the friggin' culture of modern police! I can't think of any other two individual with so much positive impact on policing in the 20th century.
Perhaps the most importantly change is that today (going back at least twenty years) an honest person can become an honest cop and lead a crime-free work-life for 20 years. No "pad"; no stealing from places already burglarized; no shaking down drug dealers; no shooting criminals just to teach them a lesson (not that Durk was opposed to a robbery squad that did just that, just FYI). It's not that none of this ever happens, it's that there's no longer institutionalized criminal corruption in rank-and-file policing. We have Durk and Serpico to thank for that.
But something odd happens when you quit policing. In the following hears you assume nothing has changed. I know policing changed a lot from 1990 to 2001. And I suspect it's changed as much if not more between 2001 and 2012. But not in my mind, which will forever be a bit stuck in a bit of a time-warp from 2001.
David Durk lived his life thinking policing hadn't changed much over the years. This was unfortunate, for a man not known for his humility. Durk couldn't appreciate what he himself had done do make policing less corrupt. He told me things were just as corrupt in 2012 as they were in 1985, or even 1970. "But it ain't so, David," I would tell him, "It just isn't." For Durk, the world was never clean enough. The man tired me out. But I'm happy he found the time to do so.
Rest in peace.