Hey, everyone! I am so excited to share my most recent interview with you. Please welcome Officer Deon Joseph, a.k.a. The Skid Row Cop. His work as an advocate for the people of Skid Row has garnered a lot of much-needed attention to the problems that plague the homeless in Los Angeles. He does it with heart, hard work and when appropriate, humor. He’s very entertaining!
Before I go any further, let me tell you something. Many of you know that I’m from Topeka, Kansas. We’re the capital, but not all that big. I pay a lot of attention to things that concern the homeless population locally, but I’d never heard of The Skid Row Cop in L.A.
One day, I saw the below video on the internet. Not only was I intrigued by the subject matter, but it came at a time when our news was filled with a lot of anti-cop rhetoric. I had to look this guy up and I’ve been following him on Facebook ever since. You know I had to ask him his thoughts on these tough matters. Watch this video and then check out his interview.
Welcome, welcome, welcome Officer Joseph. I can’t tell you how jazzed I was when you accepted my request to interview you.
Ø: Thanks for having me.
Could you start by telling me who you were before you became the Skid-Row Cop?
Ø: I was a man who was raised to engage in community outreach to those in need. I was militant minded. I was indoctrinated to hate and fear law enforcement like many African Americans today.
And look at you now.
Ø: I had no idea my upbringing was going to guide me to a job as an Officer, or to the mean streets of Skid Row. Yet I feel my steps were being ordered there through my upbringing.
Is there one significant thing that put you on this path?
Ø: Yes. Watching my parents raise 41 foster children during their 47-year marriage, and helping the poor and homeless.
Wow! What amazing people. What would you say has been the most trying time in your life?
Ø: Losing my Mother in 2006, and my father and brother in the same year in 2015. My parents were the inspiration for what I do.
I’m sorry for your loss. They certainly left a legacy. When did you become the ‘Skid-Row Cop?’ Like . . . when did that name stick?
Ø: Around 2005. My nickname prior to that was Robo-Cop because many people thought I was heartless because I arrested so many people in an effort to help the community, but that is not what was received by them. Yet I cared about the community the same as I do now. When I changed my tactics and engaged in more outreach efforts, the people began to see me for who I was, not just what I do. I became a part of the community. And that’s how Skid Row Cop was born.
What a great way to earn the name! Anyone who follows you knows you share stories about your experiences working Skid Row as well as other personal experiences on any given day. How have your friends/followers made an impact on you?
Ø: Some have been inspired to send me hygiene kits to give to the homeless. Others have introduced me to political figures and sent college students my way to give them a truth-based, non-sanitized education about Skid Row to the future leaders of this nation.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned from the homeless?
Ø: Simple. That them being homeless does not make them any less human or less worthy of love and respect. Most of the people there were not born in Skid Row. They ended up there. They are someone’s mother, father, son, daughter, or sibling. So I do not judge them, I simply police them and find ways through my profession to elevate them from the streets of the Row.
That is a fact! You’re constantly fighting for better laws, regulations, funds, etc. Do you feel like you’ve been heard yet? There’s an old saying that goes… ‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil.’ Have you received any oil?
Ø: I have found that I have some influence, yet my uniform limits me; as many police skeptics, question my motives. They know I am telling the truth, but their political outlook or jaded world view of police, in general, will not allow them to take heed to the truths I speak. I have been the catalyst for many positive endeavors, though, yet as I stated before, being in uniform and not being of a high rank limits me to a degree.
What are your plans for the future?
Ø: My dream is to be a motivational speaker and police consultant. I want to help police agencies struggling with building trust in their communities understand that it can be done. I want to inspire people to be a light in dark places. I am also leaning towards a career in politics.
You got my vote! What words of wisdom do you have for the person who is considering entering the field of law enforcement?
Ø: Never change who you are. There may be something about you and your life walk that could save a multitude of lives. Remember to leave your world view at your locker, and have a heart of a servant to all you come in contact with no matter their race, sexual preference, political ideology or faith. Be the officer you would want to see coming if you needed help or made a mistake. If you do that, you can’t go wrong. You will not only help your community, but you will also help your agency.
Officer Joseph, you have a beautiful wife and kids. What sacrifices have they made in order for you to do the work you’re doing?
Ø: My wife and three kids do indeed make sacrifices. I often spend more time in Skid Row than I do with my own family. They understand that I have a calling and have been my biggest cheerleaders. It pains me that I am not always part of the day to day process of raising a family as actively as I would like, yet when I am home, I do the best I can to pick up the slack.
I don’t think enough people out there know you wrote a book. Tell me about it.
Ø: Well, I wrote a book titled Diary of a Skid Row Cop. It’s based on the many stories I share about my life as a cop on and off duty. It was my goal through the series to humanize police officers to the general public, to show them that we are not robots, and that we have feelings, thoughts, and a sense of humor. With all of the vitriol towards law enforcement due to the misguided movements of the day, I felt there needed to be a non-politicized counter to that. I feel that being open can help change heart and minds and improve relationships between cops and communities if they know how we feel from our mouths, not from what they read in a newspaper or watch on social media.
Oh, I’m going to come back to that topic! But, I know you have another work-in-progress so I want to ask you about that first.
Ø: I am also working on a novel about my 20-year career in Skid Row. It’s a work in progress, yet I am excited to show the world the reality of policing the homeless, to open their eyes to the real hindrances in helping the most marginalized in our nation. I want to expose how politics on both sides of the aisle are destroying the homeless. In doing so, I hope that someone with any influence or power will take a closer look at the current approaches to homelessness and come up with common sense ways to help the homeless in places like Skid Row.
What are some of the most obvious ways to help?
Ø: Obvious ways to help are to first educate yourself. By that I mean, take a walk through areas where the homeless are without something in your hands to give away. Sit a distance and watch. Only then can you get a good foundation for what is needed. Then go talk to the experts. People who run shelters, drug programs, and even fire officials and law enforcement who will be brutally honest with you about what the needs really are, as well as the real causes of homelessness. Find out what services there are for the homeless and their limitations. For instance, if you know a shelter is providing food to the homeless then do not give out food near those services. It’s overkill and hurts the communities you do it in.
I’ve seen you post on your page about things well-intentioned people do that to help the homeless that really aren’t that helpful. Can you cover that a bit more?
Ø: Many people feed the homeless near shelters and services that already provide them food and clothing. In doing so, you unintentionally rob them of any desire to utilize the services in the shelters that can actually help get them off the street. Many people on the street suffer from addiction and that is why they are homeless. So, meeting their needs in the streets is counter intuitive. The majority of the things you donate to them like food or clothing in some places where resources are already available to them will be sold to make enough money to support their drug habits. The things they don’t sell will be wasted in the street, and increase the poor quality of life.
What should be done instead?
Ø: In places where they have food resources available to them, it is best to donate things like hygiene kits or bottled water in the summertime.
Thank you. I want to take a few steps back now to something you spoke on earlier. We both know the media loves to manipulate our emotions for ratings, etc. Though I try to read/research the information, I can’t say it hasn’t affected my emotions. Over the last several years, there have been a plethora of police-related brutality cases in the media. Where do you feel the truth lies on how big this problem is?
Ø: The truth is that the police nationwide are simply a microcosm of society. Meaning that the majority of people in our nation, and in the world, no matter their race, creed, sexual preference, gender, or religious beliefs are genuinely good people. Yet there is always that five or ten percent of the world population or nationally, that is raising all kinds of hell and causing chaos. Police departments hire from the human race; therefore, the people they hire will match society. The majority of them will be decent and serve with dignity. Yet, like society, there will also be that small negative exception that comes on the job and tarnishes the image of 670,000 cops nationwide.
Great answer! The media makes it feel like a much higher percentage but it’s so important to keep perspective when we’re presented with the ugliest scenarios.
Ø: The media does not report on the good majority. They don’t get enough ratings. But they cannot wait for the negative exception to rear their heads, and sadly those are the ones who get airtime on the 6 o’clock news or social media. They give the appearance that all cops have lost their minds and souls, and that is simply false. And when that false narrative spreads, it only makes things worse as the hands of the honorable rule become tied in keeping people safe. There is not a truer explanation.
Whew! And with that, I thank you again for taking time out to talk with me. It means so much.
Folks, I want to encourage you to get to know this man and his work. You’ll learn so much about the issues that plague the homeless. Plus, he’s super nice and really funny. It’s fun when you see his wife come along and put him in check here and there. Oops, don’t know if I should have said that.
Now, this guy is easy to find, but I’m gonna help you out anyway. Did I mention he’s as entertaining as he is informative? Check out one more video below.
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/OfficerDeonJoseph1
Oh, yeah! One more thing . . .
Oh. No. He. di’ent! Oh yes, he did. #RunningManChallenge
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