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“As the spotlight on law enforcement grows ever harsher, the perspective of a top cop—a black cop—makes one sit up and take notice. [Corey Pegues] gives us an incisive look at life on both sides of the blue line....a nuanced perspective of the often-fractious relationship between communities of color and law enforcement.” —USA TODAY
“A rollicking, no-holds-barred account of life on the streets, seen from both sides.”—Booklist (starred review)
During the 1980s, crack cocaine devastated many of America’s inner-city communities. Drug dealers seized neighborhoods, terrorizing its inhabitants with brutal violence. Aunts and uncles, next-door neighbors, and best friends became addicts. No longer were playgrounds and parks a safe-haven for kids; the sound of bouncing basketballs by day was replaced by the pop of gunshots by night. Those who lived through the nightmare tell unimaginable stories of that era. Once a Cop is one of the most extraordinary.
Raised in Queens, New York, as a teen, Corey Pegues watched drugs uproot his stable, working-class neighborhood almost overnight. When times got tough, he had a choice: continue to watch his family struggle to buy food, to pay bills; or sell dope. He chose the latter, eventually becoming part of the notorious Supreme Team street gang. After a botched murder attempt on a rival gang member, Corey, the only member of his family to graduate from high school, knew he had to get out. Barely eighteen, with two kids by two different women, Corey left under cover of night to enlist in the US Army. After several years in the military, he set his sights on becoming a New York City cop and breezed through the police academy.
In this provocative memoir, Corey Pegues tells how a onetime crack dealer became one the highest ranking members of the largest police force in the country, living and working in the nation’s most violent neighborhoods. His meteoric rise from patrol officer to deputy inspector covers the administrations of former New York City mayors Rudy Giulliani and Michael Bloomberg, and coincides with the early tenures of famed police commissioners Ray Kelly and William “Bill” Bratton. Corey grants readers full access to the manner in which some of the NYPD’s most controversial policies like Broken Windows and Stop, Question and Frisk were implemented; and an insider’s take on the shootings of Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, the assault on Abner Louima and other tragedies that stained the department.
As tensions continue to mount between police and communities of color, Corey tears down the blue wall to discuss the discriminatory practices he faced within the NYPD and talks candidly about the distrust that exists between law enforcement and the citizens they are sworn to protect. What is daily life truly like for urban youth in America? What is the one problem endemic in law enforcement that’s even more dangerous than rampant racism? Corey contends that his life on the streets informed his approach to police work, and shows how it made him a more conscientious and compassionate officer. There aren’t many people who understand both sides of the story the way he does.
Corey doesn’t hate the police. He loves the badge. And he believes it’s his duty to challenge the culture of racism, silence, and arrogance in the NYPD and police departments across the country.