Ike McKinnon's promise - 10 years before the riots

Former Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon was a new Detroit Police officer at the time of the Detroit riots - just two years on the force - he said that while it came to a head in '67, the rebellion had been building for years.

"There's no question it was a rebellion. The fact is a rebellion is an action against things that which have been repressed, suppressed against for years and years. This started long before 1967."

McKinnon should know. He experienced injustice of his own at the age of 14 and made himself a promise.

"I saw police officers - it was a normal thing for them to stop young, black men, to throw them up against a building or a car, and beat them up. And it just so happens in 1957, my first year of high schoo, I became a victim. And in fact it was my first year at Cass Tech," he said. "This car, called the big four, with four very large white officers, grabbed me, through me up against the car, and proceeded to beat me, curse me, racial epithets, I mean.. it was just beyond one's imagination. The officers told me to get my black ass out of there. I ran home."

Ten years before the 12th Street Riots, he had already decided what he would do with his life.
"I made myself a promise that evening that I was going to become a police officer."

He joined the force in 1965 but it didn't stop racism directed his way. He was shot at and threatened, all because of the color of his skin.

"I was shot at by the police... my fellow officers. And the reason being - I was a black person. I was on the police department. Just short of one month. And I was stopped over on Chicago by the freeway. And these officers got out of their car. I was in uniform. And they got out of their car and the name calling, and told me I was going to die that night. And shot at me. The good thing about that time is I was young and agile and I dove into my car - it was a 65 mustang - and sped off with my hand on the accelerator and my other hand on the steering wheel as I sped off. But they were shooting at me. I was shocked, but you say to yourself if they're doing this to me - a fellow officer - what are they going to do to other people in this city? And the proof is in the pudding in that there were 43 people killed during the 1967 rebellion."

For the next 48 years, Ike McKinnon worked his was up in the Detroit Police Department and was eventually named Chief of Detroit police in 1994. After 4 years as chief, he retired and went into teaching and consulting. In 2013, the Detroit native was appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan to be Deputy Mayor. He held that position until July 1, 2016, when he retired and returned to teaching at Detroit Mercy.

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