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In Conversation With Frederick Douglass Reynolds, Author of Black White And Gray All Over
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal, QC
Monday, May 2, 2022

 
Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Frederick Douglass Reynolds, author of BlackWhite And Gray All Over.

Frederick is a retiredBlack LA County Sheriff's homicide sergeant. He was born in RockyMount, Virginia, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan where he became apetty criminal and was involved in gangs.

Frederick worked in theCompton, California police force from 1985 until 2000 and thentransferred to the sheriff’s department where he worked anadditional seventeen years, retiring in 2017 with over seventy-fivecommendations.

Norm: Good dayFrederick and thank you for taking part in our interview.


Frederick: Hello,Norm.  Its my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

What do you consider tobe your greatest success (or successes) in your career as a policeofficer?

Frederick: Gettingfreeway memorial monuments for Officers Kevin Burrell and JamesMacDonald, who were murdered in the line of duty in 1993, and forOfficer Dess K. Phipps, who was killed in the 1960s during a trafficaccident.

I drafted the resolutionsfor the memorials, drove to the capital, and presented it to theHouse assembly for approval. I then gave the keynote speech at thememorial dedication. Nothing that I did as a police officer, nomatter who I arrested, no matter who I saved, nothing was greaterthan that.

Norm: How many times inyour life have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?

Frederick: I haveexperienced rejection more times than I can count, and in everyaspect of my life, both personally and professionally. I havebeen turned down for promotion, fired from jobs, demoted in rank inthe military, turned down for dances at parties, and dumped bygirlfriends.

But I handled everythingin the same way. I used each rejection as fuel for the fire that hasburned in my stomach for as long as I can remember. They shaped me tobe the man that I am today, despite the multiple failures that I haveexperienced. But does not each failure we experience make eachsubsequent success that much sweeter?    

Norm: What was one ofyour greatest failures as a police officer, and what did you learnfrom it?

Frederick: Notbeing there when my colleagues were murdered. I was the seniorofficer on the shift that night. For years after, I shouldered theresponsibility of their deaths. I engaged in many drunken,meaningless sexual encounters, and was morally void. I eventuallylearned that running from emotional trauma will never cure it. It hasto met head-on and conquered. I finally came to realize that nothingI could have did that night would have changed the outcome. Ourdestinies are set in stone.      

Norm: Do you worryabout the human race?

Frederick: I don’tworry about the human race. Mistakes and reconciliation are in ournature. While I was a cop, some days I would see some of the mosthorrendous things ever, and then two days later see something evenworse.  

But inevitably, I wouldsee some of the most endearing things, some of the most humaneresponses, and things that would make me celebrate the wonders oflife and the human spirit.

For every act of cowardice, I saw an actof heroism; for every act of barbarism, I saw an act of selflessness;for every tragedy, a triumph. The duality of life will always balanceus out, and that will continue until the human race is no longer. Weare a resilient species, and we will survive until we are notsupposed to. But everything eventually ends.    

Norm: Whatdo you think makes a good memoir or biography?

Frederick: Truth. Nomatter how hard it hurts. I have read several memoirs, especiallythose written by former cops, where they literally painted themselvesas superheroes.

I wanted to be as truthful and honest as possible,even at the cost of confronting long dormant issues that I had burieddeep within. I wanted to tell my story as a cop, but more so as aflawed, average man who sometimes did above average things. I wantedmy story to resonate with the everyday person, because that is who Iwas. I just wore a badge.    

Norm: If you were achief of police, how would you handle a situation if one of yoursubordinates were to commit a crime?

Frederick: I wouldhandle it as if anyone else committed a crime. Police officers haveto be a cut above. But there are mitigating circumstances, just asthere are aggravating circumstances in everything.

The reputation andbackground of the officer would certainly be a consideration. What heor she did would be another consideration.

Some crimes are soegregious, that there has to be swift punishment no matter who youare, or no matter what your resume is. There are other far lessegregious crimes where an individual’s track record should beconsidered when meting out punishment.    

Norm: What motivatedyou to write Black White And Gray All Over?

Frederick: Themurders of two of my colleagues in 1993 was certainly one of thebiggest motivators. But while I was working, I just couldn’t findthe time to write a book because of job and family commitments.

Iworked as a homicide investigator for the majority of my career, andobviously, that took up a lot of time and energy.

When I retired, Istarted writing, but I still wasn’t fully committed, as I wastrying to get used to the transition of everyday, normal life.

Mywhole life perspective changed in 2020, though. In addition to thelife-altering, social and culture transition we are going through,which started in earnest that year, I had a heart attack and almostdied. After the surgery, I lay in my bed and realized that the chanceto finish the book has almost been taken away from me.

When Irecovered, I began writing with a sense of urgency that I did nothave before.

Norm: Where did thetitle of the book come from?

Frederick: I chosethis title because my life has always been about straddling that linebetween good andevil, right and wrong, and black and white. I could never quite getto one side, and the other side I definitely didn’t want to get toat all.

So, I stayed in the gray area. And this thought-process werenever truer than when I became a cop.

The law-enforcement professionis riddled with black and white, but I found comfort in the grayarea; the area where I didn’t have to take someone’s freedombecause they were trying to feed their child and got caught stealingfood, the area where I knew that sometimes, doing the wrong thing forthe right reason was the right thing to do. So, I wasn’t a crookwhich would have put me in the black area, and I wasn’t aninflexible, uncompromising foot soldier, which would have put me inthe “white” area.

 That, coupled with the fact thatpolice cars are black and white in California, and the current racialdivide in the country made this quite an appropriate title.

Norm: Whatwas the most difficult part of writing your book and did you learnanything from writing the book? What was it?

Frederick: I cameface-to-face with my own inadequacies and deficiencies.

There were somany scenes that were difficult to write, starting with my father’salcoholism, my upbringing, and the contentious relationship betweenmy parents.

I went down a dark path that involved drugs and jailtime, I was homeless for a time, and was working the night two of myfriends were murdered by a street gang member. I often found myselfcrying as I struggled to put my feelings on paper.    

Norm: What was thetime-line between the time you decided to write your book andpublication? What were the major events along the way?

Frederick: Probablyabout two to three, solid years altogether. I had been writing offand on and keeping notes and jotting down ideas for about 20-25twenty years.

After I retired, I started putting everything in sometype of order. While I was working, something always seemed to get inthe way; a big case, a death in the family, issues with my kids, etc.But after I had a heart attack in 2020, I realized that I could havedied without finishing my book. After that, when I recovered, Istarted in earnest and finished in early 2021. Rewrites and editingtook about six more months.   

Norm: Is there amessage in your book that you want your readers to grasp, and do youbelieve your book is an important one at this time?

Frederick: That copsdon’t live to fight, or to get in shootings, or vehicle and footpursuits. That most of us actually care about the communities we workin. That we are not cold, uncaring monsters just looking for notchesin our gun handles.

That it takes a special breed to potentially laytheir lives down for someone they never even met or probably wouldn’teven like if they knew each other. That every community since thebeginning of time has had its protectors and that will never change,whether those protectors in the future be flesh and blood or metaland fish-eye cameras.

That a just society is reflected in not onlyhow its protectors treat its citizens, but also how its citizenstreat their protectors.

I want us all to continueour quest for unity and equality and freedom for all. Not just whatis written in a yellowing document in the Library of Congress, buttangible freedom, where we all share the belief that if I get a jobor position it is not because I am Black, or female, gay, but becauseI am the right person for the job.

To give someone a job for the samereason you would deny them that same position is not freedom, orequality. It is window-dressing for another form of discrimination.We are all the same. The word love has got to be used more, and therehas got to be some weight behind it. How many times was that wordused by the founding fathers of the United States, even though it isthe single most important thing we as humans have? 

The George Floyd incidenthas divided America tremendously, but even an incident as terrible asthat would not have been such a societal nuclear explosion if therehadn’t been an ongoing death by a thousand cuts for the previous400 years. Because of the topics that I touch on in the book, Ibelieve if one reads it with an unbiased eye and truly try tounderstand the anger and pain felt from both sides, the world mayjust become a better place. Lofty aspirations, huh?

Everyaccomplishment starts with a dream, though. If I had a magic wand, Iwould change the whole world to Mayberry, RFD. Then the job wouldtake care of itself.  

Norm: How were you ableto remember all of the events and names that you recount in yourbook? Did you keep a diary or journal?

Frederick: I wasfortunate enough to work homicide for the majority of my career, so Ialways had access to police reports. I did keep a journal at onepoint, and starting keeping notes on a potential future book manyyears ago.

When I first met my wife almost 30 years ago, I had agreen binder filled with notes. The cover of the binder had a stickeron it that read, “Black, White, and Gray All Over.”

 She asked ifI was writing a book and I sheepishly denied it, because I wasembarrassed. Another way that I was able to remember is by attachingmusic to events. Even now, certain songs prompt me to relive certainevents. But trauma? Memories from traumatic events may as well bevideotapes of your hippocampus.       

Norm: Where can ourreaders find out more about you and Black White And Gray AllOver?

Frederick: Frommy WEBSITE. The book hasalso received a fair amount of critical acclaim, which I foundsurprising considering the overall sentiment toward law enforcementin this country at the current time.

Norm: What is next forFrederick Douglass Reynolds?

Frederick: Enjoyingretirement life and my family, while actively promoting my book. Ihad no idea how expense it was, and just how many unscrupulous peopleand organizations there were seeking to take advantage of those whoare ignorant of the whole self-publishing process. I have also beenapproached to ghost-write a book for a former colleague.

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, if you could require the President of the USA toread one book, what would it be and why?

Frederick: It wouldbe, Black, White, and Gray All Over; a Black Man’s Odysseyin Life and Law Enforcement, because it is a book written by aBlack man who has been on both sides of the law, and who hasexperienced both subtle and overt racism in America. Because thebook seeks to bridge the divide in this country between not onlyBlack and White citizens, but between Law Enforcement and thecommunity as a whole.

When I talked earlier about duality, good andevil are most certainly a part of it and always will be. That beingsaid, there has to be a way to address the evil and to keep the goodamong us safe. Maybe someday in the future, someone much smarter thaneither of us will isolate whatever it is that makes people commitacts of evil, and eradicate it. But until such time, there has to belaw enforcement in place.

Cops have to earn trust inthe community by respecting those in the community.

After all, copsARE the community; they are fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers,aunts and uncles. They are US. And the politicians have to understandthat and support them, and hold them accountable when called forwithout demonizing them.

 I believe that anyone reading this book willcome away with an understanding of the dynamics between the boots onthe ground cops and those he/she strives to protect and serve, nomatter their race, religion, gender, or sexual preference.   

 Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of Black White And Gray All Over   

 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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