Police Officer Offered Special Help To Street Hustler

Many people are lost and hurting and in need of life-saving intervention. Some see their need and get helped. Others refuse the help and get hurt.
by Robert Searle

Robert Searle, retired Oakland, CA police officer

The faces peering up at me when I opened the lid to my green metal Army ammo box took me by surprise. Faces from the past covered the ammunition I had expected to see. Faces that reminded me of city police life a decade ago. Faces I had pushed to the rear of my memory.

"What is that, Dad?" my 7-year-old sons asked. As I thumbed through the mug shots placed there years before, a mirage of memories flooded my mind. "They're just photos of people I arrested in Oakland," I casually replied, hoping his questions would not probe deeper. "Looks like all the ammo is here," I said quickly while shutting the lid. "Let's put it in the car." We were going to the shooting range together.

"Man, that's a lot of photos, Dad," my son replied, attempting to deepen the inquiry. "You made a lot of arrests."

"That's just a few, Son. Can't even remember why I kept them, except to pray for them," was my final response. He accepted that and his interest turned toward the prospect of a fun-filled day at the shooting range.

Later, as I pondered the mug shots, I remembered acquiring a mug shot of a 261PC suspect in Oakland, Calif., after a police line-up briefing on the suspect's involvement in numerous 261s (rapes, as described in the California Penal Code, Section 261). There was a warrant for his arrest. His fingerprints had been lifted from a rape crime scene. He was thus identified as a suspect in one of many similar crimes that occurred in the Oakland hills.

Out on the street I started showing the mug shot to my informants. An informant known as "The Funk," a young black man who dressed in a long blond wig and rode a bicycle around town as his mode of transportation, was shown the mug shot. He immediately recognized the man in the photos as a friend he smoked dope with occasionally. His information led me to the arrest of that notorious mass rapist.

Many have asked why a "street hustler" like The Funk would help a cop. I had met The Funk while working in the Patrol Division in the Oakland Police Department as a beat cop. He was only 11 years old when one night he needed my help. I received a radio dispatch to respond to a 415PC, a disturbing the peace family fight call.

When I arrived at the west-end ghetto projects and entered the apartment where I had been dispatched, I saw a large man standing over a young boy. The man was kicking the lad, later to be identified as The Funk. I immediately grabbed the man, The Funk's dad, and pulled him off. "I'm only trying to protect myself from my son," he said. "Glad you're here, Officer." To my surprise, he walked over and sat on a sofa.

The Funk quickly got up and grabbed an object from the top of the TV and started toward his dad. "He's crazy!" his dad yelled. "You take care of him," I immediately wrestled The Funk to the floor and held him there while trying to calm him down.

As I pleaded with him to calm down, his dad quietly walked over. Before I was aware, he kicked his son in the head. Blood started running out of The Funk's ears as he cried out in pain. Angered by the fact that the dad kicked his helpless son in the head while I was holding him down, I immediately let go of The Funk and attempted to take the father into custody.

The fight was on. At one point I pushed him completely through a large living room window then ran outside and handcuffed him. After sending the dad to jail in the paddy wagon and The Funk to the hospital in an ambulance, I followed up with a visit to where The Funk was being treated.

Days led to months and months to years of a friendship between The Funk, a street hustler, and me, a beat cop. Being a Christian, I often shared with him my faith in Jesus Christ. He seemed to understand my faith but always had an excuse not to accept Christ as his personal Savior.

One Saturday, between calls for service from the police radio, I again shared the love of Jesus Christ with The Funk. This time he made a crucial mistake. "Officer Searle," he said flippantly, "if you pick me up for church, I'll go with you."

I knew he probably didn't mean it, but early Sunday morning I drove to the west-end projects with my wife in the car and parked in front of his apartment. I knocked and pounded on The Funk's door. No one answered. Dejected, I turned and started toward my car. "Officer Searle, I didn't think you would really come!" I looked up and saw The Funk hanging out the second floor window in his bedclothes and curlers in his hair. He continued to yell, "But since you're here, I'll go." Minutes later he ran down to our car. I introduced him to my wife and we drove to church.

At church he sat glued to every word the pastor had to say. My wife and I prayed the entire service for The Funk's soul. God is faithful. When the invitation to accept Christ as personal Savior was made, The Funk was the first to run forward.

The growth that followed was glorious. The Funk was always eager to discuss his new faith. I attempted to get The Funk out of the city, where he had spend most of his life fighting and hustling, and relocate him to a Christian home in Grass Valley, Calif. The arrangements were made, but when the day came for him to leave he refused to go. Stating that the city was all he ever knew, he feared he wouldn't feel at home without "asphalt" around.

The Funk continued living in Oakland and sharing his new faith. Sadly, a few months later he was found murdered in the trunk of an abandoned car. The Funk was 19 years old when he died, but I knew that his new home in heaven was much better than his previous home in Oakland. In fact, his heavenly home was far better than the temporary home I had tried to set up for him in Grass Valley.

Yes, the photos in the old ammo box did bring back faces from the past, but I know that the memory of The Funk as a friend and Christian brother will last for eternity.

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