GOOD BLUE: Kelvin Cowans takes readers inside the lives of Memphis and Shelby County Law Enforcement officers. Just as a neighborhood should not be judged by the actions of a few bad apples, neither should Law Enforcement agencies. In partnership with the new Community Police Relations Project, the New Tri-State Defender and its "Good Blue" column are here to share in-depth and inspiring commentary on a weekly basis with the community. Our goal is for the community to see that the only difference between them and good police officers is the Law. This week's focus is on Deputy Directory Anthony Berryhill.
Memphis Police Department Deputy Director Anthony Berryhill has 29 years of experience as a police officer. A graduate of Carver High School Class of 1977, this former three sport athlete had a future of college sports on his radar. Yes, long before he thought anything about someone breaking a speed limit, he was traveling at a pretty fast pace himself. "Basketball, football and track," he proudly said while raring back in his chair and piercing his eye's across the City of Memphis skyline. From that point on I forgot that I was in his 12th floor office because his conversation, equivalent to a glass of water, made me feel like we were on a park bench down in Handy Park on Beale Street.
Kelvin Cowans: Do you have any opinions about the ownership group of the Memphis Grizzlies not resigning Lionel Hollins?
Anthony Berryhill: Oh yeah, we all have an opinion on that one. I wouldn't have fired him, but again, I don't truly understand the workings behind the scene. But from what we all can see, with every year under his leadership, we continued to get better and better. Still, we all will continue to support them because this our city and this is our team. Being a former athlete, I'm just offering my opinion. I played sports back when I was in high school, and I was pretty good. But right around my junior year, I began to get the big head and left it alone altogether. In fact, I started working and making good money for my age. I began looking at what other options I had as well, and it wasn't long after I graduated that I told my mom that I was joining the army. So one thing lead to another. Everyone has their own lives to live and different perspectives.
KC: Were you born and raised in Memphis?
AB: Yes I was. I was raised in South Memphis. I was one of eight children. We were poor but thanks to good parents, we didn't know it. I'm very thankful for that. My mom was a great mother, and my father worked three jobs sometimes so that we wouldn't go on public assistance.
KC: You mentioned that you joined the Army. What brought you back to Memphis? Usually when people join the armed forces, by the time they settle down, they're up in age and somewhere near a beach.
AB: You're close. I spent 7 years in the military after taking a Military Police position in Miami, Florida . I worked that job for a while, but I didn't want to re-enlist for 20 years. So I ended up coming back home to Memphis and joining the MPD here. That's how that translated. I've been doing it now for 29 years, and here I am. A few more years and I will be headed out to pasture — literally! As you can see I have horses all around my office walls. I love to ride horses, and I'm going out to pasture with them. Myself and other officers from different states, we head out and enjoy the trails at least three or four times a year. It's very relaxing.
KC: Tell me something that alot of people don't know about you?
AB: Hmmmm, I was once an actor.
KC: Get out of here. TV? For real?
AB: Yeah, I was an actor for this company called Beale Street Repertory for Black Performing Arts. We did plays and things like that. Me and my wife Toni — but this was before she became my wife, her name was Toni Williams back then. I even won this contest one time and got paid cash and a spot on a commercial for you guys company, The Tri-State Defender. It was a part for a young kid mail carrier, and I won it and did the commercial. I was on a bike in the commercial, and I rolled into the scene and was telling people about how I was making money to deliver The Tri-State Defender Newspaper. It was cool.
KC: You know I'm going to check right?
AB: Gone check it. I'm telling you now.
KC: What's going to be your legacy in the community?
AB: I would hope that they would talk about me in two capacities — that I knew my job and that I was fair, that I inspired people to be better, and that I trained them properly for what they were doing and where they were headed. I also hope that the people in the community will share that I always remembered where I came from — that I always took time to talk to whoever wanted to talk to me or explain something to me. For example, the other day there was a young lady who was definitely homeless, whom I could tell was mentally challenged. She was standing out on a corner. It was hot, and she was upset about something. I took the time to get out of my car and just talk with her. She soon calmed down, and it wasn't because of what I said. It was because I listened. I let her talk. After about ten minutes she felt better because she simply wanted someone to listen to what she had to say and how she felt about a situation. This is how I have always tried to be. I see other officers doing the same type of things, and the public should know these stories, many stories. One of my favorites was when some officers got together to give away turkeys during Thanksgiving, and one lady in the crowd said that she couldn't receive a turkey because she didn't have a refrigerator. So those officers put together money out of their own pockets and bought her a refrigerator and gave her a turkey too. So I'm just saying [that] we do a lot of good out there and I'm glad that someone is now going to report it. We are just like you guys. We laugh, we cry, and we have good and bad days, just like you.
The very first Community Police Relations Forum is Saturday June 22, 2013.
Sign In: 11:30am - Event: 12-2pm
Inside Union Grove Church at 2285 Frayser Blvd.