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by Michael Berish
The Naked City
"Character is who you are in the dark when
nobody is watching."
In 1948, a movie entitled The Naked
City—starring Barry Fitzgerald—was
released.  In the late Fifties, it was made
into a TV series starring James
Franciscus; both were filmed, on location,
in New York City.

The series consisted of sociological
character studies that were explored
within a setting of urban pathos—the
process of life moving ever onward,
resolving nothing.  An everyday story line
would burst forth each week from the TV
screen and be layered with insupposable
events, and just when you thought it
was all over and nothing else could
possibly happen—Bang!—up popped
another twist in the plot that confounded
your imagination.  At the conclusion of
each show, the narrator (in a voice-over)
would intone: “There are eight million
stories in the Naked City; this has been
one of them.”

In the Seventies, I was a City of Miami
police officer riding in the Pit, the Black
ghetto in downtown Miami , and
whenever one of those cycle of events—
that staggers you back onto your heels—
would happen,
I’d turn to my partner and say: “There
are eight million stories in the Naked City
; this has been one of them.”  Later in
my career, I revised that adage to:
“There are eight million stories in the Pit;
this has been one of them.”  I’m not sure
if any of my partners knew exactly what I
was referring to (reference the movie or
TV series), but they sure knew what I
meant.  What follows is a peek into that
human swamp, into one of those eight
million stories.

It was a hot summer night, nearly eleven
o’clock .  I was riding “C” shift (the 9:00
p.m. to 7:00 a.m. tour of duty) in 40
Sector (the Pit) with a cop named Matt
Miller when the dispatcher came on the
air.

“Three, Forty-Three.  Take a 13
(information call) reference: Check on the
welfare of a woman in the alley of an
apartment complex on the corner of
Northwest Seventh Avenue and Twelve
Street .  Phoned in by an anonymous
caller.  No further information.”

The QTH (location) was on the fringe of
the Pit, a mixed Black and White
neighborhood.  We were right around the
corner and arrived within the minute.  
Pulling up in front of the alley, my partner
rolled down his window, listened for no
more than two to three seconds, then
said: “I don’t hear anything, let’s go.”

“Wait a minute; wait a minute!” I replied.  
“Let’s check it out.”  I was young and
eager.  Actually, he was too; we’d both
graduated from the same academy class,
the year before.  As I climbed out of the
patrol car, Matt said:
“I’ll wait here for you,” as he drank his
coffee.  It was later I discovered why he
never went down that passageway with
me: He was a coward.

The high-rise complex was configured
with four apartment buildings situated in
a square, which enclosed an inner
courtyard that was a parking lot for the
tenants; the walkway I now stood in lead
into this courtyard.  I turned off my radio
(so as not to transmit my position), put
my back to the wall (no sense letting
anyone creep up behind you), and
headed down the alleyway.  I slowly
inched along the brick wall, letting my
eyes adjust to the blackness.  As I came
upon the darkened parking lot, I stood
motionless and held my breath—a trick I
learned from my first partner, Officer
Stan “Spooky” O’Kofski.  In the stillness
of the moment, you can hear that other
person breathing, the one you were just
chasing into the night, a twinkling ago,
and who is now—hiding.  I scanned the
long rows of automobiles.  My mind
began to work overtime: What was that?!

Sometimes your subconscious sees
danger before you’re even aware of it; it’
s a sixth sense and most cops have it.  
My eyes went back and forth over the
last column of autos.
There, in that string of cars…over there!  
Wait a minute…it’s gone.

Was it just my eyes playing tricks on
me?  Your mind goes weird on you
sometimes when you’re alone in the
darkness, down some backstreet lane.

There!  There it is again; it just popped-
up in that sedan.  That same string of
cars: the third one from the left.  It’s a
head.  It’s gone…Now, it’s back…It’s a
head, going up and down.

I drew my revolver and moved stealthily
towards the vehicle.  I closed at a forty-
five degree angle to the pillar (metal post
that runs from the roof to the trunk) on
the vehicle; this would keep me in the
blind spot of the sedan and
undetectable…hopefully.

When I reached the hardtop, I jerked
open the driver’s side door.  There on
the blood-splattered front seat lay an
Anglo woman—Dorothy Wright—a widow
of about sixty years of age; her
underwear and panty hose were torn off,
her dress hiked-up around her waist.  At
first, I thought the perpetrator had taken
a knife to his victim; the front bench seat
looked as if he’d slaughtered a calf in
there.  Later, I found the Coca-Cola
bottle he’d used to subdue Mrs. Wright
by knocking out her front teeth; she
looked as if she’d just gone fifteen
rounds with Muhammad Ali at Madison
Square Garden.  I saw the look of horror
on her face, the tears streaming down,
her body convulsing in shock; but when
she saw my uniform, her face changed in
an instant.  She looked out from a tiny
opening in the one remaining split and
bloodied eye (the other was black and
blue, and totally shut), then smiled
through the remaining, broken-off stubs
that once were teeth as if she’d just seen
the beatific vision of Christ himself come
to her rescue.

In the next millisecond, a Black teenager
exploded up and out of the automobile.  
I use that word, teenager, loosely.  He
was bigger than me, much bigger than
me: At six-foot, one hundred-ninety
pounds, here stood Jesse James
Jackson, the teenager.  I jammed my Colt
up and under his chin, where the jaw line
met his Adam’s apple.  He rose up on his
toes and begged: “Please don’t kill me!”
as he furiously fumbled with his pants.  I
thought he was going for the same frog
sticker he’d used on the widow.  In the
dead silence, you could hear the click of
my revolver as I pulled the hammer back
and pushed the handgun into his neck,
raising him up further on the balls of his
feet.  “Just give me an excuse to kill
you,” I said.  I looked down for his
carving knife; he was just putting his
turgid penis back in his pants.  I nodded
towards the alleyway.  “Run,” I told him.

“What are you, crazy?” he replied.  “I
know better; I’d never run.  I’m a
juvenile.  The judge ain’t gonna do nutin’
to me compared to what you’d guys’ll do
iffin I ran.”

From the other end of the parking lot
came Unit Three, Forty-One—Officer Stan
“Spooky” O’Kofski—the veteran partner I
rode with while on probation.  He spotted
me between the parked vehicles, sped
over, jumped from his gumball machine
and cuffed my prisoner—faster than a
whore highballing it past a church; that
was “Spooky” for you; he was good.

“Nice collar,” said The Spook as he
attempted to hammer my “alleged
suspect” in his left testicle with a Kel-Lite
(big, heavy-duty, metal flashlight that
takes four D batteries)

I grabbed his arm and stopped him.  
“Easy Spook.”
“Always the soft one.  You’ll learn some
day.”

“It’s not that; it’s just that I’ll have to do
the Use of Force Report when I end up
schleppin’ him over to Ward D (where
injured prisoners are taken at Jackson
Memorial Hospital ) with only one nut.  
Then, what am I gonna say?  That old
standard: He fell down?  No thanks.
“He’s my prisoner.  I’m responsible for
him; that’s what ya taught me, wasn’t
it?  Don’t let any cops mess with your
prisoner.  If it’s all the same to you, I’d
prefer to take him downtown in one
piece.”

The Spook smiled; a smile that twinkled
and he had a glint in his eye to go along
with it.  “Ya did learn sumthin’ ridin’ with
me, after all.”  He backed off.

Now it was the perp’s turn to smile as we
led him out to the sidewalk.  Matt was
still in the cruiser, he hadn’t moved; in
fact, when I put my prisoner in the back
seat, he never even got out to help; he
just said: “We get a collar?”

Whenever a unit busted a murdered, or
an armed robber, or a rapist, the entire
sector would cruise by to eyeball the
suspect for future reference.  That
evening as we sat in the gumball (I had
to do all the paperwork since Miller hadn’t
witnessed anything, obviously), the rest
of the sector took a mental note of the
accused.

Jesse was a minor, but the Assistant
State Attorney (A. S. A.; a better title
would be: Resident Flunky in Training)—
Jerome Baylis—decided to try him as an
adult.  Even though he was only sixteen-
years old, he had twenty-one prior
arrests from petit bicycle theft to B & E
(Breaking and Entering) of a Dwelling.

We went in front of a diminutive, Italian,
Circuit Court Judge—who dyed his hair
the color of coal oil, considered himself
catnip to the ladies despite his already
being married, and went by the name of
Vincenzo Scarfanelli—to decide if Jackson
should be bound over for trial as an
adult.  Technically, the crime Jesse was
accused of was “sexual battery,”
according to the legislature.  In today’s
culturally and politically correct world, it
sounds so much better to be accused of
“sexual battery” rather that RAPE!  It
sounds like you have a slight hormonal
disorder of the thyroid gland rather than
what you actually are: a degenerate who’
d smash out the front teeth of a sixty-
year-old woman with a Coke bottle and
then forcibly penetrated her against her
will!

Since the defendant had been
incarcerated for the past two weeks in
lock-up at Youth Hall, the question of bail
was also to be determined at this
hearing.  Mrs. Ruby Jackson, his mother,
was there.  There was no Mr. Jackson;
the rapist’s father could have been one
of any number of men that Ruby was
having carnal knowledge with at the time
of her pregnancy.

The mother was—of course—tearful and
went on, and on, about how her son was
“so wonderful, so devoted.”  It was a
little like listening to the progenitor of
Jack the Ripper catalog his virtues in a
court of law.  Her past for drug abuse
and prostitution were never brought up;
they were “irrelevant” said the Assistant
State Attorney.  I asked him: “Whose
side are you on?”  To which he replied:
“No one’s side.  I’m for the rights of the
people.  I’m here to see that justice for
all is done.”  Those are such nice, self-
righteous words: “rights of the
people…justice for all.”

“Just a little misunderstood, at times,” is
how Mrs. Jackson explained this latest
“mishap,” as she called it.  If the “kind
judge” would only release her son into
her custody, she—as a “good mother”—
just “knew” she could “straighten” him
out.  She was the “good mother” of
seven children; all on welfare; all—once
they got past the age of reason—had
criminal records.  She was raising a brood
of gangsters.

I was called to testify and told Judge
Vinnie: “The time for straightening him
out was long past.”  I was counseled
here for expressing my opinion.  “You
should stick to the facts,” said the
judge.  I felt like saying: I should stick to
the facts while this overindulgent mother
is allowed to blabber all over the place
about whatever pops into her shameless,
drug-ridden mind.  I gripped my tongue
between my teeth and never expressed
my true opinion.

“Should bail be granted or not, Officer?”
asked the prosecutor.
“No, sir,” I replied.
“Why not, Officer?”

“If he’s allowed free on bond, with his
track record, this would only happen
again.”  But, what did I know?  That was
“just another opinion” of mine, according
to the judge.  Judge Scarfanelli released
him to his
mother’s custody.  My “opinion” (another
one I never got to express) was: If she
was such a “good mother,” where was
she when her son committed his prior
twenty-one, now twenty-two, offenses?

Ordinarily, here is where a story like this
would end…ordinarily.  However, in this
story, there are several postscripts.

Three weeks later, another “C” shift unit
caught Jesse James Jackson RAPING a
sixty–three-year-old Black/female, Mrs.
Ethel Cumbie, two blocks away from his
first sexual battery.  Again, he beat his
victim, unmercifully.  Unfortunately, for
Jesse, the units in 40 Sector remembered
him from the night they all tooled-by and
eyeballed him.  According to the A-Form
(arrest form) that was submitted to
Ward D, the juvenile—who knew better
and would never run—tried to…escape.  
He was treated for a broken leg, a
fractured wrist, three cracked ribs, a
collapsed lung, and numerous contusions
and abrasions to his face.  (Face was
crossed-out on the A-Form and replaced
by: entire body.)  According to most of
the officers on the scene, he “got the
thumpin’ he deserved.”  Thank God,
another judge handled that bond
hearing; the two-time rapist was denied
bail.

The Assistant State Attorney was afraid
we didn’t have enough evidence to
convict.  
“My God!  Not enough evidence?!” I
asked, incredulously.  “You’ve got the
victim’s testimony, her clothing, photos
of her disfigurement, toxicology reports,
and testimony from the arresting officer
who caught “the accused” with his
Johnson in hand.  My God, man!, what
does it take for you?  A signed
confession in blood?!”

“Technically,” he said, “you got there too
quick.  On that first sexual battery, it’s
not really a sexual battery; it’s a sexual
assault.  You opened that door before he
actually penetrated Mrs. Wright.”

“Shame on me!” I said.  “Next time, I’ll
slow it down a tad.  Really get the goods
on the defendant.  Next time, I’ll sit out
in the squad car with Officer Miller for a
while; take a coffee break, maybe.  Give
the victim more scream time.  Maybe if I
dawdle long enough, I’ll catch a murder
case instead of a little old measly ‘sexual
assault.’”

Not with standing my protest, the A. S.
A. offered Jesse’s public defender two
years for BOTH rapes, which he scarfed-
up in a second.  Jackson plead in to the
sexual assault and sexual battery, served
half his time, and was back out on the
streets before you could say: “rights of
the people,” or “justice for all.”

I received a commendation for the arrest,
so did Matt since we were partners.  
About a week later, we were chasing a
suspect on foot up Northwest First
Avenue for possession of narcotics.  The
offender turned down a dirt path
between some row houses off Sixteenth
Street .  I looked back for Matt and saw
him standing in the middle of the street,
watching me.  I chased the perpetrator
behind some buildings where he jumped
me from a back porch.  We struggled
over my gun, and he nearly shot me in
the head (with my own gun!).  I finally
wrestled it away just as a plainclothes
detective named Bobby Gannon, having
heard me advise of my last position over
the radio, turned the corner and assisted
me in handcuffing the suspect.

Matt was waiting in the cruiser when I
emerged from behind the houses.  I
knew he saw me go down that
passageway, and I knew he knew I was in
a fight.  He never came to my assistance,
nor did he even advise of my position.  
After we booked the defendant (for which
we BOTH got commendations again;
Gannon did not), I told him that I was
requesting a new partner next month;
and for the remainder of the month, I’d
do all the driving and write-up all the
reports (Usually, one officer drives while
the other writes reports, then they
switch the next night).

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m a one-man
unit for the rest of the month,” I said, as
I looked him in the eye.  He knew I
KNEW: This job wasn’t for him; he didn’t
have the guts for it.

Bobby Gannon was a big–time gambler.  
He worked in the Robbery Unit and was
caught (several times) placing bets over
his phone with a bookie; he was
completely addicted; it cost him his job.  
He was a stand-up guy; I’ll always
remember him for showing up when he
did.  Bobby had a sixth sense for
danger; he had this unique ability to
always be in the right spot at the right
time though how he got there no one
knew, least of all Bobby.  He died several
years later at the age of thirty-one from
a massive heart attack while waiting in
line at the movies.

The prosecutor, Jerome Baylis, completed
his basic training with the State Attorney’
s Office, went into private practice, and
ended-up defending people like Jesse
James Jackson— only a whole lot richer—
and made a very lucrative living at it.  He
bought a home in Coral Gables (an
affluent suburb of Greater Miami), hung
around in much better circles, and joined
the country club set.  He still didn’t have
any idea what he was doing in court, only
now he could charge a whole lot more for
not knowing what he was doing.

Spooky O’Kofski retired after thirty years
of service.  He loved the sea and went
into a boat-repair business in Ft.
Lauderdale .  He lasted a year; not that
the business went bust, Spooky went
bust.  He got cancer of everything; it
went through all of his body organs and
he died within a month of its discovery.

Judge Vinnie was recalled off the bench in
disgrace.  It seems the little sex-fiend
had a defendant come in front of him on
robbery charges and suggested to the
perpetrator’s wife—in chambers—that if
she did the dirty deed with him, he would
acquit her husband.  She went to the
prosecutor and the newspapers; the
charges against her husband were
dismissed; she didn’t have to do the
nasty with Judge Vinnie, and he was
stripped of his judgeship.  There is an old
saying: You can be sure that whatever
hits the fan will not be evenly
distributed.  His secretary came forward
and complained of sexual harassment; he’
d been chasing her around his desk for
years, but she was afraid—until now—to
come forward.

Several years later, I saw Judge Vinnie on
the TV show: 60 Minutes.  He was in
private practice defending a client in West
Palm Beach and decided not to introduce
evidence that might have established his
client’s innocence; instead, trusting that
his flowery oratory during summation to
the jury, and his charismatic personality,
would ultimately win the day.  This
incompetent legal defense got his client
the death penalty, something he might
never have gotten if the Judge had used
basic legal arguments that every first-
year law clerk is schooled in.

The following month, Miller was partnered
with Officer Raul Rojas.  One night, Rojas
went to make a disorderly conduct arrest
and ended up wrestling some wild drunk
to the ground; the suspect was
transported to Ward D, and Officer Rojas
spent the rest of the evening at J.M.H.
being treated for bite wounds.

The sector sergeant arrived after the
fracas, just as Matt was stepping out of
a doughnut shop with some milk in one
hand and crème tarts in the other.  The
sergeant couldn’t help but wonder: Why
Raul—whose uniform was in tatters—was
going to the hospital, and Matt looked as
if he’d just stepped out of the pages of
G.Q.?  Officer Miller was accused of
cowardice, an administrative matter
seeking termination and not lightly
brought.  (This was the first and only
time in my career I ever witnessed this
particular charge ever being filed against
an officer.)  He was summoned before
the Civil Service, retained an attorney,
and beat the charges; however, he quit
within the year as word got around.  He
was stigmatized with the Mark of Cain:
no one would ride with him, nor back him
up which can get extremely squirrelly, not
to mention life threatening—the Blue
Code at work.

Jesse?  He had a very long, fruitful, and
financially rewarding criminal career with
only some negligible downtime for side
trips to prison, never amounting to more
than six months to a year at a time; and
yes, he was busted again for rape.

And me?  Statistically, only five to ten
percent of every academy class makes it
to their pension.  Most are lost to
permanent disabling injuries, quit, are
fired, or become fatalities.  I was one of
the lucky ones; I made it another twenty-
one years to retirement.

Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Cumbie never fully
recovered from their nights of tragedy.  
The widow Wright expired in one of
those nursing homes for indigent people
and Mrs. Cumbie died within the year, run
over by a D. U. I. (who was never
apprehended ) one evening on her way
home from services at the Baptist church.

“There are eight million stories in the Pit;
this has been one of them.”
-
Police Author
Michael Berish
The
Real
Miami
Vice
Michael Berish worked as a patrolman,
detective, and supervisor with the City of
Miami Police Department for twenty-two
years.  For thirteen of those years, Michael
was a detective in the REAL Miami Vice.
Michael worked everything from Narcotics
& Vice, Prostitution, Gambling and
Pornography, to Dignitary Protection of
President Jose Napoleon Duarte (of El
Salvador) and Pope John Paul II.
Copyright © 2017  Barry M. Baker  
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