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SMC Luncheon Speaker: Ike McKinnon, Ph.D., former Detroit Chief of Police and University professor

Ike McKinnon nd Ken Mokray

Our luncheon speaker on November 12th was Isaiah “Ike” McKinnon, the former Detroit Chief of Police, Deputy Mayor, and Associate Professor of Education at University of Detroit Mercy. Ike earned his B.A. from Mercy College, his M.A. from the University of Detroit Mercy and his doctorate from Michigan State University. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the United States Secret Service School. McKinnon joined Detroit Mercy in 1998.

McKinnon has authored three books and co-authored two others, in addition to numerous articles on crime victims. He won an Emmy as the NBC News/Safety Consultant. He has met six U.S. Presidents and Nelson Mandela, and has appeared on the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “Oprah,” and “The History Channel.”

Ike began his talk by telling us how he has a wonderful life, even though he was shot at eight times and stabbed twice. The first time he was stabbed, the knife hit his belt buckle and broke. Ike grew up in Detroit, enlisted in the Air Force, came back and joined the Detroit Police Department, rising through the ranks to become Chief. He credits his father for the success he has had. His father had a third-grade education and was a sharecropper in Alabama before moving to Detroit. Ike remembers his father asking him to read the Bible to him, saying that was not a good enough reader to read it himself. Ike later realized that it was a way for his father to teach him how to read and spend time with him. His father used to tell him that he played professional baseball in the Negro league and played with Satchell Paige. Ike said, “Sure you did” not believing his father. But years later Ike was on duty at the Olympia Stadium when the Harlem Globetrotters were playing. Their guest was Satchel Paige, and Ike, wearing his police uniform, walked up to him and asked him whether he ever played ball with a McKinnon. Paige said, “I don’t think so.” But as Ike walked away, Paige turned around and said, “Wait, did you mean Cody McKinnon?” He went on to say what a great player Cody had been and how he would have played in the Major Leagues had the color barrier been broken. When he went home, his father then told him that he didn’t play more because his team went on barnstorming tours and he wanted to stay home and work and take care of his family. He told Ike that he would never lie to him.

Years later, Ike told the story to his sons, and of course they didn’t believe him. They asked Ike what he did and he told them that he almost made the 1964 US Olympic team after winning the Military Olympics as a sprinter. He couldn’t go to the Olympics because he was serving in Vietnam. One of Ike’s sons is now trying to convince his 11-year old daughter that he almost made the Michigan men’s basketball team. Ike thinks it is important to learn to listen to older people. When Ike was serving in Vietnam, he was surprised when his chaplain asked Ike to accompany him to the Danang orphanage. There they held and fed orphan babies that were getting very little attention. They started doing this every weekend, seeing how the infants responded. Recently Ike saw a story on a Sunday morning news program that showed the same orphanage, still in operation.

Ike also talked about how dangerous it was serving as a patrolman during the 1967 Detroit riots. Bullets flew around him, and he was sure he was going to die. As the riot ended, they were driving down Buchanan Street and saw a house on fire. He was told that there were children in the house, so he went into the fire, crawling on the floor in the dark until he reached a body. He pulled a little girl out, but she was not responsive. He administered mouth-to-mouth necessitation until she finally started breathing. Two of her siblings did not survive. Ten years later he got a call at the station from a woman saying she was sure he wouldn’t remember, but years ago he had saved her from a fire on Buchanan Street. He remembered her complete name, because the event had made such an impression on him. She said she was calling because she was getting married next week and she wanted him to walk her down the aisle. He agreed, and he took a girl on their second date to the wedding. She saw him as a hero, and they are still married 45 years later.

Another time they were patrolling in the Tenth Precinct and they stopped a stolen car. One of the passengers took off and Ike pursued him on foot, chasing him into a building. The car thief ran into an apartment and slammed the door. Ike kicked it in, grabbed the guy, and was confronted by three men with AK-47’s. Ike pulled his 38 caliber revolver out and squeaked, “You’re under arrest!” The lead bad guy said, “Let him go.” Ike responded, “No, he’s coming with me.” As he backed out the hall, his arm around the neck of the perp, he was sure he was going to die. He had a vision of his mother looking at his body in a casket. The shooters followed him out to the street, guns raised, where a crowd had gathered. The crowd started chanting, “Let him go!” but as the AK-47’s moved in, it became “Let Ike go.” People shouted that Officer Ike is a great guy that helps us and the kids. The bad guys took off and Ike survived again.

Ike took questions on several subjects, including what a good job is being done by Mayor Duggan. He thinks the Detroit Police Department is gaining ground, but when Ike was Chief he had 4400 officers. Chief Craig has 1800, so it is a challenge.

We thank Ike McKinnon for taking the time to visit the Men’s Club.

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