GOD AND GUN
(Ebony, September 1983)
Robert Ingram is minister and police chief in
WEEKDAYS, he runs a tight ship as he battles for law and
order on the streets of Opa-locka, Fla., a thumb-nail-sized
town on the outskirts of Miami. Its a nonstop fight.
Hes the police chief.
Sundays, Bible clenched in hand, Dr. Robert Ingram really
shifts into high gear as a licensed minister in the African
Methodist Episcopal church, preaching love, patience and
perseverance in sometimes gentle, sometimes thundering tones.
know that, as I look out over the years, I was not in charge
of my life or where I was going to arrive. I did everything
opposite that would ever see me in the pulpit," admits
the 47-year-old veteran police office, who will be fully
ordained in October. He has a masters degree from
Florida International University and a Ph. D. in applied
behavioral sciences from Union for Experimenting Colleges
and Universities in Cincinnati.
police chief in the pulpit," rumbles the bearish, bearded
lawman, as though the idea has suddenly dawned on him. "How
much stranger could that be?"However strange, most
of the 16,000 people in Opa-locka , a 4.5 square mile town,
are singing his praises and whispering "Amen."Dr.
Ingram, one of Miamis most-honored office, in 1963
became the first Black Miami police officer to be assigned
to an all-White beat, the heart of the citys downtown
business district. In 1969, he was chosen the years
most outstanding officer and was tapped as one of the nations
top police officers by the International Assn. of Chiefs
of Police. He left the Miami police force as a sergeant
after 21 years, and in January 1980 took the helm of the
troubled Opa-locka Police Dept.
has virtually lifted the department by the bootstraps, touching
the lives of young and old through innovative programs and
a new awareness for human relations. His officers show a
keen sense of professionalism.
is down significantly in Opa-locka. Following a major reshuffling
of Police Dept. personnel and new appointments and strategies,
the crime rate dropped almost 13 percent in 1981, and 8.4
percent in 1982. Perhaps for the first time, Opa-lockas
citizens are feeling good about themselves and their Police
"Chief Ingram deserves all the accolades," beams
Newall J. Daughtrey the former Opa-locka city manager who
pinned the badge on Dr. Ingram after interviewing 11 candidates.
"He took a racist department known for brutality, especially
against Blacks, a department riddled with improprieties,
corrupt and illegal activities, and made it into a model
Dr. Ingram was named Opa-locka police chief, "it was
like trying to right a capsized ship," he recalls.
right it, he did. "My first inclination was to lash
out, but I think that is what was invited, that I would
lose my cool. I backed off, asked for guidance," Dr.
Ingram says, "and looked at what was happening as objectively
as I could, being in the middle of it."
like Daniel in the lions den, he escaped unscathed,
though undoubtably much wiser. He has brought Opa-lockas
youth directly into the Police Dept., organizing an Explorers
post, as well as Boy and Girl Scout troops all racially
integrated. "If youngsters such as these get no guidance,
we (the police) are going to have them ultimately. My preference,"
he explains, "is to get them now give them that guidance
and fill the void."
Ingram has won several grants for the department. These
include a $400,000 grant to establish a much-needed mental
health facility, and a crime prevention project which brings
residents, the elderly and business people closer to the
able administrator, Dr. Ingram has increased the departments
strength from 35 to 42 full-time officers. They
are backed up by six auxiliary and six reserve officers.
He has nudged the budget from $800,00 to $1.2 million. One
of the three commanders in his department is Dorna Love
who, as head of patrol, is the only Black woman with that
job in Florida and, perhaps, the nation. Dr. Ingram has
added a Black woman to the K-9 team, another rarity in police
work. Meanwhile, in-house training goes on, courses such
as officer survival and stress control.
The ministry and the power of the scriptures have guided
his life." One time, it was clearly war on crime, police
and the criminal," he says. "But now, with a spiritual
insight, I began to see there was not a war.
are not at war with the people I the community, but rather
we have to work to resolve these issues," he adds in
strong, measured tones. Persons who break the law are "pieces,
parts of families. We cannot write them off. They must be
chastened for what they did, by chastened with love."
Chandler, Opa-lockas city manager, stands firmly behind
his police chief. "This man is a great resource,"
he says. "Hes like a father figure to a lot of
young officers. They look up to him; they respect him. His
being a minister is a great asset. We have to deal with
crises I this city from day to day. Wit both Bob and myself
being spiritual men, this has helped us get through these
vice president of the national Organization of Black Law
enforcement executives, Dr. Ingram is working constantly
to create better ways to serve the public, to bring police
and the community closer together. A strong source of strength
has proven to be his family, his wife Delores and daughters
Tirzah, 21 who is married, and Tamara, 18, a Florida International
the faults I had, all the problems, the things I have done,
have given me a sense of humility and caring for my fellow
man and woman," Dr. Ingram says. "I can be more
accepting, I see problems a lot clearer. You have to accept
that the road is going to be rough accept that the
going will be tough. Accept that, in spite of all this,
there are no excuses.
know," he says "that I run against the wind. But