In another installment of Interview with an Author, we will be interviewing Frederick Reynolds about his novel Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement. The novel is a true crime story about a cop and his trials and tribulations.
From being in shootouts and robberies, Frederick Reynolds ended up on the other side by becoming a future cop. Follow his journey in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960’s and ending up behind bars and how he turned it around. But the new job has its own stress and something Fredrick had to conquer to become a great detective.
What made you want to write a book about a cop?
Frederick Reynolds: Initially, I wanted the story to center on the murders of two co-workers. But as the story progressed, I realized I needed to tell the history of the police department during the time that I worked there, because it is now no longer in existence. The book evolved as I wrote it I realized I had to cover what made me such an unlikely candidate to be a cop, and how my childhood had such a huge impact on that eventual decision. So, it actually became a book about a man who had dealt with a tremendous amount of personal trauma, who just happened to be a cop.
The novel dives into trauma, race, and corruption. Do you believe a lot of cops have to deal with things like that?
Frederick Reynolds: I believe that we all have to deal with things like that. We all experience trauma in our lives. With cops, there is no escaping it because there is often both personal and professional trauma, which is accounts for the high-rate of alcoholism, divorce, and suicide amongst police officers. There is certainly corruption, but it is not as wide-spread as the media would have us believe. For every “bad” cop, there are 100 good ones. Racism is not as bad as it was in police work, either. Mostly it is just not tolerated by fellow officers. But sadly, it still does occur. However, I cannot emphasize enough that every time a cop has to use force or arrest a Black or Brown person, it is not because of their skin color. I experienced racism both on and off the job. But there are really good, decent cops of all race and gender. We have to be careful as a society. If everything is racist, then nothing is.
Your novel is relevant in the climate today. Did that have any impact on your novel?
Frederick Reynolds: Initially, I wanted to not have as much emphasis on race relations. But when the George Floyd incident occurred, I knew that it would be disingenuous for me to gloss over it. Race relations, or a lack thereof, is a part of what this nation is. Because of the centuries of trauma not being addressed, it just came to a head. I believe in this country. I believe it is the greatest country in the world. There has never been more racial equality in this country than there is right now. But because we as a nation did not address those festering wounds, they never fully healed.
Nothing is ever truly black and white. Do you believe that cops should go by textbook definitions or that laws and crimes should be left interpreted in the scenario that they happened?
Frederick Reynolds: Sometimes, a little empathy and understanding can go a long way toward solving a problem without taking someone to jail. Somethings can be so egregious, however, that the decision is non-negotiable.
Did you grow up surrounded by cops or wanted to be one growing up?
Frederick Reynolds: I hated cops. I never saw any Black cops. They treated us really bad, almost like we didn’t matter. Don’t get me wrong; I was a juvenile delinquent and did things that warranted me getting arrested. But there was no compassion whenever the cops dealt with us. They felt like stormtroopers who came to our neighborhood to impose their will before going home to an Ozzie and Harriet type-family with a white picket fence and a golden retriever. I would have never in my wildest dreams believed that I would grow up and become a cop, let alone for 32 years.
What lesson should readers take away from your novel?
Frederick Reynolds: That cops are just ordinary people who are tasked with doing an extraordinary job. They must be everything to everyone: doctor, lawyer, protector, disciplinarian, teacher, and sometimes parent. They have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and they are necessary. But the cops have a responsibility to treat EVERYONE with respect, even the people they have to arrest. People have to see cops as an extension of their communities; that they are there to help and protect, not to harm and malign. There are some people that will always live on the fringes of society, people who will rob and kill just as soon look it you. They should hate the cops. Better yet, they should fear the cops. But if everyone hates and fears the cops, then what the hell good are the cops?
That concludes the interview. You can check out the novel down below and support Frederick Reynolds!