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Jinho ‘Piper’ Ferreira: Hip-Hop, Community, and Policing

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Flipsyde member Jinho ‘Piper’ Ferreira talks about how his experiences as a police officer, rapper, and artist have influenced him.

Piper was born and raised in Oakland, California. During his childhood in the 80’s and 90’s, Oakland was rife with crime, and police/community relations were at an all-time low.

In 2002, Piper’s childhood friend Jihad Akbar was killed by police. This inspired him to create Flipsyde, a successful Hip-Hop group that toured worldwide in the early 2000’s. Their song Someday was chosen by NBC as the theme of the 2006 Winter Olympics.

In 2009, Oscar Grant was killed by an Oakland police officer. The story resonated with Piper, and he decided the only way he could make an impact was if he was the one making the life or death decisions.

During the interview, Piper had this to say about the difference between his reaction to the death of Jihad, and the death of Grant:

“I didn't have any control over the cop that pulled the trigger. I initially put that pain into my music and ended up touring the world with my band. I tried what I could, according to the rules that I had known growing up and according to my values, until it became apparent that I needed to try something else.”

Piper became an Alameda County Deputy Sheriff, and served in law enforcement for eight years. During that time, he helped create the Deputy Sheriff’s Activities League, which addresses policing problems by focusing on social equity and community-led economic empowerment.

In 2014, he wrote a one man play titled Cops and Robbers that “highlights the frequently fraught relationship between police officers, the communities they serve, and the media.” It received critical acclaim.


Check out the website for Marcus Books, which is mentioned in the episode, here.

Ken Harbaugh:

Hi everyone, it’s Ken. Before we start, I want to share some exciting news: We’ve paired with Meidas Touch, so you can now watch these interviews on YouTube. Just search for the Meidas Touch YouTube channel, or click the link in the show description. Thanks, and enjoy the episode.

Piper Ferreira:

A lot of times when we study history, we study the hard facts around politics and economics. But I mean equally important if not more important are the emotions of the people, because emotions proceed action. And even thoughts sometimes. And sometimes thought precedes emotion. But they definitely work together.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

My guest today is Jinho Piper Ferreira, a musician, actor, playwright, screenwriter, and former police officer. He has worn many hats, but Piper's work has always revolved around the relationship between community and policing. Piper, welcome to Burn the Boats.

Piper Ferreira:

Thank you. It is great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Ken Harbaugh:

I am so grateful to have heard you speak in LA recently, because your backstory is extraordinary. And the more I've learned about it since then, the luckier I feel to have you on this show. But before I give too much away, can you share with this audience how you went from growing up in West Oakland to becoming a deputy sheriff?

Piper Ferreira:

Oh, wow. Well, that's a long, long, long story, but I think that maybe the short version of it is my mother just always instilled in us that we were the architects of our own destiny and we could choose to be what we wanted to be, and we were ultimately responsible for directing our own lives. So that's the short version of it..

The long version of it is, I had a friend that was killed by the police, and he was a guy who was a very close friend. And I come from a background of studying black movements in America. My degree is in black studies from San Francisco State. I'm an artist as well. I wrote songs. There were protests for various incidents that were happening in Oakland and around the country, but ultimately I decided that there was one person that decided whether or not to pull the trigger, and that was the police officer.

So just in taking control of my own destiny and trying to be the one that's making the decisions, as opposed to the one that's on the sideline, I decided to go in. And I figured out that I could pay my own way through the academy, and it cost about $5,000. And my wife and I put the money down, and I went in, and I ended up working in law enforcement for about eight years. And then I resigned to get back to the arts, and to tell the story from a more informed perspective, talk about what I've learned and the trials and tribulations, the pain, and the joys and the victories. So that's what I'm doing now.

Ken Harbaugh:

I want to dive deep into that, and especially get your perspective on what it's like being on the front lines of law enforcement these days. But before we do, can you tell me one of your favorite things about your friend Jihad Akbar? Something funny, something poignant? What do you remember about him that brings you joy?

Piper Ferreira:

Jihad, he was the most disciplined of us. He was hardcore. And I have to put this out there. You get a lot of people in academia and just adults in general, they tell the kids there's a one in a million chance that you're going to go to the NFL, or there's one in a million chance that you're going to make it as an artist. I went to school with five guys that went to the NFL. Five. And our team wasn't amazing. We had a losing record most of those years, but one has three Super Bowl rings. And Jihad, he was the most disciplined of us. He was the most aggressive, he was the loudest, he was the most masculine. And then later in life we find out he's gay. So it's like that came out of nowhere. We had no idea that that was coming. But he would be the one to wake us up in the morning on a Saturday when we think we'd get a chance to sleep in. And he's like, "We need to be practicing. We need to be working." He's the one that recommended books to us. "This is what you need to be reading." He was the most politically active. And he was also very rebellious. That guy ended up getting a scholarship to UC Berkeley, and I believe he majored in political science. And slowly, he just began to come off the rails. He started dabbling in drug use, and I think that he was really conflicted with his past life, hiding his sexuality, and then the new circles that he was developing, and the new communities he was becoming a part of. And when he finally came out and began to tell us, I kind of tried to serve as a bridge between the old friends and the new friends, and just be someone that he could talk to. And this was in the nineties, so this was a long time ago. It was a completely different world. And ultimately we buried one of our friends who was in a car accident, and a month later we were burying him. Got a call in the middle of the night that the police had killed him. And I remember the article that was written in the newspaper. It was something to the effect of, ‘Homeless Oakland man, shouting racial slurs, gets killed by police.’ They didn't know how sarcastic he was, They didn't know how conflicted he was. And I just imagined my black gay friend yelling out all the things that the world called him, and that's what they put in the newspaper. So that hurt. Yeah, I didn't have any control over what the journalist wrote. I didn't have any control over the cop that pulled the trigger. I initially put that pain into my music and ended up touring the world with my band. I tried what I could, according to the rules that I had known growing up and according to my values, until it became apparent that I needed to try something else.

Ken Harbaugh:

I bet you never imagined you'd be a deputy sheriff one day. But I do see this quote from you that really jumps out at me. You said in a recent interview that your mother was adamant in proving to her children that life. The life you saw outside your front door was not normal. This is not the normal state of black people. "And she taught me that I could do anything that I put my mind to, period."

Piper Ferreira:

Absolutely. Absolutely. That was her. And we had what I believe is the oldest black bookstore in the country, Marcus Bookstore, not far from us. It was maybe five minutes away. And we had prostitutes on our corner. The drug dealers made a lot of money in the 1980s, a lot of money in the 1980s. I remember guys wrecking their cars and showing up a couple hours later with a new one. And I was just a little kid, and these guys were the superstars of the community, but they would die, and they would go to jail, and the violence, now that I look back on it, was mind blowing. But growing up in it seemed normal. I got robbed at gunpoint when I was 13 years old, by a grown man. My friend and I had saved our lunch money all week to take some girls to the movies, and we caught the bus, we had to transfer buses, and we got robbed. He robbed us of our lunch money. I was 13 years old.

But my mother, when she saw what was happening, my next door neighbor had a baby in the ninth grade, The girl that lived next door to him, she got murdered in the car with her boyfriend. Guy lived a couple doors down, he was robbing banks. He went to the penitentiary. And she brought home all these books and demanded that we read them. She wrote all our names in the books, and she would just discuss the books with us. And she's like, "What’s outside is not normal. This is a downtime in the history of our people. We come from greatness. We will return to greatness, and you will respond to your life. You will create your life as if it is a part of this greatness. You're a link in the chain. You're not just an individual."And I didn't like to read. Didn't like to read.

Ken Harbaugh:

You're active on Twitter now, and I saw a recent shout out to Marcus Books. I'll make sure we link to it in the show notes. I bet they ship, right?

Piper Ferreira:

Yeah, they ship.

Ken Harbaugh:

Okay, good, good. Well, your first foray into the professional world was through art. And you spent some time on tour, you toured with some pretty big names, and that was a way to channel some of this angst that you grew up with. Tell me about the power of art in shaping your interpretation of the world, and your ability to actually be an agent in it.

Piper Ferreira:

Yeah. Well, art is magic, and art is medicine. And art can be a huge tool, and it could also be a huge weapon. It could be a tool to build, it could be a weapon to destroy. Other people, as well as yourself. And growing up, part of that education was understanding how black people have used art and used song, in the healing powers of song, to where you are when your child is sold and you're never going to see them again. They will wonder why this person is out in the fields singing. They're draining themselves of the poison, and trying to let some light in. So there are healing properties when it comes to music, and when it comes to song in general. And a lot of the art in West Africa isn't art as we know it in the modern world and in the West. All these art pieces had a purpose. These masks were worn during ceremonies. These pots held the essence of an idea, of a force of God. And to us, it's a beautiful pot," and we have it in a museum, but it had a very specific purpose. It was a part of their lives, and they interacted with it on a daily basis, and they grew up in that.

I recently went to Nigeria, and a man that I was speaking to, he said, “Each family has its own oríkì." And an oríkì is basically a poem that you sing. And it has the history of your family line. Again, it has the history of your family line. As a kid, I would come home and if I got straight As, my parents might sing the oríkì to me. And it's talking about my great-grandfather's accomplishment, and my great-grandmother was the first to do this. And it's a poem that you sing, and they're singing this to you, and the whole time you're just thinking, "God, what if I can do something great enough to be in this poem, to be in this oríkì?" So a hundred years from now, grandchildren, great-grandchildren would be listening to my accomplishments. So that's an amazing medicine, that's an amazing motivation. And to go from that to a song on the radio, just being something that you get drunk and dance to, it's like there's a disconnect.

So there are a number of things that have been lost as far as art is concerned, but there are a number of things to still continue on. And sometimes we'll put that song on, and you and I both, we'll put that song on, and within the first five seconds, we're getting really emotional, and we might shed a tear. And it's not just because the music, but it's because there was something inside of us that needed to get out. And this music is allowing us to open the door to whatever part of our brain needs to be opened in order to let that energy out. So I put a lot of my energy into the music. And I toured around, and I guess I was exercising that magic, and being a continuation of that. But it also has limitations, because you're limited to the people that you can reach and the people that actually want to listen to you. And even then, you have the power of influence. And it's a great power of influence, but you don't have the power of deciding what people do. You don't have the power of controlling people's actions, and holding people accountable for certain things.

Ken Harbaugh:

In addition to the power of art to be emotionally evocative, you've written about hip hop in particular as a way to create an economy. And I'm pulling this off of your Twitter feed. You wrote, "Hip hop is a miracle of people that were shut out of America's economy, figured out a way to make a living off of words and swag, and it became the biggest cultural impact in the world." That's art not just driving emotion and a message, but creating a whole new economy for, as you put it, people that were shut out.

Piper Ferreira:

Right. Yeah, definitely. Now you have managers, you have lighting guys, you have the guys shining the light on the artists, he's making money. You have the tour bus companies, whereas before they would only service rock tours. You have these artists in New York that started hip hop, the music programs were discontinued, so they weren't learning music in school. So then they went and took their turntables and put the records on the turntables, and they made music out of the turntables. They started mixing different records together, and going back to just the good part of the song, and playing that over and over and over again. And the DJ is talking over the microphone to the people that are dancing and hyping them up. So just from words and partying, from being disadvantaged in a way that the music programs are out of the schools, and applying their creativity to the creation of music. Creating music out of records that already existed and forming something that didn't exist before. That's brilliant in itself. And then everything that came around it that filled in those gaps that were no longer there.

There were a number of people after the civil rights movement, they were in position to then go to college, and then get good jobs, and then get into the economy. But there was also a large demographic of people that weren't in that position, and they were locked out. They were in the projects, they didn't have any prospects. Their schools were underfunded or not funded at all. And they were able to then access this new music, this hip hop, whereas if they wouldn't have been able to put words together over this beat and then create a revenue stream that's making millions of dollars a year, so they could hire their uncles and cousins and lift other people up in the community, if they weren't doing that, then they would probably be breaking into your house. Or they would be robbing someone else or selling drugs. And going on tour with Snoop, I went on tour with Snoop Dogg, and he might have had 15 people on tour with him in his security detail. Three of them were his uncles. His uncles. These Vietnam veterans. These are older guys. One was a Vietnam veteran, but three of them were his uncles. He's clearly just hiring people from the community. His head of security was a guy that had done a lot of time in the penitentiary, probably couldn't get a job anywhere else, but now he's touring the world with Snoop Dogg.

So, yeah, it's an amazing tool. And it went from being this fad type thing that MTV wouldn't even play, to now, you can't even sell a four-door Chrysler without having some hip hop in the commercial, without having that music in the commercial. It's worldwide. It's worldwide.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, wasn't one of your songs the anthem for one of the Winter Olympics?

Piper Ferreira:

Yeah, yeah. Someday. Yeah. My band Flipsyde. Yeah, it was called Someday. And it's produced by Michael Urbano and Reto Peter. I believe it was our first single off of Interscope Records. And we did the commercial with Olympians. Apollo Ohno, Michelle Kwan. We're in the ice rink. I was freezing. We're on the ice. I'm rapping on the ice. My feet are frozen stiff. But that was a good song. It was an anthem for the Winter Olympics. We performed it on Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, we had a good run with that song.

Ken Harbaugh:

I think most Americans' familiarity with hip hop is just the end product. The music. How important do you think it is to understand the roots of it? How organic it was? And I got to be honest with you, my understanding of it has expanded in just this conversation. You're describing the cancellation of music programs and the community figuring out a way to adapt. That seems as important as the music itself.

Piper Ferreira:

It is. It's as important as the music itself. And a lot of times when we study history, we study the hard facts around politics and economics. But I mean equally important if not more important are the emotions of the people, because emotions proceed action. And even thoughts sometimes. And sometimes thought precedes emotion. But they definitely work together. So whoever has the heart of the country, whoever's making the country dance and giving the country medicine to relieve its stresses. We're very stressed out right now coming out of this coronavirus, this lockdown and all this political strife, the deep divisions in the country, who's moving people right now? What are people listening to? How do people feel? I believe that's equally important. As important as the politics and the economics of what's going on. So I think they should learn it.

Ken Harbaugh:

I just wrote that down. Whoever's making the country dance, I think that might be our topper for this show, because you're right. Do you remember the moment when, you've got this incredibly successful creative career, it's got to be incredibly rewarding and you make the decision, it sounds like, with your wife, to go through the police academy, what was that conversation like?

Piper Ferreira:

Okay, well, so I didn't go from the top of the world into the police academy. There was a lot of internal strife in the band. And one of our band members had gotten on drugs. So there was a period of two or three years with me basically carrying the band. I recorded like 50 songs by myself, just shots in the dark because we weren't rehearsing. We had gone a year and a half without rehearsing. He was on drugs. I'm picking him up, getting him a hotel room, trying to just do what I can. And I'm not perfect. None of us are, but I did try to be there for him. And it just got harder and harder. And while that's going on, people are dying around us. My younger cousin, who we looked at each other as brothers, his mother passed away when he was five, and he moved in with us. He died in a motorcycle accident coming back from one of our shows. My brother-in-law, who was a sergeant in the Army, Special Forces, he ended up taking his own life in 2008. He campaigned really hard for Obama, and he took his life a month before he got elected. He couldn't stick around any longer. I had a second son, I had two children. My son was a baby when we're at the gas station and I hear shots ring out and people screaming down the street, and I go out and I see a cop standing in the middle of the street with his gun drawn, and I see a black man lying face down. That was Gary King Jr. And I left the gas station. I have my son in my arms and I'm walking down there and people are screaming, "Cops are coming, They're pushing people back." Gary King Jr's little brother is arguing with the police. I back him up. I'm like, "Don't let them take two brothers in one day." I don't know what else to say. I got my baby in my arm.

So a lot of things were going on, a lot of things were happening. And ultimately one of the 50 songs that I recorded ended up being a hit in Europe. So the band was allowed to tour again, and we had another opportunity, but the drugs just kept pulling us down. So it just got to a point where I had to consider, "What am I doing? What impact am I making? What am I really doing with my life?" And my mother's voice is in the back of my head. I listen to a lot of motivational speakers. It's about taking control of your destiny. It's about deciding what you want to happen, and then working to make that happen. What do I want? And I wake up in the morning one morning, and I look at the news, and Oscar Grant gets shot in the back on the BART platform, at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland. And when I saw it happen, tears just came to my eyes, because I couldn't believe it. I was just watching this act of a life being taken. And it wasn't happening in a vacuum, it was happening alongside everything else that was happening in my life, and everything else that had happened in the country. And everything that I've read about our history and the residual effects from it, and what I see going on day to day. And I wasn't the type to go to a bunch of protests. I was always trying to figure out what I can do myself, what I can control myself, to make an impact.

But I had to go to that protest because I didn't know what else to do. And my wife and I and sons and a close friend, we went. And while we were there, there were thousands of people there. There were all different races. And everyone there was passionate. And I could feel the love there, and I could also feel the anger. And what did we hope to accomplish? I asked people, "What do we want to accomplish?" We want to get rid of this cop. Some people wanted to get rid of all cops. And as I consider, okay, well, at that time it's 2009, it would be a miracle if you could get a cop fired. Be a miracle. Right?

But let's say we did. Let's say we got rid of that cop. Who was going to replace him? Because somebody would. And I couldn't imagine any of the thousands of people at that protest replacing that cop. Any of the thousands of people that felt justice so strongly in their hearts, they came out and were passionate about change, I couldn't imagine any of them replacing that cop. And I couldn't imagine myself replacing that cop either. And there was a journalist at the protest, and he had a circle of artists together, and he's asking us what we could do to stop this from happening. I was objectively the most successful artist in the circle, was touring a world. We had Sunday Night Football, we're featured in movies, our music is featured in movies. And I knew that there was nothing that I was doing that could control that cop's actions. And again and again, people just kept saying, "We have to keep doing what we've been doing. Just keep making more music, keep getting the word out." I was at a crossroads. And I came home, and I just thought about it and thought about it and thought about it. And I talked to my wife. She didn't like the idea. I talked to my mother. She didn't like the idea. And this is a light way of me putting it. They didn't like the idea.

Ken Harbaugh:

I think I heard you say once that your mother was terrified.

Piper Ferreira:

Yeah, yeah. She was terrified because she knew the mood of the country, and she knew where we were in time, and she knew that I would be in danger, how big of a step I was taking. Someone could kill me just because I had on the uniform, and not know my heart, not know my mind, not know why I was doing it, not know the sacrifices I was making. So she was aware of all that.

Ken Harbaugh:

Can you talk about those sacrifices? It's incredibly valuable to have someone like you on, share what a day in the life of a police officer in America is, especially in a large city like Oakland. What's being a beat cop, a deputy sheriff, in your area?

Piper Ferreira:

Right. So we were mainly in San Lorenzo, San Leandro area. It's the next city over from Oakland. It's the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. I think it's about 14 cities. And I wasn't on patrol, I was a part of a community policing unit. I helped to start a community policing unit after I had written a play about law enforcement in the community. A very, very, very brave lieutenant in the sheriff's office approached me and he said, "I want you to help me build this unit." So going out, first of all, you talk about sacrifices. A former friend told me, "The moment you put on that uniform, you'll never be able to record music again. No one will ever want to listen to what you say again, the moment you put on that uniform." And I was still at a point in my life where I had to put it on anyway. I had to find out. I had to be the one that decided whether or not my friend Jihad gets shot and killed. I felt too safe standing on the sideline rapping about it. I felt like that wasn't enough of a sacrifice for me at that point in time in my life. I needed to do something deeper. So going into it, he said that to me when I was in the academy, "The moment you put on the uniform, it's over. You'll never be able to rap again." Of course, I ignored him and continued, but there was some validity to his statement because just putting on that uniform, I would still be the same person. But when I interact with people from the community, everything I said would be filtered through the uniform. I may say the same exact thing that I said a year or two before, but whatever I said was now filtered through the uniform.

And it's an amazing effect. And I'm not doing it justice in trying to explain it right now, but it's something that I was completely conscious of. And then being a rapper and knowing the power of spontaneity and honesty in delivering a message through song form, I continued that into law enforcement, because I felt as if I stepped back to try to construct a message that would be manipulative, that would be misleading when I'm speaking to the people. So I chose to continue to speak from the heart. And that might not have been the smartest thing, because now I'm not just a regular person, I'm not just a rapper speaking. I'm a person that now has concrete power to take someone's life, to suspend someone's rights and take them to jail, put them in jail. I have the concrete power to move someone from A to B. So my words aren't being considered as a rapper's words. They're being considered more like a politician's words, someone that has to choose his words extremely carefully.

So you talked about the sacrifices. These are some of the sacrifices. And these are things that I found out along the way. It was better if I stayed away from the movements because of the history of COINTELPRO infiltrating the movements. Just my presence would have to make people wonder, "Is he trying to infiltrate these movements?" And then even worse than that, if I did continue to come around the movements and help plan and help execute, would they then lower their guard around other officers or former officers who are in fact trying to infiltrate the movement? I had to consider all these things that I'd never had to consider before.

Ken Harbaugh:

I heard you say this recently. You said when you're a cop, you see what America's afraid of. And it makes me think of something my friends who are LEOs have said, which is that, when you spend every waking minute looking for bad guys, you reach a point in your life where everyone you encounter is a bad guy. And it changes the way...

Piper Ferreira:

Because it's easier.

Ken Harbaugh:

Because it's just easier. Yeah, speak to that.

Piper Ferreira:

It's easier. So all right, first of all, in the academy, and this is a huge summary, but you learn that, for instance, an action is always faster than a reaction. And they tell you it takes about 0.75 seconds to determine someone has pulled a weapon. Or if you're following a car, takes about 0.75 seconds to recognize that he put on his brake lights. Then another 0.75 seconds to decide what to do about it and tell the body to do it. So that's about a 1.5 second lag time. Average human can fire several rounds in a second. So we would do drills where they would put the gun on the table, and you put your hand here, and they put their hand above yours, and they say, "You move when I move." And they'd always be able to grab the gun, because the action is faster than the reaction.

And then you're watching these videos of cops getting killed, and gang bangers killing each other. And they ask you, "Okay, so why is that cop dead? He's dead because his gun leg wasn't back. He didn't have his right leg back. He's dead because he allowed that person to keep his hands in his pockets. He's dead because he didn't check his shoulder, he didn't put out over the radio where he was." And it's this merciless judging because it's a life or death situation. And you can go through 10,000 traffic stops, and then the next one, be in broad daylight, 2:00 PM on a crowded street, and that's the one where you get shot in the head. All these things are like, this is fact, this can happen.

And then you have the sheepdog, wolf sheep philosophy, I believe that's Lieutenant David Grossman, where there are sheep dogs who protect the sheep. They're the sheep that would prefer to never think about the wolf. And they don't like the sheep dog, because the sheep dog has sharp teeth like the wolf, and he's bossy like the wolf. And then you have the wolf, that will completely tear them the pieces. And the only time the sheep respect the sheep dog is when the wolf shows up. Then the whole flock of sheep will hide behind one sheep dog. So you have that dynamic. So you begin to desensitize yourself to criticisms by the sheep, because you know that they respect you and follow your lead when they need you. When they feel they no longer need you be, their behavior towards you changes.

So there are all these different dynamics, and then you show up on scene, and you have to consider that it becomes very apparent that there's a disproportionate number of black people that get labeled as suspects by citizens and law enforcement alike. So you show up on the scene, some woman, "I believe this guy is casing my house, he's going to break in." You show up on the scene, he's just arguing with his girlfriend on the phone in front of her house. And if you listen to radio traffic, you can hear an experienced cop, and you'll know what the call was about just by listening to the radio. The cop is like, "Okay, I'm on scene. I have eyes on the subject. Making contact." And 10, 15 seconds go by, "You can cancel this call, send me the next one. It is a false call." It was something the person that called the police was afraid of something that they didn't need to be afraid of. And that happens every day. That happens all the time. And when you have an experienced police officer, they know how to deal with that. But then you have the ones that are not culturally aware, and they don't understand this dynamic, and they don't understand the frustrations that the people will have, they constantly get the police called on them. So when those people react in a way that's aggressive, then they tend to view that as guilty behavior. And some academy teachers even teach you that if a person's not going along with the program, then chances are they're guilty.

Ken Harbaugh:

Yeah. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we can't just count on experience and the supply of experienced officers to reassure us in situations like this, because it just takes too long. There has to be a systemic way. It has to work itself into the training so that younger cops are prepared, so they have those cultural sensitivities. We have to get folks like David Grossman out of the academy, someone who incidentally never spent a minute in combat, but is famous for writing his book on killing.

Piper Ferreira:

Right.

Ken Harbaugh:

Tell me about the other approach, the community capitals policing program that you were so instrumental in. There are other ways for law enforcement and communities to interact.

Piper Ferreira:

Oh, definitely. So Marty Neideffer, he was the lieutenant at the time, I believe he's a captain now, and he was the architect of the program. And it's just founded on the idea that law enforcement in the community have to work together, or nothing's going to get done. The way that you solve the majority of the crimes is if the people are telling you what happened and who did it. But he wanted to go a step beyond that to taking preventative measures. What are the circumstances that create crime in a community, and let's address those. And then maybe we could drive down the crime in the area by doing that. Then we could build bridges between law enforcement and the community.

Now, initially when I came into law enforcement, I just came in so I could be the one deciding that my friend Jihad doesn't get killed, or I could be the one deciding to treat someone like a human being, as opposed to talking to them like dirt. Like I watched a cop talk to my mother one time at court. I'm still affected by it. But we would get out there and Neideffer would create these situations in which we could get to know the community, where we could train the kids instead of kids get into a fight at school or get into a fight on the streets. As opposed to arresting a kid and taking them to juvenile hall, maybe we could refer them to our boxing program. So something that they've actually become good at, fighting, or a way that they could relieve stress, fighting, they actually now get rewarded for it. And they get disciplined, and they actually have less fights because they're getting that energy out of them in the ring. So he put these programs together, and we tried to identify the other deputies within the sheriff's office that would thrive in a setting like that. And we got a few of them, and we just worked hard. And they were great guys, great women, and they just worked hard to build bridges, and to serve, and to try to reach people and address their problems, the problems that would lead to those people creating crime before they even considered to commit the crime itself.

Ken Harbaugh:

You've now got a police drama that's been picked up by BET. You're back into your creative sphere. Tell us what that show is about, and what it's like to be a creator, again, having spent eight years on the other side of the line.

Piper Ferreira:

These are very good questions. And I'm rambling a little bit, so I apologize for that. But that show is based on my experiences, and just based on my realizations in law enforcement coming from where I come from. So I can't call it autobiographical, but it does feel amazing to be able to write this out, because it's missing from entertainment. When you see police dramas on TV, they're one-sided. It's pro-cop or it's anti-cop, and no one really gets into the nuances of what it's like to be in that uniform coming from the community, and to really understand both sides and what they're facing. So we hope to do that with this TV series.

And then as far as being on the creative side again, I was creative while I was in law enforcement, but it was so stressful, because it's like two opposite ends of the universe of philosophy. On one end, as an artist, you close your eyes and you just channel the energy and you channel your emotions. And on the other, if you close your eyes, you might end up dead. It's like you have to really focus on this guy's hands and know where all your partners are, and be listening to the radio at all times. And you go from sitting in this meeting with parents and the school board to chasing down some suspect. You're completely out of the equation. And as an artist, you're the one that's front and center. So it was extremely stressful. But since then, since just being a creative, the first part, since I resigned, was just remembering how to just be an artist. And I'm still remembering how to just be an artist, but I'm able to access levels deeper than I had before, because I have a deeper respect for it now than I had before.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, tell us the name of the show. We'll make sure to keep an eye out for it, and we'll post it once it finally goes up.

Piper Ferreira:

Thank you. It's called The Line, and it's produced by Entertainment One, the Mark Gordon Company, and BET.

Ken Harbaugh:

Awesome. Well, Jinho, it's been wonderful having you on. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, and we're looking forward to The Line.

Piper Ferreira:

Thanks for having me.

Ken Harbaugh:

You bet.

That was Jinho ‘Piper’ Ferreira. You can find him on Twitter @PIPEDREAMZENT.

Thanks for listening to Burn the Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We're always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more follow us on Twitter @Team_harbaugh. And if you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to rate and review.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs, and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our audio engineer. Special thanks to evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss. I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

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