Living Their Values: True Detective
How working for the Baltimore city police allows Randolph Brett Perrin II ’11 to live his values every day.
While studying for his criminal-justice degree from Bowie State University in Maryland, Randolph Brett Perrin II ’11 watched as Baltimore erupted in riots. Freddie Gray, a young Black man, had died from a spinal-cord injury he received while in police custody, once again turning the nation’s attention to issues of race, justice, and police brutality. “A lot of people from Baltimore end up going to Bowie State for college,” says Perrin. “I was able to talk to a lot of them about their experiences with the police department, with the city, with other residents, and with violence.” For Perrin, it was an inflection point: “That’s when I decided I wanted to become a Baltimore police officer.”
Though the riots focused Perrin on Baltimore specifically, working in the military or law enforcement has always been in his sights. His father was a cop in the NYPD for eight years and his grandfather was in the Army and the Air Force. “I come from a service background, putting yourself before others,” Perrin says. “That type of work is going to take you far in life, and that’s what I live by.” So, after graduating college in 2016, he turned around and joined the Police Academy in 2017. “I was appointed the class commander, and I was top of my class,” he says. “I had a different perspective than a lot of other people there. When I went through the Academy, I had more experience and education.” Indeed, after just two years on the street as a patrol officer, Perrin was promoted to the rank of detective in April 2021. “Since then, I’ve been part of a unit that investigates violent crimes—gun-trafficking, drug-trafficking— and the effects of that throughout the city,” he says. “Our days are very action-packed.”
Perrin also notes that injecting more police of color into a city isn’t a panacea. “It’s more, Is this person going to be a good police officer?” he says. “Is this person from a city? Has this person experienced this type of diversity before? Can this potential police officer comprehend the communication styles that these individuals will have on the street? I’m not just talking about verbally; I’m talking about their body language. People make different types of moves in Baltimore city than in, say, York, Pennsylvania.”
Making a difference often isn’t just about stopping crime and arresting bad guys; it’s about communicating with residents who don’t trust the police. “We arrest people for large quantities of guns and drugs,” he says, “and it’s usually not those people that are questioning the police. They understand what they did. But a lot of times, it’s the individuals who see the arrest who we have to talk to. They’re on the sidewalk, they see it happening, they don’t know what’s going on, and they’re freaked out—and rightfully so.” Perrin says talking to those people about what is happening and why is vital. “Sometimes your best force option is not your hands; it’s not your weapon. It’s your words,” he says. “It’s really about transparency, and not being an absolute RoboCop all the time.” In other words, being hard and cold may seem appropriate, but it dehumanizes you to the community. “Emotionally, that’s not the best way to go,” he says, “and it’s not the best way to go in terms of the citizens as well, because you can just be seen as unhuman.”
The Sidwell Friends lifer says Quaker values are a critical part of his work. “Sidwell really helped me in what I’m doing now: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated,” he says. “Learning to deal with people’s differences and being accepting of that is paramount when dealing with communities that are underserved and underrepresented.” His grandfather also taught him to “serve others before you serve yourself,” Perrin says. “He allowed me to apply that to life, and I actually ended up getting a tattoo in honor of him and the work that I do on my right bicep. It says, ‘Service Over Self,’ as a reminder, so that if I ever forget why I’m doing something or who I’m doing it for, that reminds me.”
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