MILWAUKEE -- They are the two highest ranking African-American officers within the Milwaukee Police Department. Born and raised on Milwaukee's north side, they grew up in the neighborhood where they now fight crime.
It has been a few years since MPD Inspector Terrance Gordon has been "out on the beat," so to speak, but he has not forgotten where he came from and the way he felt about the people who filled the role he now has.
“In the 70s in Milwaukee, we didn`t necessarily look up to police officers because we were right off that turbulent history in the 60s. Growing up in the neighborhoods that I did and seeing the things in the city that I did, there`s more than one fork in the road," Gordon said.
And that fork didn't always lead to the right road at 16th and Clarke -- one of the poorest areas of the city, then and now.
“There are quite a few times in my life I wasn`t necessarily making the right choice and somebody helped me to make it. A teacher, my mom, an older relative that may have not been doing the right thing themselves, but wanted me to and I`m very grateful for that. I wouldn`t be there without the kind of mom that I had," Gordon said.
A watchful eye or set of eyes is what we need more of in Milwaukee, Gordon said. He said he doesn't defend the bad behavior of some of the city's young people. The adults in their lives, or lack thereof, are the real culprits, he said.
“When you see children constantly stumbling, constantly falling down, never going to school, wearing a $200 pair of tennis shoes and they`ve never had a job -- somebody in that kid's life has failed them over and over and over again," Gordon said.
Gordon's own family members going down the wrong path was one of the reasons he wanted to become a police officer.
“I was in the process of becoming a police officer in a different state and I had heard my hometown was hiring police officers at the rate of a couple hundred per year, so I came home to get a job," Gordon said.
MPD Inspector Jutiki Jackson never left.
He grew up right around the corner from Gordon. The two did not know one another, but they were raised with similar values by single mothers.
"My grandmother was in the picture and she was very supportive, so there was an expectation for us to do well and treat others with respect and live according to values that were instilled in us," Jackson said.
Jackson wanted to become a firefighter, but a mentor persuaded him to take the police entrance exam. Becoming a hometown officer has its advantages, he said.
“Any place we have strong connection to, we want to see prosper and do well," Jackson said.
Jackson said it's important for the community to see African-American police officers, especially now when there have been those who say African-Americans have been unfairly targeted by police, and there are feelings of distrust.
“Police officers go into neighborhoods where they're needed the most. It`s not about law enforcement targeting a specific group. It`s about us trying to make a difference," Jackson said.
Jackson said he hopes the 25 years of his life he has dedicated to the Milwaukee Police Department will make a difference. He has earned a prestigious position in an office atop the Milwaukee Police Department Administration Building in downtown Milwaukee -- but he said he never gets too comfortable. He said he spends a lot of time on the street.
“The gangs were different then. If you disagreed with them, they probably beat you up and that would be the end of it. Now, times are much more violent. A stark difference from the neighborhood I grew up in compared to now," Jackson said.
When he's out on the street now, Jackson said he makes sure officers follow procedures -- something he enjoys very much.
"I actually get to see them at work, see them engaging with the public. Some officers may need a little more motivation and encouragement," Jackson said.
The effort to recruit more minorities to the force is ongoing, according to officials within MPD. Right now, African-Americans make up about 18 percent of the staff at MPD.