Had to retire these old boots. Man if they could talk. They would speak of a time years ago when they could protect citizens from the worst of our society. They’d attest to walking families to shelter, and the elderly to housing. To running after those who caused fear and harm. They would speak of helping me stand even if it was alone to speak truth to power, to be able do things no one thought could be done.
They would tell stories of the flights of stairs I ran down from a roof to catch a drug dealer hiding under the guise of homelessness to drop of drugs to drug programs. Doors I had to kick down to rid hotels of pushers. Protests I had to stand for hours in, for cowards who only felt powerful in large groups as they verbally abused me for something that happened in another part of the country.
Fights I had to protect the weak. Tours I gave to educate politicians, college students, and activists with hopes that my truth would help those with the means to make changes based on truth, not idealism. Boots that bravely walked into a juvenile hall to tell young Black and Latino boys that they were valuable and loved. Engaged in prayer vigils for the homeless. Boots that would brag about kicking 80 drug dealers out of a recovery zone, and brought down one of the biggest drug dealers twice by walking toward building bridges of trust with my community. A community that was once indoctrinated to fear me. Boots that walked tirelessly on the block to the chagrin of the predatory element. Boots that gave the homeless and recovery community six years of safety that they deserved like any other community. Boots that have been spat on, cursed at, and even prayed over. I guess the latter is how I stayed above water and unsinged by fire.
I can’t even hand them down as they have holes in them and the souls are worn. Hell. They probably hurt me more than they help anyone now a days. Gotta let them go. I can’t just throw them away. Yet I cannot live or walk in the past.
I threw on my new boots yesterday. The new boots did not feel the same at first. They looked nice though. I felt sorry for them as I shuttered at the new era they would be walking in. An era where they will be resisted at every step towards creating a safe environment based on the reality of where they tread, by those who are supposed believe in law and order.
Yesterday I took my new boots for a spin in this new era. As I drove down one of the last streets in my area that has not been completely decimated by blight and blatant criminality, I saw a man with a broken leg laid out on the sidewalk. Someone assaulted him and robbed him of his crutches. These new boots went to a hospital. They got him some crutches and provided them to the man.

Good job new boots. I think we will get along just fine. It won’t be easy. But the man in the boots refuses to give up so easily. We got some more walking to do.

Deon Joseph is a 23 year veteran of law enforcement in Southern California - 21 of those years working in the homeless community to create an environment conducive to change for those in recovery, as a Lead Officer. He’s been recognized for his work locally and nationally, and news stories and documentaries surrounding his work in crime fighting and community relations, featured him.