One Good Cop

Retiring NYPD Detective Bill Jackson Was No Ordinary Policeman—He Even Rescued Al Sharpton and Me From a Jewish Mob

"Al! Get out of here!" one protester shouts.

"Let me out!" demands Ron Daniels, sliding back the door, and jumping head-on into the fray. I'm fearing we will be trapped—that the "Meir Kahane guys" will firebomb the vehicle.

At this point, Jackson tells Sharpton that he has spoken to an inspector who does not feel comfortable with the situation.

Badge of honor: detective William Jackson often placed his life on the line for peace in racially explosive situations.
photo: Dennis Kleiman
Badge of honor: detective William Jackson often placed his life on the line for peace in racially explosive situations.

"Why not?" responds the activist.

"Do you feel comfortable with this?" Jackson fires back, staring at Sharpton in disbelief.

"Hey, I'm just gonna stand there and do a prayer and get back in the car," the crusty preacher says nervously.

"Even some of the Jewish cops don't feel comfortable with some of these people out here," Jackson intimates. "They don't feel comfortable. So I want to give it to you straight up, let you know what's going down. They don't feel comfortable. Unless you want us to surround you with cops."

"Yes," says Sharpton.

The demonstrators are still chanting, "Anti-Semite! Go home!" Some are declaring, "Kahane lives!"

"I don't feel comfortable with this. It's your call," Jackson emphasizes. "I don't feel comfortable, and they don't [pointing to some uniformed cops]."

"Let's just sit here a minute," Sharpton suggests.

"OK, you wanna pull up a bit, or you just wanna sit here?"

"Sit right here," Sharpton says.

" 'Cause once you get out, you're in it," Jackson cautions. "You're in it once you get outta the car." As Jackson is pushed against the vehicle by Kahane Chai protesters, he flashes his badge. They back up.

"Are you going to shoot anybody?" a young Kahane militant taunts. Jackson ignores the remark. Reporters pound their fists against Sharpton's closed window, signaling to him that they want to talk.

"Step back!" Jackson barks at one overzealous scribe.

"Reverend, are you gonna be able to come out?" the reporter asks.

"I didn't come to come out," Sharpton says, backpedaling strategically. "We're having the vigil on Sunday. As I said, we knew we'd get a rocky reception. I think it's important to make the statement that we would risk getting heckled to show unity [with] people [who] stood with us when a lot of people didn't want them to. So they called, we came. We know that there would be many that don't want us to come, but there would be many who would appreciate that some of us would put our differences aside to stand [against] what is wrong. What happened to this man is wrong. I could take a few catcalls to help put the spotlight on the fact that police brutality must stop wherever it is."

"What do you say to the folks who call you an anti-Semite?" asks another reporter.

"If I'm an anti-Semite, what am I doing here?" Sharpton points out. "The majority of the crowd is not saying anything. It's a few of them who want to agitate, and I think their agitation shows they're really not concerned about getting to the bottom of this."

"Has the mayor done enough so far?"

"The mayor didn't do what I did," asserts the reverend. "He didn't even come out here and face the hecklers."

"How could he be here?" asks one of the "Meir Kahane guys," who is blocked by a steely-eyed Jackson as he tries to move nearer to Sharpton.

"I appreciate that," Sharpton tells Jackson. "Thank you."

"What happened in Crown Heights?" shouts another critic, referring to the 1991 racial upheaval between blacks and Jews after a Hasidic driver struck and killed seven-year-old Gavin Cato. Although Sharpton was not at the scene when the rioting flared, some Jews blame him for inciting tensions that led to the fatal stabbing of Australian immigrant Yankel Rosenbaum. Sharpton sidesteps the question and beckons to Jackson to allow one Hasidic Jew, who has yelled, "Thanks for coming!" to get through.

"Let him up! Let him up!" Sharpton shouts. "Can you let him through? Can that guy come?"

"Rev, don't get out!" Jackson pleads.

"Just let me talk to one guy," insists Sharpton.

"I appreciate you coming down to show solidarity," says the man, who identifies himself as a journalist for an Israeli newspaper. A heckler from Kahane Chai, peeved by the reporter's gesture, interrupts, screaming, "What happened in Crown Heights, Al? What happened in Crown Heights, Big Al?"

Sharpton leans out of the window and talks to the Israeli journalist. "Just like many Jews who stood with us for Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo, I felt it was no more than right for me to come and show solidarity here," he comments. But Jackson signals to Sharpton to wrap up the interview because many more Jews are pouring out of their homes to join the protest. Sharpton grins.

"Do you think that there is a similarity between Diallo and Busch?" the reporter asks.

"I think there is a similarity between the fact that a man did not have to be killed," Sharpton contends. "I think it's much more similar to Eleanor Bumpurs [the 66-year-old 300-pound grandmother who was shot to death in her Bronx apartment when she allegedly lunged at a white cop with a knife], and I think when all of us start dealing with the same standards, then we can deal with the city that has a set of rules for everybody."

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