Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waldon's Atrocities as Cop Hurt in a Variety of Ways

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Waldon's Atrocities as Cop Hurt in a Variety of Ways

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

When Tony Hickson's father, Edward, became one of the first six African-Americans since Reconstruction to join Jacksonville's police force, he and his compatriots weren't given much to work with.

They wore hand-me-down uniforms. They were paid less. And when they caught a white person breaking the law, they couldn't arrest him. They had to call a white cop to do the honors.

Imagine. They were supposed to be protecting the public, yet they were considered lower than the suspects who were threatening it.

"They had to put up with a lot," Hickson said of his deceased father. Hickson also retired as a detective from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in 1997. "When they first came on the force in the 1950s, they didn't even have cars ... they had to walk everywhere."

What Hickson's father and his friends did have, though, was the trust of many of the African-Americans in the neighborhoods that they patrolled.

I wish that bit of history would have resonated with former police officer Karl Waldon and his crew of rogue cops. Especially before they decided to become a part of the drug trade that now plagues many of the black neighborhoods that nurtured them.

They should have been a force in bringing it to its knees. Instead, they let it drag them down. And it's a sure bet that they'll drag a bit of the trust of the community that they had sworn to protect down with them as well.

And that's too bad.

During Waldon's federal trial, the public saw a black police officer, whose nickname, The Pope, devolved from a description of his religious devoutness into an allusion to the power he wielded among his accomplices as they robbed, beat and extorted money and drugs from people during the late 1990s.

Their crime sprees took them from areas like Arlington into struggling, predominantly black areas of the Eastside and Northwest Jacksonville.

Waldon's accomplices, however, all turned over on him, and last week a jury convicted him on 14 counts of a 15-count indictment. He may face the death penalty for the murder of Sami Safar, a businessman whom he strangled and robbed in 1998. …

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