Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Distinguished Veteran New President of Pittsburgh Chapter of Black Law Enforcement Executives Brings Deep Experience to the Job

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Distinguished Veteran New President of Pittsburgh Chapter of Black Law Enforcement Executives Brings Deep Experience to the Job

Article excerpt

Gregory Rogers is not one to shrink from a challenge. The veteran intelligence officer-turned-professor was working in Washington, D.C., when a plane struck the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. When everybody else was fleeing the building, he was heading in.

"It looked like a Godzilla movie," he recalled.

Today, he teaches intelligence students and national security students -- in the department he founded at Point Park University -- to step up as well. "When everybody else is running from fire, my students are running into it."

Mr. Rogers spent the bulk of his intelligence, military and diplomatic career running into the fire. Sometimes those fires were literal. More often, he dealt with those who would fan the flames of racial division, experiences that have prepared him for his newest professional responsibility.

When Assistant Pittsburgh Police Chief Maurita Bryant was elevated to the post of national president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Mr. Rogers replaced her as president of NOBLE's Pittsburgh chapter.

The chapter will host the group's 37th annual conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in August. Mr. Rogers said he expects about 2,000 law enforcement executives from local, state and federal government -- "Secret Service, FBI, ICE, ATF, DEA, the whole alphabet soup" -- to come to town for the event.

The Pittsburgh chapter has about 40 members, including Pittsburgh police Chief Nathan Harper and Assistant Chief Bryant.

NOBLE's goals include fostering community-police relations, advocating the hiring and promotion of more black officers, and striving toward fairness in the administration of justice. A key goal of the group, which welcomes members of all backgrounds, is to remain cognizant that the law sometimes affects minorities more adversely.

"For instance, when police get a call that there's been a crime, 65 percent of the perpetrators are white," Mr. Rogers said, "but 55 percent of the people ultimately sent to prison are black or Hispanic. You can't tell me that 10 percent of the population is responsible for 55 percent of the crime. What happened in between there?

"By the time it's all said and done, I think a lot of prejudice has moved from the police officer in the street to the prosecutor. ... Prejudice is that 500-pound gorilla in the room. First, you acknowledge that and then you move on from there."

As he sees it, bias is usually not a conscious choice. Police officers end up reinforcing the prejudice they grew up with. "If they see a black kid do something wrong, they think, 'Let's get him in the system.' That 'getting him in the system' hurts us as a country."

Confronting prejudice is familiar turf for Mr. Rogers. His father represented the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the South in the days of cross-burnings. During his boyhood in, Washington, D.C., Mr. Rogers, 62, recalls being directed to use the "colored" restroom and sit at the back of the bus. And when he joined the Air Force in the late '60s, his unit was deployed to Iceland, but he scarcely made it off the plane before he was sent back to the states.

Officials asked him point blank if he was Hispanic. He said that he was black.

"They kicked me out because they didn't allow blacks in Iceland." At the time, the U.S. military was in compliance with an Icelandic ban on stationing black troops at the American base. …

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