Mr. Alvin Hinton Oral History
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Mr. Alvin Hinton, NIH Chief of Police
December 21, 2021
Tanetta Isler (NCATS): I work at NIH and just raised my hand to volunteer to collect oral history interviews. That led me to interviewing you. I’ve only been at NIH for one year, but I’ve also worked at other government agencies, including the United States Postal Service—which actually was a very good experience. Chief Hinton could you tell me your name?
Hinton: Alvin David Hinton.
Isler: Okay, great. Where did you grow up? Tell me a little bit about your experience. Did you have brothers and sisters or close cousins that you grew up with?
Hinton: Yes, I grew up in Washington, D.C. in the Shaw neighborhood. We later moved over to Brookland in the northeast quadrant of the city. I had one brother and basically was raised with my grandmother and mother.
Isler: Can you tell me a little bit about Shaw—what school you went to and the different places that you used to be in that area? Do you remember?
Hinton: Yes, I went to Cleveland Elementary School—by the way, it’s still open, and they still use it as an elementary school. I did my first learning there and then went to Shaw Junior High School, which was only a few blocks from Cleveland. From there, I went to Dunbar High School, and that was kind of a prestigious school for Blacks in Washington, D.C. at that time. Many of the people that made names for themselves earlier in that era, they went to Dunbar High School. I went there. Then we moved, and that changed the school system that I should go to. I went to McKinley Tech after that.
After leaving McKinley Tech, I realized that I want to do a lot of things. I was always wanting to work for the government. I wanted to do some heroic things and some significant things, so I joined the United States Air Force [in 1961]. That was my first experience away from Washington, and it was a big eye opener for me because basically I thought everything else was just like Washington, D.C. I found out quickly it wasn’t. I went to training in San Antonio, Texas, and that was a big eye opener for me—you saw people that spoke foreign languages. This introduced to me that the world was a lot bigger than I originally thought it was.
Coming from there, I was going home after my basic training. I was scheduled to go to Washington state for my base but could make an intermediate stop back home before I went there. That’s when I got more familiar with what was happening within the United States. I heard of prejudices when I was growing up in Washington, but I really never experienced it. I was going to the rest stop in Jackson, Mississippi. As I was walking in, a White officer asked me where I was going— “boy”. I had my uniform on. That was kind of disappointing because I was very proud of the uniform. I thought people would respect it. I told him I was going in to get something to eat and use the bathroom. He said “Well, I’m sorry, you can’t go in there; you have to go around the back.” So, I went around to the back, and it was a really dirty place—really, really dirty. They had a hole cut in the back of the wall, and that’s where the Blacks would have to order their food. I was just really disheartened. I wasn’t going to eat there—I wasn’t going to eat until I got back to Washington, D.C., which was a long way away. I went back and sat on the bus. I was stewing. I was really upset with White people because I thought they were mean. I thought basically all White people were like that. As I was sitting on the bus waiting for it to take off, two elderly White ladies came walking back toward me on the bus. They said “Sir, we saw what was happening, and we’re very sorry. We really wish that hadn’t happened, but we bought you some lunch.” That was a big eye-opener to me because I realized that everyone wasn’t the same and that people would be different. They weren’t made bad or good because of their race; it was what was in their hearts. That was a big eye opener for me leaving home. I had to kind of learn to give each person I came in contact with the proper respect—or ignore them if they were really bad people. That was a big eye opener for me. I never had experienced that in Washington.
Isler: Thank you for sharing that story. You said this was Jacksonville, Mississippi?
Hinton: Jackson. That’s the capital.
Isler: Jackson, Mississippi. How old were you at that time?
Hinton: About 19—something like that.
Isler: Were you the only Black person there?
Hinton: The only one I can remember being on the bus. I was the only one that was singled out, of course. I can’t really remember if there was anybody else on the bus. I can’t visualize them anymore. I do know that I was really despondent for a few minutes because it had happened to me. I was serving my country—I had my uniform on, which let everybody know that, but I was still treated like that. I thought things would be different being in my uniform, but they weren’t. But also, these two exceptional ladies came back and complimented me after being really disgraced. They let me know that they respected me, and they thought I was a human being. That’s when I realized that there are all types of people in the world. That was my first experience of seeing something really negative like that.
Isler: Growing up, what was your vision for yourself as a younger person?
Hinton: I always wanted to be a policeman, and I always wanted to go to the military.
Isler: Okay. Who was the most influential person in your life?
Hinton: I have to say the most influential were my mother, grandmother, and my dad too. I saw some other people, a couple of Black police officers—I would have liked to have been like them. I was also influenced by people who played sports—Jackie Robinson. I saw him, he did really well. And some other people that made it in their fields. I realized that you just have to really, really work at it to make your way and the biggest obstacle could be yourself.
Isler: You told me a little bit about your military experience when you first joined the military, what you encountered and the different types of people you encountered. How did your experience in the military shape your approach to the world?
Hinton: I just wanted to be the best of everything I did, and hopefully they’d recognize me for that. Unfortunately, there were some people at that time who wouldn’t recognize you for your value no matter what. I experienced that in the military one time and it was really very difficult for me. My grandmother lived with me, so I was very, very close to her. She passed from cancer, and I was over in Africa. The Red Cross sent my Commander a letter to let me come home because my grandmother died. For whatever reason, he was just being mean to me. He didn’t allow me to go home. He told me that I didn’t have the money to get back, and I might not come back. But I knew that planes were flying to a base in Libya every day from Washington D.C.—Andrew’s Air Force Base. But he said no. Some of my friends found out about it so they gave me money to show the Commander that I could get back on my own. Then he said “Well, you might just not come back.” So, he wouldn’t let me go. I never saw my grandmother again, never got to go to her funeral. I just thought that was really a mean act. I vowed that I wouldn’t do anything like that to anyone. I would treat them with the respect they should have. That was another lesson for me—that there’s some people that are not going to like you no matter what. You can’t let them interfere with you proceeding on with your life and trying to accomplish the goals that you want.
Isler: How many years did you serve in the military?
Hinton: Almost five.
Isler: Then did you go from the military to the U.S. Park Police?
Hinton: No, I went to the Department of Labor. I was a clerk at the Department of Labor for about a year or so. I transferred over to the U.S. Post Office. As a matter of fact, I worked right down here in Bethesda—Bethesda station. I delivered mail there and I got to meet a lot of people there. I had what they call a business route so I would go in and talk to people in the business as I delivered mail. They would always give me some advice on things—and I used it. They always let me know that I could do better things and just to keep on trying. Finally, I got the nerve up to join the United States Park Police—well, try to join. I joined and I got accepted. After some of the experiences I had, I was afraid after I joined that maybe I made a mistake, that I couldn’t compete with the White people that were in the class. I was very nervous about that, but I got encouragement that “You can do it, you can do it.” I went through my basic training with the U.S. Park Police. I came out number one in my class.
Isler: Oh, congratulations!
Hinton: While I was going there, I realized I have to do some other things if I wanted to be competitive. So, I enrolled in American University at the same time. I went there and I graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree. That kind of got me started. I was still kind of nervous about competing in the processes they had, but I guess I had studied and took in things more than I thought. I always came out next to the top in my promotions. I took the sergeant’s test, and I didn’t think I would pass it at all. Came out number two. I got another challenge [when] I was sent to New York City as a sergeant. We had a field office in New York City, so I had to learn the culture in New York City—completely different than Washington—and people had a whole lot of different ways of doing things. But I learned those ways, and I learned how to deal with other people from a lot of different cultures and nationalities. I got promoted right away and came back to Washington as a lieutenant. I got a lot of prestigious assignments, and I did well in them. Then I got promoted to captain. As a captain I was the assistant commander of the New York office, and I got to meet all kind of people. I met [Rudy] Giuliani while I was there and the assistant mayor. I just got up to different levels and had to learn the way people at different levels handled themselves. How you had to be gracious whenever you could be, and you had to be very adept at what your field and training was. You couldn’t be halfway about it, you had to really know it, especially up in New York. It was really a big opening. We dealt with organized crime and things of that sort. I eventually made a major, and I was commanding the office. I just didn’t believe it—I thought I was in a dream. All these things were happening to me. They sent me down to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, during the Cuban relocation campaign they had at that time and made me the lead officer, not only over the Park Police, but other agencies that were there as well. That’s similar to the camps and stuff they have on the Mexican border now with the refugees coming across. It was Cubans at that particular time. I just kept on getting those experiences. I came back and I was always worried about doing good in training. Then they put me in charge of training, so I trained all the other people. I was responsible for training all the police officers at the U.S. Park Police. I got involved in a lot of other things. They gave me higher powered things. I was in charge of the Million Man March, the 50th anniversary of NATO, the Y2K celebration. I just got all these assignments that took a great deal of skill. In each one, I was left with more information and ways to handle things. I learned how to deal with people of all persuasions. It just was really a great thing. I made deputy chief and was at one point in charge of everything outside of the Washington metropolitan area—all the facilities in California, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and places like that. Then I got the reassigned, and I was in charge of all the things that were in the Washington metropolitan area—environs of Washington, they called it. I got to meet presidents, heads of states, things like that. I used to think that I’m just this poor little boy from the Shaw area, and I’m in some kind of way dealing with these people. It was just overwhelming to me at times that it happened. I thought it was a dream sometimes. I did 31 years with the Park Police, and I decided I wanted to try something else.
But one other thing that happened to me that was really amazing to me. When I was a kid–about I guess 16 maybe—there was a park called Glen Echo Park in the Cabin John Area. Some of our friends [and me] went there and they wouldn’t let us in because we were Black. I was really upset about it. But what happened was, when I became a captain, they assigned me to what they called the first district and the Park Service had taken over the park. I went from not being able to go into the park to being in charge of the park. That was a big thing that really lets you know that if you really apply yourself, you could do pretty much anything.
I joined the NIH police, I retired from the U.S. Park Police. It was a whole new culture. I thought I knew a lot of stuff, and I did, but I had to learn that I had to adapt with different cultures. Back there we thought a lot about street crimes and things like of that sort. With NIH it was all about protecting patients and things of that sort. As a matter of fact, my grandmother was a patient at NIH, and I was a patient at NIH. I had a great deal of respect because I thought they were really one of the true places that race didn’t play a part—because they accepted people from all over the world. No matter who you were, they’re going to treat you the best they could, with dignity. I was really happy to work here. I’ve got people that just gave their lives to save other people, help them live long and help them live better, so I was part of that organization. I said, “Well, I need a little bit more training.” I went to Johns Hopkins, and I went to FBI’s National Academy. I just kind of kept gaining more and more knowledge, sometimes in a formal setting or sometimes just by talking like we’re talking. I learned something about you, and I say, “Wow, so you worked in the post office, and I worked in the post office.” We sat down and talked—we would probably talk about some things that were very interesting to both of us. That’s kind of how I got through my law enforcement career. All together I did almost about 32 years in the Park Police and 22 years here so far. I said a lot of times I would retire.
Isler: You said 22 years at NIH?
Isler: That is a long time at NIH! Thank you for sharing your experience at the Park Service. I’m curious about a couple of things. In order to protect people, you’re working with a team of other people who are also working alongside you. How were you able to motivate people? Did you have any scary moments that you can recall and how did you handle those?
Hinton: One of the most scary things that happened to me was a revelation a lot later. I was working a foot beat down around 14th and K. Washington, D.C. used to be kind of rambunctious, they had a lot of those clubs downtown. I saw a robbery, and I chased this guy from 14th and K to 13th and T Street. There was a building there that had been pretty much demolished during the 1968 riots and had never been fixed so it didn’t have electricity in it. I chased this guy inside, and I never found him in there. Fast forward like 30 years, my wife—she worked at the DC government at that particular time—and a group of her co-workers had formed this little club. When their birthday came around, other members would take them out to lunch, or out to dinner, no matter where they wanted to go. There’s one lady in the group—they called themselves the “six-pack”— [her husband] had been in prison a long time, 20 years or so. When they found out I was a police officer, they asked what some of the things were [that] I did that were very scary or something like that. [My wife] told them about the time I had chased that person up there, and I didn’t find him. While she’s telling the story, this guy who had been in prison all this time, he’s looking distraught, like he’s very uncomfortable. She couldn’t figure out what was going on with him. His wife said, “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?” He said, “That was me.” He said, “I was standing behind this door; I was going to kill him, but something told me don’t do it.” Here I am finding out about how close I was to death 30 years later. That was an amazing thing with me—I always thought that was something that was divine, someone just let me know they did in fact save me. It wasn’t my skill or anything like that. I was just blessed.
Isler: How did you become reacquainted with this group of people?
Hinton: The people worked with my wife. I just went out with them when they had a dinner for this lady—matter of fact, her husband had gotten out of prison. I was just there for the evening; I didn’t know anything like that was going to be what happened. I’ve had some other things like that happen. I just didn’t know anything about it, and I found out about this 30 years later. When I did find out, a chill went through me. I mean, I was that close to death, and I didn’t know it. I always wondered why I was allowed to find out about it.
Isler: Now that is interesting because did you still continue with the dinner, or how was the dinner—was the dinner tense?
Hinton: We continued with the dinner. I didn’t feel the threat anymore and I was glad he had made whatever change he had made in his life. One of the other things that’s happened to me is I look for how to treat people right no matter who they are. At one point I lived up on 15th and Chapin Street, which was a kind of dicey area back then. I was a police officer, so nobody ever spoke to me. They’ll turn their back when I came because they really didn’t like the police. It was one of those times when the civil rights movement was really going on and I always felt kind of left out. I wasn’t poison or something like that, but they didn’t like me. One night I heard this knock on my door, about 2:00 in the morning. It was real loud. It was wintertime and was snowing real bad. This lady on the other side of the door, she was holding this little baby. She said, “I know you’re a policeman, would you take me and the baby to the hospital?” At first, I thought it might have been a setup or something, but I said, “Well, yes, I will.” I took her to Children’s Hospital. It was just too far from us, and she couldn’t get a taxicab or an ambulance—she’d been waiting for hours. I took her and from about 2:30 or so in the morning, and I stayed about 9:30 or 10:00 until the baby got treated. A couple days later I walked up the street and everybody’s speaking to me—they’re speaking to me! They put a thing on my car saying, “Do not bother”. I just realized how I had a dual role. I like to think of it as if I’m a guardian, and I want all my officers to be guardians, not gladiators. There might be times when you have to be one to protect those people. My job is to protect them, and sometimes protecting people might not be in a fight or something like that. Protecting this lady at that particular time was taking her and the baby to the hospital. I always try to make sure that I mix up my humanity with the authority. I don’t let that go to my head and mistreat people and things of that sort. I won’t allow my subordinates to mistreat people and treat them bad. It’s especially challenging when you police some people that you’re co-workers with. It’s a really tough thing to do sometimes—when you have to enforce the law and then your friends or co-workers. But you know you have to find the right median to make sure you accomplish both.
Isler: That leads us into the questions about NIH. You say that one of your roles as the chief of police at NIH is to protect the patients, but you’re also protecting the scientists and individuals like me who work. My title is a program analyst. When you transitioned to NIH what were your first impressions?
Hinton: My first impressions were that I thought I was very, very capable after going through all those experiences I had. Then I quickly realized here was a new challenge. The culture is different. I can’t do the things in the way I did things out on the streets of New York and DC. I was even out in San Francisco. I was out in the Rocky Mountains with the Hell’s Angels; they were intruding on parkland and terrorizing. I couldn’t police that way. I had to embrace the law of the friendships and connections. Let people know that I’m here to protect them, but we’ve got rules. I’ve got rules I have to follow; you have rules you have to follow. Please follow the rules and to treat people with respect so they’ll want to do what’s right.
Can I go back a little bit? I was a motorcycle officer for a while. I made motorcycle officer, myself and another Black officer. We made it in such a short period of time. It was phenomenal. Blacks didn’t hardly make motorcycle officers at all, and we made it in a very fast period of time. One day I was going to get my motorcycle worked on. We had this place off New York Avenue that was a maintenance area. This maintenance area had a big, huge circle and around the circle were different shops. The motorcycle shop I went to was at the start of the circle. It was one way going around. I got it fixed and came out. Instead of me driving all the way around the circle, it was just a short distance the wrong way. I go the wrong way, so I don't have to drive around the whole circle. This elderly Black guy was out there. He said, “Hey, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” I asked what was wrong. He said “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Everybody is so proud of you and Charlie for being selected as a motorcycle officer. You guys are getting ready to screw it all up.” He said, “You gotta do what’s right. How do you think you’re going do what’s wrong and then enforce laws against other people? That one-way street sign doesn’t say you were excepted from that rule.” He said, “We’re so proud of you; it wasn’t just your victory. It was our victory too” and said, “I’m just disappointed.” I never forgot that because he said that people are always watching you. There’s nothing you can hide. You can’t hide if you mess up or do something wrong. The remedy to that is don’t do anything wrong. I learned that I have to be the example. I can’t do things and tell people to do something else, I have to meet that standard myself first. That’s one of my great lessons. I was really embarrassed—really embarrassed.
Isler: What advice would you give the next chief of police at NIH?
Hinton: I would remind him that he’s the guardian. He’s the head guardian of all these people here. I call them denizens. Our patients might be from Egypt. The doctor might be from California. People from everywhere, but you’re the protector of all these people, and you’ve got to look out for their rights and make sure the people that you’re in charge of don’t violate them either. You can’t look the other way. You’ve always got to be straightforward and take care of those people. When I first realized how much people depended on us was on 9/11. Nobody knew what to do, but we worked together, and we let people know we were doing everything we could. The NIH management was very supportive of us analyzing that we didn’t have some of the tools and things we needed for an occasion like this. We made them understand that just because we do noble things doesn’t mean we are exempt from terrorists and things of that sort—because they don’t care. They’re hoping to see the NIH going up in smoke and flames. They [management] really came to our aid and protected us. I never forget that. We really emerged as a team. Ever since then we don’t always get what we want or need, but they really are a lot more attentive to what we need to protect them. There’s a group that’s been started, and it’s a security board where they have different players from the NIH hierarchy. They listen to what we have. They give us advice on what they think we need to do, and stuff like that. It’s really great; we have a great relationship at the NIH.
Isler: Speaking of which, the pandemic has been challenging. How do you think the pandemic has changed the officer’s role?
Hinton: We would say terrorists are enemies, and we look out to protect them from the terrorists, make sure they don’t get any footholds in the NIH. We treat the COVID virus similarly to that. We try to do all the things that we can—follow in the CDC rules, Dr. Fauci’s advice, and things of that sort, do the things that will help us and prevent us from spreading diseases. Taking care to be proactive when we see something that’s going on, do something then. So, it’s changed—people are more concerned now than they were before about their health—but we have to make sure that we enforce those rules that protect them. Sometimes people don’t want to wear the mask. Sometimes we have to protect you from yourself. You’re going to wear that mask if you’re coming on campus, but we do it in a way that lets them understand we’re trying to protect them. This is quite a challenge to do it. We first have to keep ourselves from being infected so we don’t infect others, because we come in contact with everybody. We’ve got to keep ourselves safe. Then we have to do the same for people to help them protect themselves. It’s like when you fly on an airplane they say if the oxygen tube drops, first protect yourself so that you can help others. That’s what we try to do. We try to keep ourselves free of COVID so we can protect others. We try to use all the knowledge that we can to influence in whatever way we can. That’s been the big change. I think we’ve come together more since the COVID virus—and that’s everybody. That’s a common enemy.
Isler: You talked about protection, you talked about terrorism, and you talked about a group of teams that’s working behind the scenes to make sure that NIH overall is protected. What are some of the less visible ways that NIH Police serve the NIH workforce?
Hinton: Some of the things you maybe don’t see. We have people that do intelligence, and they’re behind the scenes looking at what threats are out there and trying to eliminate most of them before people are even seeing them. Some of them are cyber. We get people here from other countries and sometimes those people that come here are agents of their government and try to steal technology or figure out ways they could do things to harm us. There’s a lot of things in the background that you don’t see. We try to get technology that will assure us that we can detect things that are coming here that shouldn’t be on campus. We use x-ray machines and things to see if people have guns. You’d be surprised the amount of guns we get coming in and drugs and things of that sort. A lot of times people don’t realize that we’ve done something that protected them. We try to use technology to gain even better ways of doing things to protect the people. Also, we have alliances with other agencies. Coalitions that we utilize. If we don’t have a capability, we get another agency to do it for us and vice versa—if they need something from us, we will share it. It’s a big collaboration. You have to be willing to share information with other people to be really effective.
Isler: What are you most proud of from a career perspective?
Hinton: I’m kind of proud of all the things. I’ve met presidents. It’s just a multitude of things. One of the things I’m proud of is that I was able to be a part of such a noble organization as the NIH. Like I said, my grandmother was treated here; I was treated here. I look at the care they give you and the interest they take in you. Just being part of that—I could have never imagined that when I was a little boy in Shaw. The Park Police—some of the same things, I could have never imagined that when I was in Shaw. One of the things I try to do to repay this great honor I have, is to try to prepare other people for things when they feel they can’t make it. I try to give them a way and hope so they can. Whenever I can I just sit down, and I try to be a part-time mentor and encourage. I just love what I do. I just feel so blessed by being able to do these things and work around such great people. In each thing you’ve done, you learn something about it and from it. I’m just glad for all the experiences. Sometimes in the moment I wasn’t, but I’m glad for it. I’m glad for the ladies bringing me the sandwiches on the bus. I’m glad the whole incident happened. I couldn’t see it then because I was upset, but I see now how it helped me to understand people more, to single out good people from bad people. Sometimes if somebody’s bad, I try to change their behavior in small ways if I can.
Isler: You talked about mentoring. I did read in your biography—and this is a part of the Black experience—that you are a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. I’m just curious what drew you to that organization? When did you join and are you still a member? What are your thoughts about fraternities and sororities that were originally founded for African American people?
Hinton: I think they’re really, really great. I was in the Columbia chapter. One of the things we did was adopted a high school. We found out that some of the kids were having problems. There were things we couldn’t even imagine at the time, so we realized how much kids didn’t know. They didn’t really know about hygiene, so they would go out looking for a job and they don’t think about hygiene. Most Black people have to learn two languages—Ebonics and the King’s English. They go out speaking Ebonics and the person cuts them off right there. They don’t know about the history of our people, and this is just amazing if you go look at it. I like history; I really do—all history, really, and the things that people have accomplished. I was looking at the news the other day, about two weeks ago, and one of the Tuskegee Airmen was having his 102nd birthday. I think how long ago he was fighting just to be able to help the United States, because they didn’t want us helping the United States. I looked at the Navy gentleman, during World War II, Pearl Harbor—I can’t think of his name right now. Blacks weren’t allowed to use combat even though they were in the military. When they got attacked at Pearl Harbor, this guy had never been trained formally, but he had enough interest while things were peaceful, that he learned how to do it. He shot down several enemy planes. He won the Navy Cross for doing it. A lot of people don’t realize some of the accomplishments that we have made and so they think they can’t do it either, but that’s not the case. These sororities and stuff just by the nature of how old they are, give you something that there’s some substance to. An organization won’t last a hundred years if it’s not on its P’s and Q’s. I think it’s great. They do give a lot of inspiration to younger people—and even some older people sometimes get off the track, and they really help them out and help them get back to where they should be. So, I think they’re good. But of course, you have to do things right. If the organization drifts away from their charter or whatever it can become a not-too-good organization. In the Columbia chapter, when I was in that chapter, they had retired army colonels and generals. Things of that sort. I was just surprised. I didn’t know they had jobs like that, but they did. They really excelled. Can you imagine how hard it was back then to be a general? I’m just amazed at how they got through things and suffered. I think they’re great organizations when they are run correctly.
Isler: What attracted you to Kappa as opposed to the other ones that exist?
Hinton: What attracted me was that I knew a couple of them, and I liked the way they went about things and trying to help other people and things of that sort. I always wanted to be like that—be somebody that’s doing something good. When I was coming up, the Boys Club was very popular. They hosted sports and stuff like that. One of the things I remember, when you come in to play basketball, it was “Okay, we’re going to do homework first.” They made sure that you had the right things in mind; they guided you. The people that didn’t have food, they fed them. The people that didn’t have clothes, they helped get them clothes. When you see things like that, I wanted to be able to do something like that. Sometimes I go into Washington—I live in Maryland—I come down this particular street, New York Avenue. There’s a McDonalds on the corner of 1st and New York. I used to live near there. I come in there and I go in there intentionally because I know there’s going to be some people begging. I won’t give them any money because they might use it for the wrong purpose, but I tell them, “I’ll buy you any food you want.” Some people are just out there, they don’t have any hope. You just try to do little things that sometimes maybe give them hope. That makes sense.
Isler: Yes, it does. It does. I just want to thank you for your time and wanted to know if there’s anything else you’d like to share with us?
Hinton: I just think I’m an ordinary person. I think a lot of people have the time to do things; they just have to do them. As I’m retiring, I’m thinking about what I want to do when I retire, and volunteer work is going to be one of the things that I’m going to do.
Isler: What is life for you after retirement?
Hinton: I want to a little bit of volunteer work. I think I want to teach law enforcement techniques and things like that for community college or even a four-year college.
Isler: Speaking of which, one last thing since you did mention teaching community college. I do think you’ll have a lot to share as a teacher based upon your years of experience. I wanted to get your opinion on what happened related to the George Floyd situation. You did talk about how the attitudes towards police have changed throughout the years. How did you feel about that? I recognize that all police are not the same, but it seems like we are in a state where, for some communities, the police are not friendly and approachable. How do you think communities should handle it? How do you think police officers should handle it?
Hinton: There’s a lot of ways you can handle it. I was looking at a program that the police chief had in Boston. He would have ice cream trucks go through the neighborhoods. The police would be operating the trucks and they gave away ice cream to the kids and things of that sort. When I was growing up, I went to the police Boys Club. The police would be in the uniform, they’d be out there teaching how to play baseball, coaching you and things of that sort. You just have to be an example. One of the things that I always would tell people is, “You are not very smart if you’re going to be working a rough neighborhood and everybody hates you.” If you get in trouble out there or get hurt, you want wonderful people to call for help for you. They’re not going to do that if they see you as an oppressor. If they see you as a guardian, they’re going to protect you because you are their police. You go speak to them, you talk to them, sometimes you just bring little mementos that these kids can keep. They see stuff like that, so they come to regard you as their policeman. You don’t want to be “that” policeman, you want to be “their” policeman. If you are, then you’re going to be a lot safer, they’re going to have a lot more respect for you, and I think that’s what you do. You want to be their guardian; you want to let them know you are protecting them 24/7. There’s no lapse that then all of a sudden, you’re going to turn into putting your knee on somebody’s neck when you don’t have to and just murder them. You don’t do things like that. Sometimes you have to put yourself in their place—how would you like that if that was you, if you were being treated like that? There are just ways of handling people—you can do things with respect and avoid the hard way. I used to see people that would be out drinking, talking loud and cursing somewhere where they shouldn’t be doing that. I’d tell them, “You know, you shouldn’t be smoking and drinking out here, but I have to go down the street; I’ll be back in about 25 minutes” and then drive away. When I’d come back in 25 minutes, they’re gone. You’ve avoided that confrontation now. They’ll talk a lot of stuff, “I wish he hadn’t done this” and blah blah blah. But they’re leaving at the same time—they’re walking away. But if you confront them, then they’re going to feel like, “I have to show these other guys that I’m a bad guy” and that might get you into a fight or something like that. But you just use a little psychology to [get them] to leave on their own. Sometimes I go and say, “Who’s in charge?” and they say, “I’m in charge.” I say “Look, you know you guys aren’t supposed to be drinking. I’ll come back; I hope you take care of that.” When you come back, they’re gone. Rather than doing the confrontation—[saying] “You’re going to do that… you’re going to do that”. It might come to that, but it doesn’t have to start off like that. Generally, they realize what you’re doing too—they realize you let them save face. But you accomplished what you wanted to accomplish. Sometimes you’ve got to just know your neighborhood. You have to take time to understand your neighborhood, what you’ve got in your neighborhood—who’s incorrigible and who can be saved, and things of that sort. You deal with those people who can be saved, and they might go and save the incorrigible person. Just give them some respect and treat them like they’re human beings. I can’t say all the times you’re going to be okay, but most of the time you will. Most of the time you will. That’s been my experience anyway.
Isler: Chief Hinton, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for being a guardian at NIH. Congratulations on your retirement!