A black, Jewish Texan walks into a police station…

and ends up cleaning up the whole town.

A reader sent me a link to this article that reminds us of the accomplishments of Reuben Greenberg, who had such a distinguished career as police chief in Charleston. As we mull over just how big a mess the Columbia police department is in these days, and view the latest Highway Patrol video, we might long for such a top cop:

Reuben Greenberg was undoubtedly the ultimate "man bites dog" story, for what could be more unlikely than a black, observant Jew from Texas transforming a city in the heart of the Confederacy from a crime-ridden center of corruption to a uniquely well-managed place that cracked down on crime at the same time it virtually eliminated police brutality — and even rudeness? Greenberg told his cops that their job was not to punish (that was up to the courts), but to make arrests, and in order to do that they had to be on good terms with the citizens. Thus, he said early on in his memorable tenure, he would defend a policeman for using "excessive force" to make an arrest, but he would fire anyone who used abusive language with a citizen.

4 thoughts on “A black, Jewish Texan walks into a police station…

  1. Bob

    Brad, I don’t believe you really knew Greenburg because if you did you would know that when SC had hurricane Hugo blow through and Greenburg was asked by officers what to do to looters, he told the officers to “just beat them.”

  2. Brad Warthen

    So you’re saying it would be better to SHOOT them, or what?
    Just kidding… I think.
    So you’re saying that this story is completely true, not a bit apocryphal, and that everything else he did in his career is outweighed by that?

  3. Richard L. Wolfe

    Since, I live in Charleston I can give you the straight scoop. It is true that Greenberg was one of the best police chiefs we have ever had. It is false that he ended police brutality. At least two inmates of the Chareston City jail were beaten to death under his watch by police officers.


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