McNamara and Greenberg: Rest in Peace

During my active police days, I came to know two memorable police icons: Joe McNamara and Reuben Greenberg. Who could forget them and the creativity and vitality they brought to policing in our country?


la-la-me-0923-mcnamara-obit-jpg-20140923Joe McNamara was a New York cop with a doctorate from Harvard. During his New York career he worked a foot beat in Harlem. He said that experience was life-changing. He said, “It made me invested in the lives of the people who lived in those neighborhoods…. It gave me a stake in their well-being.”

McNamara was a cop who also wrote crime novels in his spare time. Or as he told me, when he couldn’t sleep at night, he wrote novels.

He was courageous. He took on the “War on Drugs” and the NRA gun lobby. As chief in Kansas City he once went to the funeral of a black youth who was shot by police. He told me his officers never forgave him for it.

He criticized Chief Darryl Gates of the Los Angeles department when he stated that the Rodney King beating was an anomaly. McNamara disagreed. He wrote this in an op-ed in the LA Times: “The brutal videotaped beating of Rodney G. King… indicate that Police Chief Daryl F. Gates has failed both to maintain the integrity of his force and the confidence of the public, he should retire from office. It is difficult to see the LAPD regaining its credibility with him remaining as its chief.” Gates, not one to back down, called Joe “a damned oddball.” But the controversial LAPD chief ultimately resigned.

Joe ended up with a long tenure as San Jose’s chief. He was a champion for diversity within the ranks, community-oriented policing, and hiring women and racial minorities.

He died September 19th of pancreatic cancer at his home in Carmel, Calif. He was 79, a son and brother of police officers. He and his ideas will be greatly missed.

[For more about McNamara, CLICK HERE.]


bildeAs liberal as Joe McNamara was, Reuben Greenberg was the opposite. He was a no-holds-barred crimefighter! The interesting thing in comparing these two colleagues, both of whom I came to know quite well, was they both championed the people, diversity in policing, innovation, and compassionate leadership.

Greenberg was called both charismatic and combative. We argued. He served Charleston for 23 years as chief (beating my long tenure by two years!). He was Charleston’s first and only black police chief. He roller-skated. He practiced the Jewish faith.

Reuben led an overwhelming white police department in a changing southern city. He required all newly-hired officers to hold a bachelor’s degree.

He was a leader who was frequently in-your-face and often larger-than-life. He was passionate about fighting crime, opinionated, and had a hard-hitting, “lock-em-up” approach. We often disagreed.

Understandably, Greenberg became a national celebrity and source of pride for Charleston. But he also had his share of critics. Reuben could often be brash and exhibit a temper.

He, too, will be greatly missed. He died September 24 after a long period of declining health at an assisted living center. He was 71.

[For more about Greenberg, CLICK HERE.]