Chief Reuben Greenberg, Charleston, S.C.

Former Charleston Police Chief Reuben Greenberg remembered as groundbreaking, passionate

[Ed. Note: I somehow missed this in 2014, another death of one of my contemporaries during the “change years” of policing. I have noted on this blog in past of the deaths of Chiefs Joe McNamara and Bob DiGrazia. I fondly remember Chief Greenberg. He was unique as a Jewish African American and conservative. We used to have some heated and fond exchanges about how we should go about policing this fragile democracy. These were the days that you could totally disagree with a colleague and still admire them. I long for a return to those days once again. Dear Reuben, rest in peace!]

Schuyler Kropf and Glenn Smith, The Post and Courier, Charleston

Sep 23, 2014

Chief Reuben Greenberg, cop, police chief, teacher, Jew, and Black

Former Charleston Police Chief Reuben M. Greenberg, a charismatic and combative leader who drove down crime and drew national attention to the Holy City during his 23 years as its top cop, died Wednesday after a long period of declining health. He was 71.

Mayor Joe Riley said Greenberg – the city’s first and only black police chief – will long be remembered as a pioneer and innovative pace-setter who led the force at a time when Charleston was growing again in terms of national prominence.

“He is an historic figure in this historic city,” Riley said shortly after news of Greenberg’s passing began to spread. “The quality and the credibility of his police leadership made him a national figure…”

He was considered something of a curiosity right from the start: a black, Jewish, roller-skating cop chosen to lead an overwhelmingly white southern police force in a tradition-bound city on the cusp of great change…

He made it a requirement that all new hires at the police department have a four-year college degree…

Current and former law enforcement officers said Greenberg helped change policing across South Carolina, bringing in new professionalism, tactics and ideas. While he could be brash and unpredictable, few doubted his dedication to his chosen profession.

“He was a change-agent, no doubt about it, an excellent chief and a man for the times,” said longtime colleague Ned Hethington, who served as interim police chief after Greenberg retired. “He was very demanding. He was on the job 24 hours a day, and he expected the job to be done at a very high level. He never made any apologies about that…”

Prior to his arrival in 1982, Greenberg earned his many degrees in the San Francisco Bay area during the turbulent years marked by the Vietnam War and Civil Rights protests. He worked in law enforcement and also taught college-level public safety courses…

Greenberg’s 1989 book, “Let’s Take Back Our Streets,” sold more than 70,000 copies. He traveled extensively, speaking and teaching across the country and abroad. He also was courted by officials of some of the country’s major cities, but each time he chose to remain in Charleston…

After his retirement, Greenberg faded from public view. As recently as 2008 he was living in Tryon, N.C., where, in a rare interview given to The Post and Courier, he admitted to having two or three strokes before his departure from the force.

“I don’t get angry anymore,” he said of his quiet obscure life in the mountains. “I’m happy.”

In more recent times he returned to Charleston, quietly living out of the public eye in a facility in West Ashley as his health deteriorated.


You can read the full article HERE.


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