Edward Doyle-Gillespie was on his way to an academic career teaching literature and history when his plans abruptly changed in fall 2001.
“9/11 was my first day of graduate school,” Doyle-Gillespie says. “Like everyone else, I watched it unfold and I thought, ‘OK, I'm going to get that master's degree, I’m going to earn a black belt and I'm going to go protect people from bad guys.’”
Today, Gillespie is still teaching, but not at a university, and the subjects aren’t great books or philosophy. He’s an instructor at Baltimore Police Academy, where he teaches officers about community policing, ethics, and counterterrorism. After 13 years, he’s now a detective on the force, but when he started, he worked the streets as a beat cop.
“I was in a unit a special task force for a Pennsylvania Avenue corridor,” he says. “Pennsylvania Avenue runs through Baltimore City and it runs through some of our very high crime, at risk areas. So you have a lot of poverty, a lot of disrupted families, a lot of narcotics, a lot of health problems. I've been in situations where a person was combative. They were ready to fight a cop. I've been shot at and I've also dealt with people that were just scared.”
Gillespie always found writing stories cathartic, a way to process whatever was going on in his life. But as a police officer witnessing people in the most desperate conditions, he increasingly turned to poetry as a vehicle for understanding and expressing his experiences on the job.
“There are these moments in policing, distilled moments of a word, an image, a smell, a concept, that to me bespeaks of a kind of encapsulated poem right there.”
You can watch a video about him by the Baltimore Police Department here: