History and the People Who Make It: Marquitta Brown

Transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the nineteenth in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Marquitta Brown was interviewed by Sarah Blanc [SB] in 2010.

MB: I was born January 20, 1988. I grew up in Miami, played sports all the time. Every Christmas, it was either a cop toy set and Matchbox cars, no Barbie dolls, none of that. Growing up at first, nothing was dangerous or anything, until twelfth grade.

And then, everything was life-changing. Friends that I was sitting by, the next day they wouldn’t be there, they had got shot and killed at some party. So twelfth grade for me was more like, alright, life is serious; I need to get out of here.

I had good academics always. I had a lot of domestic violence in my home between my mom and dad. That was my motivation, just to get my grades, go away to school, never come back home.

In high school, I worked every summer. I would at least have two jobs and during school I would have at least one. I’d stop when sports started ’cause I’d play basketball every season.

Me and the friends in high school, we were all in competition. We challenged each other. That was our way of motivating each other and keeping each other on top.

SB: Did you have any teachers or advisors in high school that really pushed you?

MB: Yes, Mr. Henry. He was my criminal justice teacher, which I had met ninth grade. He was why I went to Miami Carol City Senior High School. I had him all up until twelfth grade.

He passed away that October, so that was hard. He was always saying something positive. I wish he was still alive so I could call him back and be like, yeah, I’m a police officer now.

I did a speech my twelfth grade year, because I was the class president, and I dedicated my speech to him, and my close friend had passed away my twelfth grade year, Jeffery. It was a good speech, too.

The title was, “All Grown Up.” I also have a tattoo on my back that says, all grown up.

Mr. Henry would always say, it takes a village to raise a child. I found comfort in my godmother, I found comfort in Mr. Henry, and my brothers, and my friends. This is the village that he was talking about. And even just by working, through summer programs. I had made so many connections, so many people that would write good references, all of that carried me along.

My brother ended up being the victim of some gang stuff. They would just jump random people. So my brother and his friend walking home from school got jumped by at least five boys.

I kept begging my mom; let him come live with me, his eleventh and twelfth grade of high school. And he’s now at Santa Fe. He still lives with me.

I ended up coming [to UF] in the fall, a lot of my friends came up the summer, but I wanted to still work because I had already applied for a paid internship. It was the City of Miami Gardens. And I ended up getting a job at Call the Racetrack, in the marketing department there, for two summers. The next year I ended up at the Miami Dolphins Stadium executive office.

SB: When you got to college, did you know what you wanted to study?

MB: It was always Criminology. When I came in here, I got twenty-four college credits from the criminal justice program I was telling you about, with Mr. Henry. We would go to Miami-Dade and take classes; UF took twenty-one of those.

There was never anything else I wanted to do but law enforcement and work on juveniles. When I did go to UF, I did Criminology and Family, Youth, and Community.

I don’t think it was until my third year I had Criminal Law. That class itself was just what I’ve been waiting for. It made you really think. It wasn’t like, A, B, C, D, bubble in, so that was good.

SB: Did you live on campus your first year?

MB: Yes. Simpson Hall. The fifth floor. Stairs, no elevator. We had a nice gym, Southeast gym. And that became my hangout. I would go there, play basketball, for hours and hours. Someone was like, hey, do you want to join our team for flag football? I love football. I played football when I was little, nine and ten, with all boys. I was the only girl that passed and everything.

After that semester, I got my own team started. Co-ed and women’s. And then took the same team and played basketball, co-ed and women’s. That was my life here at UF. I enjoyed every minute of it. Became a legend. Three years and I was done.

I was working at Southwest gym. My second year I worked there, my third year, too, as a scorekeeper and as the building attendant, so that was good. It’s not like I needed to work, it was just in me. Like, not to bank on just my financial aid money like so many people do, and then they run out and they’re like, ahh. My financial aid money will be for school and saved, and my spending money will be what I make working.

Senior year, and I was like, ahh, what am I going to do? I do not want to go back to Miami. But I started thinking, I really want to work with juveniles, how hard it would be to get on the police up here, and I saw, oh, shoot, they got some job openings. So I hurried up and applied. Gainesville Police Department, they do tryouts, so I did good at my tryouts, I guess.

First, you had to do a written test, which, that’s nothing. Then you have to do a physical agility: it’s like a whole obstacle course. The only part that slowed me down was we had to drag this fifty-weight thing from here to here. I mean, I’m not the strongest person. And it was muddy and I kept falling and trying to pull; it was crazy.

But even after that part, we still had to sprint 200 or 300 yards or so. Tired as I was, I still sprinted. After that you had the oral board. They give you a scenario, what would you do?

I’m trying to think of certain things I had learned from college and from my high school program. So, it helped, I guess, ‘cause I passed. Then I took the psych exam, then a polygraph. I don’t have anything to lie about, so I wasn’t scared. You ever done any drugs? I’m like, dude, I’ve never smoked a cigarette. I stay out of the clubs because I don’t like smoke. I’ve never done any drugs. So then he’s like, oh, what about steroids?

That was funny. After that, I knew I was hired.

I got in an academy that was like six months long. You do four more months of training, riding with other officers. That was nerve-wracking ‘cause every night, you’re getting judged by another officer. That was very good training. And I went solo. I got my own police car now and everything. I guess they trust me. [Laughter]

Every day, you don’t know what’s going to happen. All you know is, you’re gonna have to help somebody and you have to put somebody to the ground.

SB: Have you had to?

MB: Oh, yeah, it’s fun. I even got scars.

I got scratched up by a female. She had a crack pipe on her and she didn’t want to go to jail. She ended up being HIV-positive, so I had to get tested, and everything was negative, but it was still scary.

You risk your life every day. But I like to think about it as, if I walk out of my house, or even sitting inside, my life could always be on the line. Because it was, my twelfth grade year, back to that. It was like two cases where an eight-year-old girl, sitting on the porch, playing with a doll, got shot for no reason. People doing drive-by shootings.

For one, I’m very spiritual. I feel like I have 100 percent connection with God. I’m at peace with life itself. And I don’t think about death. I enjoy my job. I just try to be safe.

I work out east, in the zone that I worked in with the summer camp with the kids. I want to start a youth program. I don’t know if I’m going to end up doing it here in Gainesville or once I’m retired from police, go back to Miami and do it. Because, you know, we have parks and stuff but any and everybody could come.

They would come on the basketball court, run all the kids off, smoke, do whatever they wanted to do. There was nowhere to go. We played football on the street. We would have track and field contests in the middle of the street. We would put out slides in the grass in the front yard, cut on the sprinklers, and everybody from the neighborhood would come, which was fun.

I want to have all these things, just a big youth recreation program. I want them to be able to play football, basketball, flag football, soccer, everything. Just so they can have somewhere to go. ’Cause a lot of kids, they resort to crime ’cause it’s too much time on their hands.

My area that I work in is all low-income families. And I get mad because I work from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. and literally, you will see five-year-olds still out and about in the neighborhood at 12 a.m., with no parent.

I always either blame parenting or just, like I said, there’s no opportunities out here, nowhere constructive to go, so you just roam the streets.

I drive around and I have a little five-year-old stick a middle finger at me because their parents are teaching them: I hate the cops, so you should hate the cops too. You shouldn’t teach your kids that. If anything, you should teach your child how to respond to the police.

My mom and dad, when they were teaching us how to drive, they taught us if you get pulled over by the police, keep your hands on the steering wheel so they can see them. Don’t move, don’t do anything until they tell you to do it. And my mom would always say, if you can, dial our home, because we had cell phones, and we had them on speed dial, so put us on the phone and just let us listen to everything. I’ve had so many encounters with police officers and they’re bad experiences in Miami, but it didn’t make me hate them. I just wanted to join them.

SB: Do your friends and family treat you differently now that you’re a police officer?

MB: No, they love it. My brother, he loves it. My older brother, he has so many run-ins with the cops. I’m just like, dude, you’re not going to win, not acting like that, My mom, she loves it. My dad, he brags about me all the time. And my husband, he got hired by GPD as well, so we’ll both be police officers. He’s so protective. Yo, I’m the officer. [Laughter] Let me protect you now.

I love kids, I can’t wait to have kids. But I’m just waiting with the whole job thing right now because I don’t want to be off for nine months. I mean, jeez, nine months.

I think the worst things I probably deal with is people who attempt to commit suicide and stuff. It’s just good, man. I love driving fast. I do. [laughter] It’s so cool. You running, lights and sirens. You get a rush, man.

My goal is to never be rude to anybody. My communication skills with people are excellent. I’m usually able to talk somebody right into handcuffs, you know, put them at ease. Just talking to people, it saves a lot of situations from becoming something it doesn’t have to be.

Search for “Marquitta Brown” at http://oral.history.ufl.edu/collection/ for the full transcript of this interview.

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