WHILE many young girls were playing with dolls and planning make-believe tea parties, Makinney Walker dreamt of becoming a police officer.
“This was always my childhood dream,” she told WMN.
“Even at a young age, I knew I wanted to be there for the community and be able to relate to them, to let everybody know if they needed anything they can ask questions. I wanted to be able to ensure that every citizen is treated equally and that there was fairness among the people.”
At the Baltimore Police Department, Maryland, where she has been assigned for over three years, Walker has been attempting do just that – ensuring its citizens are exposed to opportunities regardless of their social standing.
Apart from serving and protecting Baltimore’s residents, Walker has been helping to develop the city by providing an accommodating, nurturing environment, particularly for its disadvantaged youth.
With limited resources, Walker started a book reading campaign for underprivileged children in 2021 in which she accumulated over 200 books and school supplies.
She said the ongoing initiative is also a way to help promote a greater synergy between the police and its residents.
“My goal is to inspire creativity, develop confidence and develop a love of reading in children by providing them with books. This project is a way to give back to the community while helping me to engage with it by bridging the gap between the department and the community.”
Originally from Wall Street, Calvary Hill, Arima, Walker moved to the US in 2009 to fulfil her dream of becoming a police officer.
Over the past two years, she has been assigned to the Central District patrol B/C unit and in September 2022, received the Officer of the Month award for her commitment and dedication.
Walker, a practising Muslim, said her faith has not stymied her career but enhanced it. In fact, she is currently pursuing a degree in criminal justice and a diploma in Arabic Language and conversation.
As the district’s Islamic liaison officer, Walker communicates with all of the masjids in Baltimore as well as people who may be visiting the city or new residents coming from different Arabic-speaking countries.
“As a Muslim from a young age, I bring a wealth of Islamic knowledge to the department. My knowledge of Islam is invaluable in helping other officers better understand the Muslim community by enabling them to deal with issues and situations involving Muslims.”
She said she decided to pursue a criminal justice degree to enhance her understanding of the American criminal justice system.
“I am passionate about helping others in times of need. The criminal justice system works together to protect people and prevent and control crime.”
Walker, whose husband is also a police officer, described the Baltimore Police Department as “a great department and equal opportunity employer.”
She said although policing has been historically dominated by men, she has never been sexually-harassed, sidelined or treated differently from her male colleagues. From her experience, it also is not difficult for women to move up the ranks.
“In any department, there are different exams and steps that need to be taken to advance, just as men and women are responsible for their own career development. It is not difficult for women to be promoted.”
She said her female counterparts in other jurisdictions across the US may tell a different story.
But Walker noted there is a common assumption that women can’t handle the job physically in the way most men can.
This, she believes, has been proven wrong time and time again.
“The fact is women tend to be better at calming people down with verbal techniques. So they don’t often have to use physical methods to de-escalate a situation.”
Still, female police officers, whom she said make up a rather low percentage of most departments, can be forceful and aggressive if called upon.
“When the need arises, women find their adrenaline spikes and they often get that superhuman strength they need to contain a suspect when necessary.”
A typical day for Walker begins at 6.15 am with roll call, which is usually carried out by a shift lieutenant or sergeant. Officers on duty will then receive their shift assignments. They will also be notified of any noteworthy incidents that occurred during the previous shift.
An inspection will then be conducted to ensure that gear and uniform are intact. Walker said patrol cars must be equipped with flares, crime scene tape and fire extinguishers.
“I then turn on my radio and advise the dispatcher that I am in service and ready for duty. I could either be dispatched to an accident or domestic situation then get calls for service where I might be dispatched to an accident or a domestic situation. Someone may even approach me for directions.
“Most days, the day goes by quickly, and if I'm not being held over for an additional four hours because of a staffing shortage, I get off on time at around 2.45pm. Every day is always different.”
Although it’s often called the “charm city,” Walker told WMN Baltimore is far from idyllic.
In fact, the city is well-known for its high crime rate, which is often greater than the average nationally.The city has a murder rate of 57 murders per 100,000 people, the second highest in the nation.
The first six months of 2022 saw an increase in homicides, making it the deadliest period in the city's history. Theft is also a big problem.
Like many cities, Walker said poverty and crime, especially drug-dealing, are Baltimore’s biggest challenges.
“Most street drug dealers in Baltimore do not do this for millions of dollars or as part of a cartel or drug-smuggling ring. They do it to make a living, period.”
Walker said the area which she serves, Pennsylvania Avenue, is rife with drug use.
She recalled being dispatched to a scene in 2021 in which she had to attend to an unresponsive man. The man had a white powdery substance around his nose and his skin was bluish in colour.
Walker said she quickly deployed naloxone (a brand-name drug that's used to treat opioid overdose) while her partner performed CPR and the man responded by moving his fingers. A medic, who also responded to the call, told her that she had saved the man’s life. Had it not been for the naloxone, the man would have died of an overdose.
Walker later received a life-saving award from the department.
Saying that “overdose calls” occur daily, Walker said if a new drug is on the street and someone almost died from an overdose, the users will run after that drug because they want to try it out.
Drug addiction, she noted, encompasses all age groups and ethnicities.
“A lot of kids have to deal with a parent or guardian that uses drugs.”
Walker said she once spoke to a 19-year-old who told her that he has been taking drugs with his mother from the age of eight.
“So for him that is all he knew.”
But she said there is hope.
“There are a lot of programmes to help people to go to rehab and cleanse themselves. But unfortunately not a lot of people are mentally strong to go through with the programmes. The drug situation is really sad.”
Despite the rigours of the job, Walker said her love for policing has never waned and continues to be hugely rewarding.
She said she finds time to pray at least five times a day while on duty to stay centred and motivated. She also takes time off for all religious holidays.
Walker, who tries to visit Trinidad at least once a year, said she and her husband have also compartmentalised their lives.
“We always keep work life and home life separate. Never discuss work related issues at home. Family always comes first. I have shown empathy and patience with my family life and my life as an officer.”
Walker advised young women thinking of becoming police officers to follow their dreams but also set an example for others.