by Michael Berish
The Naked City
"Character is who you are in the dark
when nobody is watching."
In 1948, a movie entitled The Naked City—starring
Barry Fitzgerald—was released.  In the late Fifties, it
was made into a TV series starring James
Franciscus; both were filmed, on location, in New
York City.

The series consisted of sociological character
studies that were explored within a setting of urban
pathos—the process of life moving ever onward,
resolving nothing.  An everyday story line would
burst forth each week from the TV screen and be
layered with insupposable events, and just when
you thought it was all over and nothing else could
possibly happen—Bang!—up popped another twist
in the plot that confounded your imagination.  At
the conclusion of each show, the narrator (in a
voice-over) would intone: “There are eight million
stories in the Naked City; this has been one of

In the Seventies, I was a City of Miami police officer
riding in the Pit, the Black ghetto in downtown Miami
, and whenever one of those cycle of events—that
staggers you back onto your heels—would happen,
I’d turn to my partner and say: “There are eight
million stories in the Naked City ; this has been one
of them.”  Later in my career, I revised that adage
to: “There are eight million stories in the Pit; this
has been one of them.”  I’m not sure if any of my
partners knew exactly what I was referring to
(reference the movie or TV series), but they sure
knew what I meant.  What follows is a peek into
that human swamp, into one of those eight million

It was a hot summer night, nearly eleven
o’clock .  I was riding “C” shift (the 9:00
p.m. to 7:00 a.m. tour of duty) in 40 Sector (the
Pit) with a cop named Matt Miller when the
dispatcher came on the air.

“Three, Forty-Three.  Take a 13 (information call)
reference: Check on the welfare of a woman in the
alley of an apartment complex on the corner of
Northwest Seventh Avenue and Twelve Street .  
Phoned in by an anonymous caller.  No further

The QTH (location) was on the fringe of the Pit, a
mixed Black and White neighborhood.  We were
right around the corner and arrived within the
minute.  Pulling up in front of the alley, my partner
rolled down his window, listened for no more than
two to three seconds, then said: “I don’t hear
anything, let’s go.”

“Wait a minute; wait a minute!” I replied.  “Let’s
check it out.”  I was young and eager.  Actually, he
was too; we’d both graduated from the same
academy class, the year before.  As I climbed out of
the patrol car, Matt said:  “I’ll wait here for you,” as
he drank his coffee.  It was later I discovered why
he never went down that passageway with me: He
was a coward.

The high-rise complex was configured with four
apartment buildings situated in a square, which
enclosed an inner courtyard that was a parking lot
for the tenants; the walkway I now stood in lead
into this courtyard.  I turned off my radio (so as
not to transmit my position), put my back to the
wall (no sense letting anyone creep up behind you),
and headed down the alleyway.  I slowly inched
along the brick wall, letting my eyes adjust to the
blackness.  As I came upon the darkened parking
lot, I stood motionless and held my breath—a trick I
learned from my first partner, Officer Stan “Spooky”
O’Kofski.  In the stillness of the moment, you can
hear that other person breathing, the one you were
just chasing into the night, a twinkling ago, and
who is now—hiding.  I scanned the long rows of
automobiles.  My mind began to work overtime:
What was that?!

Sometimes your subconscious sees danger before
you’re even aware of it; it’s a sixth sense and most
cops have it.  My eyes went back and forth over the
last column of autos.  There, in that string of
cars…over there!  Wait a minute…it’s gone.

Was it just my eyes playing tricks on me?  Your
mind goes weird on you sometimes when you’re
alone in the darkness, down some backstreet lane.

There!  There it is again; it just popped-up in that
sedan.  That same string of cars: the third one
from the left.  It’s a head.  It’s gone…Now, it’s
back…It’s a head, going up and down.

I drew my revolver and moved stealthily towards
the vehicle.  I closed at a forty-five degree angle to
the pillar (metal post that runs from the roof to the
trunk) on the vehicle; this would keep me in the
blind spot of the sedan and undetectable…hopefully.

When I reached the hardtop, I jerked open the
driver’s side door.  There on the blood-splattered
front seat lay an Anglo woman—Dorothy Wright—a
widow of about sixty years of age; her underwear
and panty hose were torn off, her dress hiked-up
around her waist.  At first, I thought the
perpetrator had taken a knife to his victim; the
front bench seat looked as if he’d slaughtered a calf
in there.  Later, I found the Coca-Cola bottle he’d
used to subdue Mrs. Wright by knocking out her
front teeth; she looked as if she’d just gone fifteen
rounds with Muhammad Ali at Madison Square
Garden.  I saw the look of horror on her face, the
tears streaming down, her body convulsing in
shock; but when she saw my uniform, her face
changed in an instant.  She looked out from a tiny
opening in the one remaining split and bloodied eye
(the other was black and blue, and totally shut),
then smiled through the remaining, broken-off
stubs that once were teeth as if she’d just seen the
beatific vision of Christ himself come to her rescue.

In the next millisecond, a Black teenager exploded
up and out of the automobile.  I use that word,
teenager, loosely.  He was bigger than me, much
bigger than me: At six-foot, one hundred-ninety
pounds, here stood Jesse James Jackson, the
teenager.  I jammed my Colt up and under his chin,
where the jaw line met his Adam’s apple.  He rose
up on his toes and begged: “Please don’t kill me!”
as he furiously fumbled with his pants.  I thought
he was going for the same frog sticker he’d used on
the widow.  In the dead silence, you could hear the
click of my revolver as I pulled the hammer back
and pushed the handgun into his neck, raising him
up further on the balls of his feet.  “Just give me an
excuse to kill you,” I said.  I looked down for his
carving knife; he was just putting his turgid penis
back in his pants.  I nodded towards the alleyway.  
“Run,” I told him.

“What are you, crazy?” he replied.  “I know better;
I’d never run.  I’m a juvenile.  The judge ain’t gonna
do nutin’ to me compared to what you’d guys’ll do
iffin I ran.”

From the other end of the parking lot came Unit
Three, Forty-One—Officer Stan “Spooky” O’Kofski—
the veteran partner I rode with while on probation.  
He spotted me between the parked vehicles, sped
over, jumped from his gumball machine and cuffed
my prisoner—faster than a whore highballing it past
a church; that was “Spooky” for you; he was good.

“Nice collar,” said The Spook as he attempted to
hammer my “alleged suspect” in his left testicle with
a Kel-Lite (big, heavy-duty, metal flashlight that
takes four D batteries)

I grabbed his arm and stopped him.  “Easy Spook.”
“Always the soft one.  You’ll learn some day.”

“It’s not that; it’s just that I’ll have to do the Use of
Force Report when I end up schleppin’ him over to
Ward D (where injured prisoners are taken at
Jackson Memorial Hospital ) with only one nut.  
Then, what am I gonna say?  That old standard: He
fell down?  No thanks.  “He’s my prisoner.  I’m
responsible for him; that’s what ya taught me,
wasn’t it?  Don’t let any cops mess with your
prisoner.  If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to
take him downtown in one piece.”

The Spook smiled; a smile that twinkled and he had
a glint in his eye to go along with it.  “Ya did learn
sumthin’ ridin’ with me, after all.”  He backed off.

Now it was the perp’s turn to smile as we led him
out to the sidewalk.  Matt was still in the cruiser, he
hadn’t moved; in fact, when I put my prisoner in
the back seat, he never even got out to help; he
just said: “We get a collar?”

Whenever a unit busted a murdered, or an armed
robber, or a rapist, the entire sector would cruise
by to eyeball the suspect for future reference.  That
evening as we sat in the gumball (I had to do all the
paperwork since Miller hadn’t witnessed anything,
obviously), the rest of the sector took a mental
note of the accused.

Jesse was a minor, but the Assistant State
Attorney (A. S. A.; a better title would be: Resident
Flunky in Training)—Jerome Baylis—decided to try
him as an adult.  Even though he was only sixteen-
years old, he had twenty-one prior arrests from
petit bicycle theft to B & E (Breaking and Entering)
of a Dwelling.

We went in front of a diminutive, Italian, Circuit
Court Judge—who dyed his hair the color of coal oil,
considered himself catnip to the ladies despite his
already being married, and went by the name of
Vincenzo Scarfanelli—to decide if Jackson should be
bound over for trial as an adult.  Technically, the
crime Jesse was accused of was “sexual battery,”
according to the legislature.  In today’s culturally
and politically correct world, it sounds so much
better to be accused of “sexual battery” rather that
RAPE!  It sounds like you have a slight hormonal
disorder of the thyroid gland rather than what you
actually are: a degenerate who’d smash out the
front teeth of a sixty-year-old woman with a Coke
bottle and then forcibly penetrated her against her

Since the defendant had been incarcerated for the
past two weeks in lock-up at Youth Hall, the
question of bail was also to be determined at this
hearing.  Mrs. Ruby Jackson, his mother, was
there.  There was no Mr. Jackson; the rapist’s
father could have been one of any number of men
that Ruby was having carnal knowledge with at the
time of her pregnancy.

The mother was—of course—tearful and went on,
and on, about how her son was “so wonderful, so
devoted.”  It was a little like listening to the
progenitor of Jack the Ripper catalog his virtues in a
court of law.  Her past for drug abuse and
prostitution were never brought up; they were
“irrelevant” said the Assistant State Attorney.  I
asked him: “Whose side are you on?”  To which he
replied: “No one’s side.  I’m for the rights of the
people.  I’m here to see that justice for all is done.”  
Those are such nice, self-righteous words: “rights
of the people…justice for all.”

“Just a little misunderstood, at times,” is how Mrs.
Jackson explained this latest “mishap,” as she called
it.  If the “kind judge” would only release her son
into her custody, she—as a “good mother”—just
“knew” she could “straighten” him out.  She was the
“good mother” of seven children; all on welfare;
all—once they got past the age of reason—had
criminal records.  She was raising a brood of

I was called to testify and told Judge Vinnie: “The
time for straightening him out was long past.”  I
was counseled here for expressing my opinion.  
“You should stick to the facts,” said the judge.  I
felt like saying: I should stick to the facts while this
overindulgent mother is allowed to blabber all over
the place about whatever pops into her shameless,
drug-ridden mind.  I gripped my tongue between
my teeth and never expressed my true opinion.

“Should bail be granted or not, Officer?” asked the
“No, sir,” I replied.
“Why not, Officer?”

“If he’s allowed free on bond, with his track record,
this would only happen again.”  But, what did I
know?  That was “just another opinion” of mine,
according to the judge.  Judge Scarfanelli released
him to his mother’s custody.  My “opinion” (another
one I never got to express) was: If she was such a
“good mother,” where was she when her son
committed his prior twenty-one, now twenty-two,

Ordinarily, here is where a story like this would
end…ordinarily.  However, in this story, there are
several postscripts.

Three weeks later, another “C” shift unit caught
Jesse James Jackson RAPING a sixty–three-year-old
Black/female, Mrs. Ethel Cumbie, two blocks away
from his first sexual battery.  Again, he beat his
victim, unmercifully.  Unfortunately, for Jesse, the
units in 40 Sector remembered him from the night
they all tooled-by and eyeballed him.  According to
the A-Form (arrest form) that was submitted to
Ward D, the juvenile—who knew better and would
never run—tried to…escape.  He was treated for a
broken leg, a fractured wrist, three cracked ribs, a
collapsed lung, and numerous contusions and
abrasions to his face.  (Face was crossed-out on
the A-Form and replaced by: entire body.)  
According to most of the officers on the scene, he
“got the thumpin’ he deserved.”  Thank God,
another judge handled that bond hearing; the two-
time rapist was denied bail.

The Assistant State Attorney was afraid we didn’t
have enough evidence to convict.  “My God!  Not
enough evidence?!” I asked, incredulously.  “You’ve
got the victim’s testimony, her clothing, photos of
her disfigurement, toxicology reports, and
testimony from the arresting officer who caught
“the accused” with his Johnson in hand.  My God,
man!, what does it take for you?  A signed
confession in blood?!”

“Technically,” he said, “you got there too quick.  On
that first sexual battery, it’s not really a sexual
battery; it’s a sexual assault.  You opened that
door before he actually penetrated Mrs. Wright.”

“Shame on me!” I said.  “Next time, I’ll slow it down
a tad.  Really get the goods on the defendant.  
Next time, I’ll sit out in the squad car with Officer
Miller for a while; take a coffee break, maybe.  Give
the victim more scream time.  Maybe if I dawdle
long enough, I’ll catch a murder case instead of a
little old measly ‘sexual assault.’”

Not with standing my protest, the A. S. A. offered
Jesse’s public defender two years for BOTH rapes,
which he scarfed-up in a second.  Jackson plead in
to the sexual assault and sexual battery, served
half his time, and was back out on the streets
before you could say: “rights of the people,” or
“justice for all.”

I received a commendation for the arrest, so did
Matt since we were partners.  About a week later,
we were chasing a suspect on foot up Northwest
First Avenue for possession of narcotics.  The
offender turned down a dirt path between some
row houses off Sixteenth Street .  I looked back for
Matt and saw him standing in the middle of the
street, watching me.  I chased the perpetrator
behind some buildings where he jumped me from a
back porch.  We struggled over my gun, and he
nearly shot me in the head (with my own gun!).  I
finally wrestled it away just as a plainclothes
detective named Bobby Gannon, having heard me
advise of my last position over the radio, turned the
corner and assisted me in handcuffing the suspect.

Matt was waiting in the cruiser when I emerged from
behind the houses.  I knew he saw me go down
that passageway, and I knew he knew I was in a
fight.  He never came to my assistance, nor did he
even advise of my position.  After we booked the
defendant (for which we BOTH got commendations
again; Gannon did not), I told him that I was
requesting a new partner next month; and for the
remainder of the month, I’d do all the driving and
write-up all the reports (Usually, one officer drives
while the other writes reports, then they switch the
next night).

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m a one-man unit for
the rest of the month,” I said, as I looked him in the
eye.  He knew I KNEW: This job wasn’t for him; he
didn’t have the guts for it.

Bobby Gannon was a big–time gambler.  He worked
in the Robbery Unit and was caught (several times)
placing bets over his phone with a bookie; he was
completely addicted; it cost him his job.  He was a
stand-up guy; I’ll always remember him for showing
up when he did.  Bobby had a sixth sense for
danger; he had this unique ability to always be in
the right spot at the right time though how he got
there no one knew, least of all Bobby.  He died
several years later at the age of thirty-one from a
massive heart attack while waiting in line at the

The prosecutor, Jerome Baylis, completed his basic
training with the State Attorney’s Office, went into
private practice, and ended-up defending people like
Jesse James Jackson— only a whole lot richer—and
made a very lucrative living at it.  He bought a home
in Coral Gables (an affluent suburb of Greater
Miami), hung around in much better circles, and
joined the country club set.  He still didn’t have any
idea what he was doing in court, only now he could
charge a whole lot more for not knowing what he
was doing.

Spooky O’Kofski retired after thirty years of
service.  He loved the sea and went into a boat-
repair business in Ft. Lauderdale .  He lasted a year;
not that the business went bust, Spooky went
bust.  He got cancer of everything; it went through
all of his body organs and he died within a month of
its discovery.

Judge Vinnie was recalled off the bench in disgrace.  
It seems the little sex-fiend had a defendant come
in front of him on robbery charges and suggested
to the perpetrator’s wife—in chambers—that if she
did the dirty deed with him, he would acquit her
husband.  She went to the prosecutor and the
newspapers; the charges against her husband were
dismissed; she didn’t have to do the nasty with
Judge Vinnie, and he was stripped of his judgeship.  
There is an old saying: You can be sure that
whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.  
His secretary came forward and complained of
sexual harassment; he’d been chasing her around
his desk for years, but she was afraid—until now—
to come forward.

Several years later, I saw Judge Vinnie on the TV
show: 60 Minutes.  He was in private practice
defending a client in West Palm Beach and decided
not to introduce evidence that might have
established his client’s innocence; instead, trusting
that his flowery oratory during summation to the
jury, and his charismatic personality, would
ultimately win the day.  This incompetent legal
defense got his client the death penalty, something
he might never have gotten if the Judge had used
basic legal arguments that every first-year law clerk
is schooled in.

The following month, Miller was partnered with
Officer Raul Rojas.  One night, Rojas went to make
a disorderly conduct arrest and ended up wrestling
some wild drunk to the ground; the suspect was
transported to Ward D, and Officer Rojas spent the
rest of the evening at J.M.H. being treated for bite

The sector sergeant arrived after the fracas, just as
Matt was stepping out of a doughnut shop with
some milk in one hand and crème tarts in the
other.  The sergeant couldn’t help but wonder: Why
Raul—whose uniform was in tatters—was going to
the hospital, and Matt looked as if he’d just stepped
out of the pages of G.Q.?  Officer Miller was accused
of cowardice, an administrative matter seeking
termination and not lightly brought.  (This was the
first and only time in my career I ever witnessed this
particular charge ever being filed against an officer.)  
He was summoned before the Civil Service, retained
an attorney, and beat the charges; however, he
quit within the year as word got around.  He was
stigmatized with the Mark of Cain: no one would
ride with him, nor back him up which can get
extremely squirrelly, not to mention life
threatening—the Blue Code at work.

Jesse?  He had a very long, fruitful, and financially
rewarding criminal career with only some negligible
downtime for side trips to prison, never amounting
to more than six months to a year at a time; and
yes, he was busted again for rape.

And me?  Statistically, only five to ten percent of
every academy class makes it to their pension.  
Most are lost to permanent disabling injuries, quit,
are fired, or become fatalities.  I was one of the
lucky ones; I made it another twenty-one years to

Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Cumbie never fully recovered
from their nights of tragedy.  The widow Wright
expired in one of those nursing homes for indigent
people and Mrs. Cumbie died within the year, run
over by a D. U. I. (who was never apprehended )
one evening on her way home from services at the
Baptist church.

“There are eight million stories in the Pit; this has
been one of them.”
Police Author
Michael Berish
Michael Berish worked as a patrolman, detective,
and supervisor with the City of Miami Police
Department for twenty-two years.  For thirteen of
those years, Michael was a detective in the REAL
Miami Vice. Michael worked everything from
Narcotics & Vice, Prostitution, Gambling and
Pornography, to Dignitary Protection of
President Jose Napoleon Duarte (of El Salvador)
and Pope John Paul II.
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker