“The firecrackers go all over the place. . .one of those photographers that just drove around, his name was Bill Beall, a nice guy, he took a picture when I was talking to the child, the child was with his mother. His father was in the military and was out of the country.” ~Maurice Cullinane
Andy Ockershausen: We are delighted, exceptionally delighted, in Our Town to have a special guest that I’ve known for more years than I hate to admit but he’s a special man, Maurice Cullinane, former Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department, who is a native Washingtonian.
Andy Ockershausen: Maurice Cullinane was a Navy veteran, got out of the Navy in 1951 and became a cop or a policeman as we call them now but when he grew up they were cops and they were great and things were different but they really weren’t, Cully.Your years in the force saw a lot of changes, a lot of things happen. They were tumultuous in the seventies and I recall people saying this is great, we’ve settled all the problems now and look what we’re facing.
1977 Hanafi Siege
Andy Ockershausen: Cully was the first police chief to face the so-called terrorists, Hanafi Muslims, and I don’t know what year was that Cully. 77?
Maurice Cullinane: 1977.
Andy Ockershausen: And they were doing serious, serious threat to our city.
Maurice Cullinane: Actually, they came into the B’nai B’rith at ten-thirty in the morning seven gunmen they took a hundred and twenty some hostages there.
Andy Ockershausen: At the B’nai B’rith?
Maurice Cullinane: At the B’nai B’rith and I went up and was trying to talk to them, find out what that was their complaint and we were just yelling up and down the steps and I got notified several hours later that they took over the Islamic center up on Massachusetts Avenue. There was three gunmen in there and so we went back and we had a command center setup because we were having so many demonstrations and I tried to talk to them and then they took over the district building and that’s where shots were fired. A young reporter, his name was Maurice Williams, was killed and…
Andy Ockershausen: Was he the only fatality?
Maurice Cullinane: He was the only fatality during the whole time but the Marion, who, Marion Barry, who was later then called the mayor for life, he was shot, he was on the council at the time, and he was shot and the bullet hit him in a place that would have killed him but the bullet bounced off of the walls before it hit him and it was spent (Note: It is reported on Wikipedia that “The gunmen also shot D.C. Protective Service Division police officer Mack Cantrell, who died a few days later in the hospital of a heart attack.”)
A: And he was not a target then it was an accident almost?
M: They were just shooting at random it was something, just an unusual situation. Back in 1973 the black Muslims had been attacked up on 16th street and there was a fellow, his name was Hamaas. This wasn’t actually his name, he could have changed it legally I don’t know, but his name was McGee. He was 54 years old and he had been in the Army and he got discharged for mental instability and he was with the black Muslims. The black Muslims just appeal to a very small number of blacks because they were advocating . . .
A: very militant group
M: they were extremely militant and he was not so he dropped out of black Muslims to be in just an orthodox Muslim but he did it with the letter that irritated the black Muslims and they came in 1973 to a house that was owned by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and they killed five of his [Hasaam’s] children, one of whom was just months old, 2 to 3 months old, and they killed a total of seven people and so the homicide squad came and locked them up. They came from a Mosque up in Philadelphia but it was really a cover for a bunch of criminals and they locked them up and they convicted them and all them went to jail for life but he [Hasaam] couldn’t swallow it, he just couldn’t get it off his mind and so one of his demands was you bring them down there and he was going to give them the sentence that he thought they deserved. He was gonna kill them all.
Protests and Demonstrations – Past and Present, a Vicious Cycle
Andy Ockershausen: Well, Cully, what is happening is the world has changed but it really hasn’t. I mean we’re not facing at this point there are no hostages but there are demonstrations right now today in downtown Washington by, not by the Panthers or by the black community, it’s by the black lives matter group. They always mattered, black lives always mattered, white lives have always mattered.
Maurice Cullinane: Well they continue to have these silver bullets that are going to straighten things out but we seem to be in a vicious circle. I don’t think things are as bad as they were back in the sixties but they continue to come around, back in the sixties we had to Black Power movement and they were very militant and we had one of them killed the policeman out in California. I’m not sure I think it was Oakland.
A: The Black Panther
M: and his name was Huey Newton and you would read that they were gonna blow up police stations and kill hundreds of policemen and then things quieted down but I don’t really know what to say about what’s going on right now. We’re going through a very rough period of time. Some of it is more in your area of expertise. I mean the police department has to continue to try to get policemen to understand when they go into communities . . .
A: to adapt?
False News – Social Media, Texting Make It Harder than Before to Know What is True
Maurice Cullinane: Yeah but also you have this social media and you got texting and you see things that are sent out there is nobody like you that edits it to see whether it’s accurate or not. You send something out . . .
A: . . . and there it is
M: and after gets repeated three times it’s gospel there may not be any truth to it but then when you look at the five at the hits that they get on those things, thousands and tens of thousands, so we’re in a difficult time.
Progress within Metropolitan Police Department and Washington DC Neighborhoods
Andy Ockershausen: Well Cully, over the years, course you’ve seen the ups and downs and highs and lows, but has policing changed dramatically since you were chief, I guess it’s gotten a little more modern with cameras and they look like men from Mars in some cases. You didn’t have all that benefit
Maurice Cullinane: Well we didn’t but actually the generation before me deserved an awful lot of credit. They held the city together and they had no training, they had no equipment and the thing that brought my Police Department up-to-date was the civil-rights demonstrations and anti-war demonstrations and then we had people coming. There was some argument about whether the Million Man March brought a million people but I can tell you that May Day brought a million people and the police had to get used to dealing with crowds and how to handle them and we got pretty good at it I think, we got very good at it but now it’s really not the entire Police Departments, you know there’s 17,000 police departments in this country, and naturally I’m a little bit more about mine than I do about the rest of them but the city will have between five and six hundred thousand calls for service a year and that’s 68 square miles. That’s a relatively small area
A: that’s something
M: they’re not initiating any of those calls. So 58,000 of 55 right now 50-60, 500,000 or 600,000 people want policeman because they call them and it’s really the location, it’s neighborhoods, and you don’t get a whole lot of calls nor do you get a lot of complaints in affluent neighborhoods. You get where they’re complaining about the police, you’ll see that they’re getting an inordinate number of calls for help from the police. So everybody over there is not interested in the police department.
A: I understand what you’re saying and that is a fact, it’s on the record, I talked to enough people in the department to know that but the thing that stunned me about the city over my years, which have been long as yours, is the neighborhoods. They had something in the paper the other day about Bloomingdale. I thought that was a department store. It’s now a neighborhood, they got neighborhoods Cully that I didn’t even know existed. I know Ivy City, I know you know what they used to call “Swamp Poodle”, names they used to call it, but now the city’s changed so dramatically.
M: They have, actually Bloomingdale was there when we were kids, the new one on me is NoMa. I had to go ask somebody that means North of Massachusetts avenue. We used to call it, we used to call it, as you said, the part of it around, North capital K Street, was called “Swamp Poodle” and this is ultimately…
Reemergence of Streetcars
Andy Ockershausen: No gas company, gasworks it was a neighborhood but Cully, the other thing is that now all these areas are served of course, but I’m also stunned by the city attempting to bring back the streetcars because they never should have gotten rid of it. You grew up with the streetcars and it was a great, great thing.
A: You rode the street car . . .
Maurice Cullinane: I rode many a streetcar, that’s why when I’m asked by some of our old friends, “let’s go up on h street and ride the street cars, I already been on that street car. But you know H street is pretty much already developed and it only runs from right there around Bladensburg 15 Street down to Union Station but I think they could use, it would help some of if they went out to Benning Road the way they used to.
A: Well, it looks to me like the Dulles thing, it’s a road to nowhere to stop and now they’re going to expand it but I don’t think they’re charging on H street but we’ll get back to that because we’re talking to Maurice Cullinane, a former chief of the Metropolitan Police Department and a native Washingtonian and we’re talking about the city and our town and we’ll be talking about heroes in America when we’ll be right back.
HEROES, Incorporated for Police and Firefighters
Andy Ockershausen: Yeah we’re talking to Maurice Cullinane, a former chief of police of the Metropolitan Police Department, and a fountain of information about our town because he was born here, grew up here, and spent his life here and still spending his life here. and Cully, you were one of the instrumentals of at least the idea of Heroes, Incorporated.
Maurice Cullinane: Well I can’t take credit for that . . .
A: You didn’t start it but you were involved . . .
M: I was involved from the beginning and what happened to us, if we lost one, if a policemen got killed, they would give a number and citizens which send checks into a branch of the National Bank of Washington which was right down from police headquarters, and we got two policemen that were killed back-to-back and when the money was sent, it was sent in the name of the officer that was killed and so the first officer that got killed, the city was very generous and his widow got a substantial amount of money for those days but when the second one, and there wasn’t anything different in the killing of the policeman but they had just given, and a fellow named Leonard Doggett, Bud Doggett, realized that the second one had not been treated very fairly and so he and a handful of local business people and my job which was a fairly easy job at the time was to go to the various businesses and get money but at that time you know if you wanted, Riggs Bank had sixty percent of all of the domestic deposits in it. If you needed money you went up and asked Vince Berg to give you a check and he’d say just a minute and he’d talk to you while his secretary made out a check and he’d sign it and hand it to you. Now if you tried the same thing they’d say well the corporate headquarters is someplace so it’s a little bit more difficult, but we have our main thing is we get amount of financial trouble, and then they just had it last Thursday and Friday over in Fairfax County they had the annual golf tournament which will bring in an extra couple hundred thousand dollars but we’ve got five or six children in college and we pay for the room, board, tuition, the whole nine yards
A: It’s a marvelous, marvelous thing and also for fire fighters, police and fire fighters, they’re equally vulnerable in this new community of violence that we face and we’ve taken care a lot of widows and
M: took care of an awful lot of wives…
A: There was one of the police woman or FBI woman who got shot, we took care of her husband but Cully, Heroes is kind of a tribute to Bud Doggett and the people who put it together, it’s stronger than ever. Sherry has done a fabulous job and Heroes sent, Janice reminds me, that Heroes sent 10k to the Dallas Police Department for a memorial service
M: She did send it out there and I talked to her, but they’ve sent, when there’s a big tragedy, that’s a tradition that Heroes will do that to help and I haven’t seen Mrs. Doggett since Louisiana but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was money sent there. It was a little bit before her time but when this thing first started, you know, those fellows that started it reached in their own pocket because we didn’t have any money and we’ve now got money. So they don’t have to do it quite as much but those business people were extremely generous. It was never just for policemen, they’ve expanded it. It was for the city and then it went out to every county that was continuous
A: They added other counties, and they added other departments so they added to it. They added all the federal law enforcement agencies and picked up Prince William which does not touch the city. That’s our town now, Cully, it is. It used to be an all day trip to go to Prince William County and maybe not come back, the only time you went down was to see to jail.
M: Only you and I would know, You and I are the only people left that know . . . Stanton Park was the end of Capitol Hill. when you and I were kids. Now they’re going east to the Anacostia River, real estate people are advertising that the houses are Capitol Hill.
A: I keep telling Janice—they say Lincoln Park is Capitol Hill. Lincoln Park is not on Capitol Hill. I’m telling you, they’re at all the way past the Armory
M: Where Maryland Avenue, 15th Street, Bladensburg Road, H Street comes together that’s Capitol Hill. You couldn’t shoot a cannon and hit the Capitol.
Andy Ockershausen: Well Cully, how about the mayors that you worked for, I know you didn’t, well Walter was your guru correct? Was there a mayor before Walter? No he was our first mayor.
Maurice Cullinane: He was appointed by President Johnson and then Mayor Washington won. He ran for election and won so he was appointed mayor and an elected mayor and there was no one as good.
A: And there never will be, Cully.
M: In his day and under some very trying times he’s the only one that I’ve ever seen that could get their arms around the various communities. The business community liked him, the black community liked him, the white community liked him, and even though he got defeated, his personal popularity never dropped.
A: Never dropped, it’s amazing! He’s more popular than 20 years later than he was as Mayor.
M: I would tell him that I don’t like to walk down the street with him. Taxicabs stop, people jump out of cars and it takes me 10 minutes to walk one block, but he was a great guy, he lived up in Le Droit park which you said you didn’t know,
A: Jesse Jackson was his neighbor
M: Yes, yes he was but that was the Bullock’s house that was his wife
A: But Cully, how about Marion? Was he ever the mayor when you were in office?
M: No he came immediately after me. The fact is I’ve been accused of leaving because of him but that’s not true.
A: Who’d he replace you with, Jerry Brown?
M: No Bertel Jefferson
A: Oh yeah I remember Jeff. Good guy, I like him. He’s still around. Is Jeff still alive?
M: Jeff is then Turner’s gone.
A: And Marion appointed him?
M: Marion . . . I think maybe Marion had have appointed Turner because I know he appointed Fulwood, Ike,
A: Yeah Issac Fulwood
M: Ike’s having a helluva lot of health problems now
Late DC Mayor Marion Barry
Andy Ockershauen: Well but Cully, there are a lot of business people thought Marion was very good for businesses too. You know they praised him, now they put him down for his civil right stand but they loved him as a business man. He did some good things Cully.
Maurice Cullinane: I got promoted one time when Marion didn’t mean to do it, but he was running Pride and a policeman, his name is Jack Kennedy, was a very good policeman, a very good official but he was up at the 3rd district and he just couldn’t take it and he left, he never came back and never cleaned out his desk, he never did any, he was eligible for retirement, he retired and I went up there because there was the third District pilot project. It was another one of the things that we talked about earlier OEO gave us some money and they paid the policemen to go and they brought in the drug dealers and they brought in the prostitutes and it brought in the thieves and the policeman would get into arguments and they were trying to make them get along and the reason that nobody wanted to go up it was then I had to quiet them down to get them in the scout cars when it was over and quiet them down enough to get him back to work. So I’ve known Marion since Pride.
A: Right, I did too. I met Marion during Pride
M: But you know police stations, they’re not now but when they had teletypes and telephones and switchboards because we had call boxes, they’re very loud and when you’d sit in your office and if it got real loud then you would know that Mary was in there because the policemen, if Marion came in they’d run him out, just take open the door and push him out on the street. Mary, they would go out on the street and they would light up, at that time everybody was, well not everybody but a lot of people were smoking and they would light up a cigarette because Mary could, Mary Treadwell started off with some bad language and she advanced from there. She literally would run the policemen, most of whom had a lot of time on now Marion came in and complain was always complaining about whether they gave tickets to the people when they went to Pride and parked in the alley and they also were always having trouble not paying their city taxes and the police department got those warrants so Marion would come in every now and then and they would just tell him to get out and he would do it. When Mary come in she tell the policemen, in a minute when she got done with them they could they’d leave for five minutes to stand out front.
A: Tough, tough. She established that tennis center up there didn’t she? No, no that was that was, that that was his last wife, it was an Effi, that was the other one. I’m trying to think of her name. Mary Treadwell I knew. Mary Treadwell I knew well.
M: Then there was a real night, that the mother of Marion’s son, who just got himself in trouble, Effi she was a nice lady.
A: Did you know, Janice will remember, when we had a benefit softball game with Channel 9, WMAL play channel nine with WTOP at the time was channel nine, and Marion came and he brought his son in his arms and that he’s the kid now that had all the trouble at Riggs Bank. I can’t believe that many years have passed but Marion was good with broadcast people. He participated, played on both sides. Somebody in our group had to hold the baby while he played ball. Good guy.
M: Marion was, yeah I don’t think this might not have been true right towards the end, but Marion was an unusual guy from the 3rd District and then I was in charge of the patrol division anyway I dealt with Marion and I could get along with Marion well. Now, at one time whether they want to believe it, Marion didn’t even drink, more or less do anything else did. And this is when he had his Dashiki I saw Marion one day, I don’t remember, we were over Northeast and instead of coming back in his limousine, he wasn’t gonna have to take the bus back, he had a limousine over there, he wanted to come back in my car and we sat and talked.
A: That’s our guy. We’re talking to Maurice Cullinane former Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department
1957 – Pulitzer Prize Winning Candid Photograph
Andy Ockershausen: We’re talking to Maurice Cullinane, the best chief of police Washington ever had. I can say that, Cully, because nobody can refute it cause I have been around awhile but Cully is also world-renowned for something special and that was an ability to talk to young people and he did it in front, I don’t know whether it was the parade, Cully, or what but it was on the street on Constitution Avenue. There’s a picture of Cully talking to a little boy.
Maurice Cullinane: Now actually the picture was taken, I think in 1956 [actually 1957] and I’d just been a policeman for two years, I was a patrolman. And I don’t think they do it anymore but the Chinese had a new year’s parade and they used to block off the streets from 6th and H right about to 8th and H and they would have dragons coming through. It was the old Chinatown and they threw firecrackers but instead of throwing single they’d light the whole pack and when they’d go off they’d blow all over the place and so I was standing on the curb and a child walked out and I wanted to make sure first of all that I didn’t scare him and secondly that I got him away because I was afraid a fire cracker which they weren’t throwing them at him but when you throw that whole pack up in the air, the firecrackers go all over the place and so I was talking to him and one of those photographers that just drove around you know more about it than I do, his name was Bill Beall, a nice guy he took a picture when I was talking to the child, the child was with his mother, his father was in the military and was out of the country and he put it in the news and then Life Magazine picked it up and the thing very few people know is the first he had to come by and get you to sign so he’d come by when he was getting ready to put in a contest. The first contest he put it in he got nothing, he didn’t even get a booby prize and the next one he put it in was the White House photographers and he won a Pulitzer Prize.
A: that one snap. It was almost a snap shot right? He didn’t tell you or he was gonna blow the picture
M: No, it was not a posed picture. That is genuinely a candid shot, that he just had to take but he told me that when he went, you know the news at that time was up on 13 Street . . .
A: . . .absolutely, the daily news . . .
M: . . .and he told me that when he went into the darkroom to do it, when he hung them up to dry he knew that he had something special.
A: Well it was what Janice was pointing out, it’s the interaction between a policeman and a civilian even though it was a little kid, it was something that is so important now that must happen in our society that to be better dialogue between people and policemen and not color but people and policemen.
Former DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier
Maurice Cullinane: and if you see, Chief Lanier is trying hard and that’s why I think that this city, I don’t want to jinx the chief, but that’s why I think the city’s remaining quiet. I’m getting all my information out of the newspaper but she’s starting, she has picnics over southeast and the policemen go over there and they cook hotdogs for the policemen, I could do that but they had a dance off and a police woman let the kids do whatever, they were there dancing then she busted her moves, now I could not have done that. Not that I was too good to do it or didn’t want to do it, I just couldn’t have done it but she’s real good at it and if you watch her, she has this ability when she goes to the scene of a crime, she puts her arm around someone who’s just have lost a loved one and shows concern
Andy Ockershausen: she shows up everywhere, Cully, it’s amazing
M: I showed up, I honestly did show up but there’s some people that can do that. If I did it, it would look like I was doing something because that’s what I was supposed to do. When she does it, it looks to me like that’s her, that she is genuinely concerned.
A: She happens to be better-looking than you too.
M: That wouldn’t would take much
A: But Cully, I think she epitomizes a civilian policeman and she shows up, got a nice attitude, you know she doesn’t jump at things, she takes her time so we’re fortunate enough to have had you as chief of police, fortunate enough to have Kathy, and we’re fortunate that you and I are still here talking about it.
M: You know, when we get finished here, we should take a ride over to Rosedale
A: Oh I would love it. I would tell Janice about going to swim in Rosedale at six in the morning because that’s the only time we can get in the pool. After that was too crowded, there was no place to dive. We’ve had a long beautiful chat here with Maurice Cullinane, a native Washingtonian, a member of the police force for as long as we remember, and a good guy and we appreciate that former chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, Maurice Cullinane.
We hope you have enjoyed this all new episode of Our Town with Andy Ockershausen and Maurice Cullinane. We invite you to listen to each new episode of Our Town as they roll out over the next several months. You can subscribe to the Our Town podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or if you complete the subscription form in the sidebar to the right, you will be notified by email when the next episode appears here on the website.
Linda Kielb says
Your article was so touching about chief cullane. I came across his famous picture with the little boy while looking through an old book I have had on my shelf for many years. It was quite compelling to see this as my son is a lieutenant on the nypd and he is as compassionate as the chief.So happy to have viewed this once again
Janice Iacona Ockershausen says
Thank you such much for your lovely comment. Please thank your son for us as well for his service to protect.
Ira Hendon III says
I still think he’s one of best chiefs in MPDC history for various reasons.