When speaking to retired NYPD Detective and criminal justice consultant Dr. Alfred S. Titus Jr., one would notice a pattern: the part of the story where he realizes this isn’t the life he wants to live. It’s happened several times in his life (as a teenager, as a professional, on the beat) and he was willing to share it all.
“When it came to being at home, it was education. The future, you know. That was the focus,” said Dr. Titus who grew up in South Jamaica, Queens. “But being from a tough neighborhood, I spend a lot of time in the streets as well. So, you know, I was constantly moving back and forth between doing what’s right and what’s wrong…at some point, I decided that I wanted to do right and I wanted to have a bright future.”
Titus, who just released a children’s book titled “The Police Are Part of Our Community,” got a second chance in life because of a police officer, but not in the way that one might think.
A friend of his had gotten into a fistfight with another person and was losing when Titus noticed an unmarked police car. “I screamed out ‘five-o, five-o!’” Titus said while laughing. Everyone ran and reconvened at his friend’s house. While there, they went to his friend’s bedroom where he pulled a duffel bag from under his bed filled with guns, including sawed-off shotguns. Titus said that his friend wanted to get back at the guy who beat him up with a bullet instead of a fist. As they drove to where this person lived, with Titus sitting in the backseat with the guns, police pulled them over.
“My job was to cover up the handles of the gun and hope that they don’t ask us to get out the car,” said Dr. Titus. “So the police come and they come with this flashlight, talking to him on the driver’s side. They’re looking in with the flashlight and everything and they don’t see the gun. They don’t ask us to get out. They let us go. And that scared me so much. At that point, you know, that was a life-changing moment.
“So I decided to take another path at that point,” continued Dr. Titus. “I kind of slowly moved away from hanging out with my friends.”
Dr. Titus’ move away from his friends started with his graduation from Aviation High School in Long Island City and getting his bachelor’s in computer engineering from the New York Institute of Technology.
But after a few years, he hit another fork in the road.
He would come home from corporate America only to be greeted with liquor stores and dudes on the corner selling drugs.
“So when I went to work, I was going to these nice corporate offices and everybody’s dressed in a suit,” said Dr. Titus. “And it gives the image that this life is so grand. But then you go home and you realize that, you know, this doesn’t apply to everyone, you know, and that there are a lot of people left out of this particular lifestyle.”
Dr. Titus believed that he wasn’t contributing to the community as much as he should. A friend suggested one way he could stay in touch with his neighborhood. He decided to become a police officer. After graduating from the academy, and getting his master’s degree in NYPD scholarship from Marist College, he worked as part of the transit bureau in Harlem and Washington Heights. But, after just a few years away from the streets, he forgot the perception of police in the community.
“I kind of knew it as a child,” Dr. Titus said. “I kind of knew it growing up. But going through the police academy, going through college, and being disconnected from the streets for that short amount of time, I kind of forgot that. The police aren’t really favored in these communities for the most part. So that was a rude awakening. And that’s what kind of got me reinvigorated into giving back and being that different police officer.” Titus moved up to the homicide squad, detective and hostage negotiations.
“I was always that detective who took the time to find out why the person I’m dealing with, whether it be a child or a young adult,” he said, “why they were in this position.” Dr. Titus kept up in his attempt to help kids. He gave out cards to young people he wanted to help get on the right track. One time, however, a young person who was killed had Dr. Titus’ card in his pocket.
That’s where the now retired detective decided to pivot yet again.
Titus felt like he had more to share post-retirement, so he started A. Titus Consulting, LLC, which is focused on, according to his website “law enforcement consultation, community education, and police-community collaboration.”
He also started writing books.
“The Police Are Part of Our Community” is his first children’s book after writing two books detailing his triumphs (“Forward Motion…the Keys to Progress and Success!!”) and his life as a policeman (“The Personal Side of Policing”).
What does he hope that people get out of his children’s book?
“I would love for the book to encourage parents and families to sit down and talk about this book, read the book with their child and then start talking about policing and start talking about what this child needs to know in order to survive,” said Dr. Titus. “I don’t think there’s ever too young an age to have this conversation in this day. Because if we don’t have the conversation with the children, if the parents and the families don’t, they’re going to get the information from the streets and social media, and a lot of that is skewed. So we don’t, we don’t want them getting bad information. That’s going to increase their anger.
“We want them to get good information and good instructions from home so that they can know how to operate out there and get through these interactions safely.”