Dr. Keith Taylor doesn’t fashion himself a police expert, even if media outlets like CNN and Newsweek love to bring him on as one.
“Out of humility, I have never called myself an expert, they started doing that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a really good moniker because it’s hard to be an expert at something.
“And let’s say someone is good at an aspect of computing, would you call them an expert on computing? No, because there’s so many different aspects of computing that it’s certainly impossible for one person to be a master of all.”
So the John Jay College of Criminal Justice adjunct prefers to be a man of many talents. For one, he’s an educator, with rave reviews on RateMyProfessor.com. Then there’s Taylor’s work on protecting local landmarks with Community Board 10’s Harlem Preservation Program. He’s even trying his hand in politics, lasting until the ninth round of the Democratic primary for the District 9 City Council seat in 2021.
But it’s not hard to see why folks insist on calling Taylor a police expert. Name a law enforcement job and he’s probably worked it during his three decades of public service. Taylor initially started as a foster care caseworker in Harlem after graduating from Howard. But he was curious about police work and the salary increase didn’t hurt. Taylor hit the ground running, stopping a bank robbery within two weeks of graduating the NYPD Academy.
Since then, he’s policed schools, worked three years undercover, was promoted to sergeant and got transferred to internal affairs. On 9/11, Taylor was on the missing persons detective squad, helping reunite lost family members and providing closure to loved ones of those killed. He also worked on SWAT-type tactical operations in the Emergency Services Unit and wrapped up his career as an assistant commissioner in the Department of Corrections.
Taylor was born in Queens but reared in rural upstate where he says cows outnumbered people. And the Black population was even more nominal. He left for Washington, D.C. to attend Howard, but ultimately found his way back to New York City. There’s deep roots for Taylor in the Big Apple after all.
“I have always had a severe love affair with Harlem,” he said. “I think it has to do with learning about my own family’s history in Harlem. And my great grand-uncle was Herbert Bruce. He was the first Black elected district leader in New York City.”
The love affair with Harlem may be closer to a committed relationship, as Taylor finds more and more ways to get involved with the local community. He’s served as his block association’s president for roughly two decades and worked on efforts to designate Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District, a historic district. Taylor is active in seemingly every committee on Community Board 10 and gives walking tours to students from his other alma mater Columbia, where he completed his doctorate.
No matter how many hats Keith Taylor wears, his best work isn’t in education, or law enforcement or the preservation of Harlem, but rather at home.
“My proudest endeavor [is] my marriage to my lovely wife, Danielle, and in our two wonderful children Elaina and Keith Jr.,” he said.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w