Police don't become friends with the men they arrest. But that's exactly what happened to Reggie Graham and Cory Long.
"I'm seeing my career flash past my face," he says. "I'm looking at this extravagant lifestyle I earned through the music business, and now I'm watching it go down the tubes in the space of a few months. I wasn't thinking."
His new investors threw cash into two events. Both lost money. Around this time Long received a phone call from another old friend, a drug connection he knew from his past life who was looking to move some product. He declined at first, then called him back.
Even as he raised the receiver to his ear he knew he shouldn't dial that number. He was reopening the door to the darkest days of his old life, introducing his old connection to his new investors. He was on the path to prison. But also, the way he tells it, to God and Reggie Graham.
Around the same time Graham was busy making a name for himself in Philadelphia law enforcement circles, starting as a beat cop in his old South Philly neighborhood.
Vincent Emmanuel has owned a 7-Eleven at 23rd and Passyunk for 25 years. He first met Graham when the officer responded to a robbery call. Graham watched the store's video surveillance of the incident along with the assigned detective, recognized the perp from the neighborhood, and even predicted where they'd find him. But Graham's familiarity with South Philadelphia also brought problems. "I arrested an uncle, a cousin," he says, "a lot of guys I knew."
They had fair warning. When he became a cop he told them that not even blood would keep him from doing his job.
He earned a spot working narcotics undercover in October 2000. Sgt. Chet Malkowski, a former supervisor, remembers working with Graham. "Any good cop brings baggage," he says. "But Reggie's good, and I don't see him having that baggage. Some guys have a way of drawing attention to themselves and creating problems. But I can't think of any problem he represents to a squad. He's somebody a supervisor looks to at times to figure out what's going on."
More to the point for Cory Long, Graham also had a gift for sizing up the people he arrested. "Reggie was able to assess a scene," says Malkowski, "and figure out who were the bad guys, who was along for the ride and who might provide some information.
"The guy," says Malkowski of Graham, "talks to everybody. The kids, the adults, the bad guys, whoever else is in there. He has this rap. It's not fake, 'cause he's the same way with everyone. But people just give information to Reggie."
|The matchmaker: Cheryl Smith (right) reintroduced Graham and Long after the arrest.|
Malkowski, who worked on the Cory Long case with Graham, didn't know his old officer had befriended the defendant until PW called and started asking questions. But once he heard the story it didn't surprise him. "I remember that guy, Long, and I don't think he was one of the main players at that scene," he says. "The other guys--I think one of them had a gun tattooed on his abdomen. They just seemed real cocky, like, 'Whatever, I'll beat this,' that sort of crap. Long seemed like he was deep in thought."
Graham, says Malkowski, is just the kind of guy who'd notice Long's reaction to the arrest--and maybe even act on it. "As far as hanging out or going to church with somebody they arrested, I don't think anyone's ever done it before--or would that I'm aware of," says Malkowski. "But I believe Reggie would do it. It's his character. He likes arresting people, but he has compassion. A lot of cops just figure, 'You were there, you were at the scene, I'm taking it to court, and we'll let the chips fall where they may.' That's not Reggie."
Listening to them talk today, the depth of history between Reggie Graham and Cory Long is evident. As they talk about expanding operations at their church, getting together for dinner or playing Madden NFL Football, they laugh just like any good friends who didn't meet as predator and prey at a crime scene. They bonded around not just their shared religion, but also music. The arrest, if brought up at all, is regarded both as the moment that led to their friendship as well as a source of humor.
"Reg didn't put the cuffs on me," says Long, smiling. "He took my picture."
"Yeah," says Graham, suddenly laughing. "I remember trying to get you positioned in the right light."
Graham had been working the low-rise projects at 40th and Market on Jan. 8, 2003, when he started gathering information that a large amount of cocaine was about to change hands at a home in Wynnefield.
Graham turned the tip over to Malkowski, who enlisted the SWAT team, knowing that lots of drugs usually attract lots of firearms.
By the time Graham entered the house in the 5400 block of Morse Street, the scene was under control. Malkowski had him take pictures of the evidence they found, including 875 grams of coke and 218 grams of crack, worth a total of $109,000 on the street, along with a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun. Graham also photographed the people they arrested, including Cory Long.
|God squad: The New Consolation Christian Center invites its members to express themselves.|
"People usually react in a couple of different ways when they get busted," says Graham. "But Cory just kept shaking his head. He looked disappointed."
The 2014 Philadelphia Spring Guide
PW's Winter Coffee Tour