Police don't become friends with the men they arrest. But that's exactly what happened to Reggie Graham and Cory Long.
Long says he didn't want to be at the scene when the men he introduced cut a deal, but they insisted. So he remained in the kitchen, eating a bowl of spaghetti, trying to stay as far from the drugs as possible.
Around 1 a.m. he heard loud voices and a pounding on the front door. He headed for the back, but the cops were already there.
"At the time they put the cuffs on me," says Long, "I felt like my world just shattered."
The next several months tested him severely. He spent a month in prison before bail could be arranged. At the preliminary hearing Graham testified against him. "I thought, 'Man, this guy is trying to put me away,'" says Long.
The feds intervened, adopting the case, and confining Long to federal prison, then house arrest. By this time Long had begun to do what men in jail often do: pray.
His grandmother had tried to make a Christian of him, but it was only after he fell to his lowest point that he became a believer. In the meantime Graham was getting more involved in his church and continuing to build his reputation as a cop.
"We at the Bureau don't do a lot of big jobs with the local police," says FBI special agent Brian Turner. "But Reggie has a reputation in our office by name, where the agents in the office know of him, and they know he has the communication skills, the passion, the insight."
|Big brother: Cory Long stands with two men he's been mentoring, Mont Brown (left) and Anthony Crawford.|
Turner is among those who took note of the way Graham went about his job. At the end of an interrogation, for instance, Graham always asks the suspects, "After this is all over with, what are you gonna do?"
"What do you mean?" they ask.
"What I mean is," says Graham, "are we in agreement that after this, you're gonna get out of the game?"
In addition to this line of questioning Turner noticed something else. While most officers utter profanities with the steady rhythm of jazz drummers, Graham never swears or has a bad word to say about anyone he encounters. "Finally," says Turner, "I asked him why. And he told me about how involved he is in his church."
It was for his church, in May 2005, that Graham started phoning around town looking for a Christian DJ--someone appropriate for the kids of the New Consolation Christian Center. A friend, Cheryl Smith-Handy, suggested he call DJ Cory Ak, who was by now off house arrest, had spent more than a year waiting for the ramifications of his arrest to play out in court, and in the meantime had gotten involved in a Chester church. "No," said Graham, who knew who DJ Cory Ak was. "I don't think he'd want to talk to me. I arrested that guy."
"He's changed his whole life around," Smith-Handy told him. "He'd probably be glad to talk to you."
Their first conversation lasted 90 minutes. "He just poured his heart out to me," says Graham. "He told me everything he'd been going through and all the changes he'd been making, and when he went on that long I started believing him."
Though still skeptical, Graham hired Long for the gig. What convinced him Long could be for real was that before performing the DJ talked to the kids about his history.
"He told them what happened to him," remembers Graham, "and he said, 'the streets aren't for you,' and he even said, 'someone you all know as Mr. Reggie had something to do with what happened to me.' It impressed me he was so open about everything."
Their relationship deepened quickly. Over the ensuing five months they introduced each other to the women in their lives, their children, their families. They took turns speaking at each other's churches, and at youth events.
By the time October 2005 rolled around Graham had determined that he couldn't let Long, who had pleaded guilty, just walk into court on his own and face his past without lending him some support.
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