James Dukes always wanted to be a cop. As soon as he returned from Vietnam, and discharged from the military (in 1970), Dukes applied to become a police officer at the Tampa Police Department. He passed the Civil Service exam and entered the Police Academy, where he had outstanding training with no problems. The trouble started when he was assigned to a squad. He struggled with the derogatory treatment of Black officers, and the use of the “N” word by White officers. Eventually, Dukes’ dream job became more than he could bare. “Although the signs separating restrooms and water fountains for Black people were removed, there was an unwritten rule that still applied,” says Dukes. He joined the “Fearless Four” lawsuit but left the Tampa Police Department in 1975 to become a deputy at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO). He retired from HCSO in 1981 and became a Special Investigator for the Hillsborough County School District, where he retired in 2004.
“Keep in the corner of your minds that you are equal – period.”