Dr. Isaiah McKinnon began his five-decade career in public service as an officer with the Detroit Police Department in 1965. He held more than 10 different positions in the department, including Patrol Operations and various supervisory, administrative, command and executive roles, before retiring as an inspector to start his own security firm.
In 1993, Dr. McKinnon returned to the Detroit Police Department to serve as Chief. Under his five years of leadership, hundreds of police officers were directed to go into city neighborhoods and introduce themselves to residents in an effort to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. In addition to shifting the focus of the department to community-driven policing, he advocated for and implemented training programs for officers responding to domestic violence. In 1998, he left policing and became a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy.
In 2014, McKinnon was appointed Deputy Mayor of Detroit and served for two years before returning to teach as a professor of education at the University of Detroit Mercy. He holds a B.A. and a M.A. from the University of Detroit Mercy, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the U.S. Secret Service School.
What was the last book you read?
Caste, The Origins of our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
People who use their positions to spread incorrect information.
Who do you admire?
Individuals who help others.
If you had unlimited resources, what would you do?
Supply food and water for the entire world.
What is your best quality?
The ability to listen.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken?
As a young Detroit police officer, running into a burning building and saving a mother and her young daughter. Years later, the young lady asked me to walk her down the aisle at her wedding.
What is your earliest memory?
At age 5, my mother holding my youngest sibling and saying, “This is Gloria, your baby sister.”
What virtue do you most admire in others?
What words do you use too much?
What gives you the most happiness?
Spending time with my family.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Smile and give thanks to God for another day.
What talent or skill do you wish you had?
The ability to make the world smile.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my sons, Jeffrey and Jason.
What was your first job?
My first job was cleaning up a neighborhood barber shop. It was fascinating listening to the customers discuss the events of the world.
What is your most cherished possession?
An Easter bunny egg rack that I made in the seventh grade in wood shop at Garfield Junior High School as a special present for my mother. I’ve kept it for 66 years.
What is your favorite hobby or pastime?
Exploring and reading about any aspect related to world history.
What do you value most in your friends?
Loyalty and dependability.
Who is your favorite author?
Mitch Albom, for his many books and articles.
Who is your fictional hero?
Superman, for so many reasons.
What keeps you up at night?
The visible anger and lack of humanity being exhibited by some in the world.
How do you want to be remembered when you die?
As a great husband, father and friend who made every effort to help others.
What is your life motto or mantra?
To always “stand tall” in life.
What makes you laugh?
Reminiscing and sharing “cop stories” with old friends about our time on the Detroit Police Department and reruns of “Barney Miller” and “The Tonight Show.”
How do you define success?
Living a life of giving and helping others.