Derrick Parker: The Sound of the Police

F irst Degree Detective Derrick Parker, even with all of his clearances, could not keep himself from earning a bad rap in the eyes of the Hip-Hop community. Attending events, Parker knew rappers not for their singles, but for their criminal records. Since retired, the release of Parker’s DVD, Black and Blue: Legends of the […]

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irst Degree Detective Derrick Parker, even with all of his clearances, could not keep himself from earning a bad rap in the eyes of the Hip-Hop community. Attending events, Parker knew rappers not for their singles, but for their criminal records. Since retired, the release of Parker’s DVD, Black and Blue: Legends of the Hip-Hop Cop, sets out to clear his name and show the world a penetrating look into police investigation and Hip-Hop’s magnetism with mug-shots and thumb-prints. Meanwhile, his book, Notorious C.O.P., promises to have some answers in the unsolved murders of Tupac, Biggie, and Jam Master Jay.

For years, “Hip-Hop Cops” were perceived as myths. Derrick Parker candidly reveals otherwise, touching on the profiling, the record keeping, and the network that these officers used. Just as with the rap industry, Parker says that the cops themselves grew greedy in search of desired positions in a glamorous life. After years of Detective Parker watching Hip-Hop under a microscope, the culture stares right back in the eyes of the Hip-Hop cop. For those who don’t know, how did the Rap Intelligence Unit begin, was that the actual title?

Derrick Parker: Actually, there wasn’t a name for it; it started under the gang division, just myself and another detective investigating cases under the guise of the gang unit. So from there, how did it come about?

Derrick Parker: Well I got into Cold Case back in 1996 and the Deputy Commissioner and Chief of the Department knew that I knew a lot about the rap music industry, and there were a lot of acts of violence going on at the time. There were certain robberies with rappers, at the time there was a murder involving the R&B group, Guy and I explained to the Chief how to solve the case and he was very impressed. I became a one-man show and started going out to rap-related cases, robberies, home invasions, [and] kidnappings. I was working with the Las Vegas [Police Department] on the shooting of Tupac and it wasn’t until about 1998, after Notorious B.I.G. got killed, that’s when everything started to change. We started receiving a lot of death threats towards Biggie’s funeral. I called the department, and warned them of the repercussions that were coming back to New York as per the Biggie homicide in [Los Angeles]. They shrugged it off. It wasn’t until Biggie’s funeral where the death threats, bomb threats came in, threats on Puffy’s life…that’s when the Chief wanted answers. The threats were coming from L.A.?

Derrick Parker: [They were] coming from L.A., coming from all over, saying they were gonna blow up the funeral home…The East Coast/West Coast beef was really in effect. I gave a two-hour presentation on this East Coast/West Coast war to the department and around the world, Japan, Australia, all over, about violence emerging in Hip-Hop. We had to come up with a plan so there would be no violence in New York and this man can be laid to rest without any problems. Everything we did, all the precautions we took, probably saved lives and resulted in decreasing any kind of violence that may have happened.

So in 1999 the Chief of the Department put me in the gang unit but overseeing the rap music industry, gathering information. Intel units don’t make arrests, you just gather information to disseminate to other police departments. If there was any violence or murders, he wanted me to be the go-to guy. The Cold Case department was upset because they would lose me while I was solving rap cases, and I was their key clearance guy; I was solving a lot of cases for them. In the DVD, my boss is on there explaining how it was a slap in the face taking me out of his unit…

In 2001, after the HOT 97 shooting involving Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, the new Commissioner at the time wanted me to develop a binder, the only problem with that is I didn’t want it to go out to too many people, because cops are like regular people, they’ll go out and things get leaked, they show it to their friends. I wanted the information under lock and key like the Mafia Unit, but he felt rap was more prevalent and in the headlines. I made the book and had to clear it with legal, making sure everyone had arrest records to enter in to the binder. Was that the criteria for having a file in the binder, you had to have an arrest record?

Derrick Parker: Right, we couldn’t use people that weren’t arrested; you really couldn’t justify putting them in the binder. But, just as I feared, the binder got out, to other agencies in Miami, Atlanta, L.A., and when people started accusing them of racial profiling, they all pointed to New York for being the ones who created the binder. So fast forward to 2002 when you retired. What was the premise behind that, what lead you to resign?

Derrick Parker: I tried to stick with it, but there were a lot of overzealous cops who tried to force their way into the unit, problems with cops in the department, they get territorial. After a while, I felt it was time for me to go, I had my 20 years in and a lot of wannabe’s were trying to get in and there was a lot of backstabbing. Which brings me to my next question, because you were so involved with the artists and it made you successful with the unit, did you yourself become a subject of investigation and did they begin to question your integrity?

Derrick Parker: Yeah, because I knew the people and these other cops couldn’t get close to these rappers, that was a problem for them. You have to remember I had to earn the respect of the rappers, not to go out there and treat them all like criminals; you can’t do that in the rap community. I earned their respect and that’s why they could come to me and I can go to the people that other cops couldn’t approach. What were your intentions in producing this documentary? Were you trying to show that this was a just cause or bring light to the injustices existing within the police structure?

Derrick Parker: It was to show two things; the justification of why the binder got created and what happened as the result. It also goes to show you what I had to go through in the department, working in an environment where you’re always being questioned. The worst thing that bothers me more than anything is if you question my integrity. There are certain cops that I may not like and I won’t talk to because I don’t think they’re looking at things the right way. But there are other cops that I’ll talk to because they get the bigger picture. So was there a question of integrity within the police departments, both L.A. and NYPD?

Derrick Parker: L.A.P.D. had their own problems with the corruption within their own department. There was no corruption within the N.Y.P.D. There were just a few overzealous cops that wanted to get into this unit, that would beg, borrow, cheat, steal, lie so they can get into this unit. Because it was flashy and you get to travel and deal with the rappers a lot of young cops wanted to get into the unit. My experience is double or triple [compared to] some new jack, especially doing homicides. With the high profile cases of Biggie, Tupac and Jam Master Jay, you claim being close to solving these cases…

Derrick Parker: Yes… Going back do you feel there was any police involvement in their deaths?

Derrick Parker: I can tell you this: to my knowledge, in the death of Tupac, there was no police involvement. In the case of Notorious B.I.G., there are questions of how far the police went, and where they went to be involved so there were a lot of problems. All those murders can be solved. The Jam Master Jay case, I already solved, that’s already done. So then why isn’t it a closed case?

Derrick Parker: The problem is, when you’re dealing with the [Defense Attorney’s Office] and the police department, they treat murders all the same. With the Hip-Hop community, you have to handle it a different way. The approach they took was the wrong way to go. So if we’re 99% into solving these cases, then what’s the missing link?

Derrick Parker: Police intervention. Police intervention was one of the biggest involvements and then being able to cultivate, getting witnesses, dealing with the Hip-Hop community as a whole and to find out what the underlying problems were. How far are we to solving these cases?

Derrick Parker: Well the DVD is out. The book comes out in July. I hope it sheds some light on these cases because they all can be solved. I can go on record right now and tell you I can solve all three of them. Is everything disclosed in the DVD and the book, or is there confidential information that was kept classified?

Derrick Parker: The DVD goes into explaining the culture and going through the cases that we solved, I go more into us watching the rap community and the crimes that came about. But with the book, I’m more detailed into things that are not in the DVD. I go into my involvement with the rap community, earning their respect and going into the actual murders of Biggie, Tupac, and Jam Master Jay. I tell you in full detail what went wrong with those murders. With the recent arrests involving BMF and Jacob the Jeweler, can we expect to see more entertainment figures arrested in connection with these cases?

Derrick Parker: Yeah, what you’re seeing now is just the preliminary stuff, there’s gonna be other things coming down the line on that. There are probably more arrests to be made in that case. How much influence do you feel the record labels and radio stations have in instigating a conflict between rappers, do you feel they’re partly to blame?

Derrick Parker: I think they’re becoming a lot smarter now because it’s coming into their backyard. HOT 97, after three or four shootings, are now being watched and I think they’ve learned from their mistakes. With the record labels, like Interscope and Def Jam, it’s only a matter of time before the problems lead upstairs to the chairman, and who knows what he’s doing, or what problems he has that he’s involved with. When you do things like that, it just opens doors for people to look and see what else is going on. How much attention is given to the lyrical content in rap music for your investigations, how do you determine what’s real and what’s not?

Derrick Parker: We look into lyrical content, but you have to take that for what it is. But if I saw something happening where it got a little more serious, then maybe I would take a bigger look at it. These guys get on record and try and be tougher than what they really are… Similar to the development of the covert government units during the Civil Rights movement, how concerned is the N.Y.P.D.

with the power and influence Hip-Hop has now in American culture?

Derrick Parker: They probably do have concerns, Hip-Hop is everywhere, its global. So yeah they are concerned, they are watching, not so much here because they have other concerns like Al Qeada and giving that more attention. Rappers who are known not for their criminal involvement but for their political messages have also claimed to being under police observation by your unit. Is there any truth to this?

Derrick Parker: That, I can’t say, but I can say there has always been a unit for certain things like that, even before my unit. There have been units that have looked into the BLA: Black Liberation Army, the FALN [Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Naciona], things are different now. Before, the police department used to be more reactive. Now, they take a proactive approach and sometimes overstep certain boundaries. They look into things deeper but with everything, not just Hip-Hop. Aside from putting out the DVD and the book what else are you involved in now?

Derrick Parker: Well I have my own [private investigation] and security firm; I do a lot of clubs and Hip-Hop parties. A lot of club owners feel at ease when I’m there, because they know the rappers will play it cool.