dr Keith Taylor doesn’t make himself a police expert, even though media outlets like CNN and Newsweek like to portray him as such.
“Out of humility, I never called myself an expert, they started it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a really good nickname because it’s hard to be an expert on something.
“And let’s say someone is good at some aspect of computer engineering, would you consider them a computer expert? No, because there are so many different aspects of computing that it is certainly impossible for one person to be a master of them all.”
So the adjunct of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice prefers to be a man of many talents. For one, he’s an educator with rave reviews on RateMyProfessor.com. Then there’s Taylor’s work protecting local landmarks with Community Board 10’s Harlem Preservation Program. He even dabbles in politics, lasting through the ninth round of the Democratic primary for the District 9 city council seat in 2021.
But it’s not hard to see why people insist on calling Taylor a police expert. Name a law enforcement job and he’s likely held it throughout his three decades of public service. Taylor started out as a nursing clerk in Harlem after graduating from Howard University. But he was curious about police work, and the raise didn’t hurt. Taylor hit the ground running and stopped a bank robbery within two weeks of graduating from NYPD Academy.
Since then he’s monitored schools, worked undercover for three years, been promoted to sergeant and transferred to internal affairs. On September 11, Taylor was part of the missing persons detective team, helping to reunite lost family members and bringing closure to loved ones of those killed. He also worked on SWAT tactical operations in the Emergency Services Unit and ended his career as an Assistant Commissioner in the Correctional Services.
Taylor was born in Queens but grew up in the rural upstate where he says there are more cows than people. And the black population was even more nominal. He traveled to Washington, DC to visit Howard but eventually found his way back to New York City. After all, Taylor has deep roots in the Big Apple.
“I’ve always had a heavy love affair with Harlem,” he said. “I think it has to do with learning about my own family’s history in Harlem. And my great-granduncle was Herbert Bruce. He was the first black-elected district leader in New York City.”
The love affair with Harlem could look more like a committed relationship as Taylor finds more and more opportunities to get involved in the local community. He served as president of his block association for approximately two decades and worked on efforts to designate the Dorrance Brooks Square Historic District. Taylor is active on seemingly every Community Board 10 committee and gives tours to students from his other alma mater, Columbia, where he received his PhD.
No matter how many responsibilities Keith Taylor carries, his best work isn’t in education, law enforcement, or the preservation of Harlem, it’s at home.
“My proudest endeavor [is] my marriage to my wonderful wife, Danielle, and our two wonderful children, Elaina and Keith Jr.,” he said.
Tandy Lau is a member of the Report for America Corps and writes on public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation of our RFA grant helps him write stories like this; Please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w