Darline Rucker: Life with the Badge
On June 24, 1949, Darline Braxton-Rucker was born in Detroit at The Dorothy Roger’s Hospital, which later became Lakeside General. She was the second black baby that was born in that hospital. “My mother said that I came out with my eyes open and was looking around,” Darline says.
Darline says she learned a lot about the eastside of Detroit, where she grew up, from her elders. She was told the area was called “Black Bottom” because of the dark, fertile topsoil. Black Bottom was one of the poorest sections of Detroit and homes commonly held three to four families.
By the time she was four, she moved further east near Indian Village and grew up there. She attended public school for one year and then went to St. Edwards. In the ninth grade, she started St. Catherine’s High School.
Darline met her husband at the age of 14 at a relative’s house. They married in 1965 when she was 16 and she had her son, Simpson Jr., that same year. Darline recalls it was a struggle learning how to be a young mother and a wife. She attended night school and graduated high school in 1968. In 1972 at the age of 22, she had her second child, Darlita. Her husband at that time was serving in the Vietnam War.
Darline says she prayed and asked God for a good paying, professional job and one day while working as a bank teller, a female police officer came in on a false alarm. She says she looked at her demeanor holding a rifle and she thought, “That’s what I need to be.”
She applied to the academy, and it took about a year until she was able to have an interview to join. “It was an eye opener to the fact that you were going to be law enforcement,” she says. She took some vacation days from the bank to see what the academy would be like and after one week, she decided she wanted to quit and go back to her bank job. Her family convinced her to just wait a little longer until she got her first paycheck. When she received that first check and realized it was three times more than the amount she was making at the bank, she decided to stay. She knew she had to do it for her children. “You have to follow through now, you prayed and asked for something,” she would tell herself, “You can’t turn your back on the opportunity.”
On August 8, 1977, she joined the Detroit Police Department.
Darline says in 1977, the door for female officers became very open and there was a lot of training for them. The first group of female officers came on board in 1974. After her first three-and-a-half years, she was laid off. For those five years, she worked as security for the Renaissance Center. She was the second black female to hold this job.
In 1985, she was hired back onto the police department. For the first year, she walked businesses and had a residential area that was designated to her. This was to learn the territory and communicate and get to know the residents. “We were neighborhood police,” she says.
She says much of the job of a police officer is community relations; helping community members of all ages gain their trust and know the police are there to help. She says you must discipline yourself and have the right mindset to be a police officer.
Darline was part of the Detroit Police Department from 1985 to 2000. In 2000, she suffered an injury on the job and left on a duty disability. She now resides at American House East II in Roseville, MI.
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