Alfred Durham, assistant chief of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, has been in the force since 1987. Throughout his years of service, he has set himself apart by good conduct, strong leadership and speedy promotions. He even skipped the rank of captain to gain his current position as assistant chief. Public service is now instinctive to the Washington native, but the desire began years before Durham joined the police department. It started back in October 1982, when Durham enlisted in the Marine Corps as an infantryman after watching An Officer and a Gentleman.
Durham was the first in his family to join the military. He signed up after realizing college wasn’t for him. Following basic training in Parris Island, S.C., Durham was sent to Japan.
It was there that Durham first caught a glimpse of what his life might look like after the Corps.
“The barracks duty we did while in Japan was similar to police work,” Durham said.
After two years in Japan, Durham was sent to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, where he served on a South Pacific tour in 1985 aboard the USS New Orleans.
After this tour Durham began to consider other options for his life. His girlfriend’s dad worked with the National Park Services and suggested Durham apply for a security position.
“It was important for me to continue to give once I had started giving,” Durham said.
He applied to several different security departments, including the Metropolitan Police Department. He didn’t really take it seriously until he got several letters of inquiry back, Durham said.
“I realized that I had served my country,” Durham said. “But now was my chance to serve my community.”
In 1986, Durham left active duty and joined the reserve forces while enrolling in the police academy. While at the academy, Durham found he had a leg up on the other students.
“The police force has similar parameters, organization and structure as the Marine Corps,” Durham said. “It was a natural fit. Plus, the training I got in the Corps instilled discipline in me and prepared me for police work.”
After only a month, Durham was named class leader because of the leadership skills he developed in the Corps.
“Even to this day, the leadership principles – particularly setting the example – have stuck with me,” Durham said.
Physically, Durham was also at the top of the pack. He broke the current record for the fastest time on the S.W.A.T. team obstacle course at four minutes.
Throughout his career, Durham has found that people come to him for advice and assistance because they know he will take care of those in his department, in the same way that he took care of his Marines as a noncommissioned officer.
Now, just two years shy of 25 years at the MPD, Durham credits the Corps for instilling in him the skills for success that he has used along the way.
“If it wasn’t for the Corps, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Durham said. “In the same way that serving in the Marine Corps is a calling, serving in law enforcement is also a calling.”
That call to serve, which began as an infantryman in the Marine Corps, continues to burn inside Durham as he gives back to his community as a member of the Metropolitan Police Department. His time in the Corps gave him the discipline and leadership qualities essential to succeed in the police force and provided the backbone for why he chose a life of serving.
Editor’s note: This is the first installment in our Why We Serve Campaign in which we salute the heroes who continue to carry the honor, courage and commitment of the Corps to other areas of need in their communities.Whether you’re a retired Marine, Marine veteran or still actively serving, tell us your own or another inspiring Marine’s story.
E-mail your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.