On the night of his father’s death, Larry Godwin–the new interim director of the Memphis Police Department–decided to be a police officer. As the Memphis Commercial Appeal tells it, he was 10 years old. Godwin and his mother walked to the corner grocery store to get food for him to take to school for lunch the next day. His father and some other men were in the store’s parking lot. Two men began arguing over a $10 debt. Godwin’s father stepped in between them. Words were exchanged. The man stabbed Godwin’s father in the stomach, piercing his liver. The killer sped away in a truck. Godwin watched it all. “That night, police officers filled the house. They were like gentle giants, father figures. Godwin felt secure. Protected. They caught the killer that night. “I knew then I was going to be a policeman,” Godwin, 52, said yesterday.
Godwin was promoted to interim director of the Memphis Police Department on Monday after former director James Bolden was ousted by Mayor Willie Herenton. Godwin wants to focus the Police Department’s efforts on fighting crime, especially gangs and drugs. He also wants to polish the department’s image. “If you project a positive image, it carries over into your actions,” said the 30-year officer.