Acting U.S. Park Police Chief Dwight Pettiford is perhaps the only man in the world who has attempted to pacify both angry IMF protesters and angry MEAC football coaches. Pettiford, an offensive lineman and member of the North Carolina Central University Hall of Fame, spent 21 years as a MEAC official before giving up officiating several years ago.
Which job has more pressure?
Ahhhh. Good question. Well, in officiating you want to get it right and in police work you want to get it right, always. That's the first time that question's ever been put to me in that way. A policeman has more pressure, only because [the possibility of] a life and death decision. This is where the correlation splits off. In sports, there is another day. Sometimes we have situations in police work where there is not another day, and that's where the pressure comes from. Both of them are very subject to public review, and I think that's another similarity -- you'll always have Monday morning quarterbacks in both of them.
Are people more likely to respect you as a police officer or as an official?
I think people are more likely to respect you as a law enforcement person. I think they'll appreciate what you do when you're not noticed as an official, but they're more appreciative of your police work. I was leaving a football game one time and there was a little old lady there and she said, "That was a great game today." And I said, "Thank you, ma'am." And she said, "Too bad you didn't see it."
When you watch games now, do you watch the action or the officials?
I watch the officials, man, I'll never get out of that. I'll always watch the officials.
Can you tell if they're doing a good job?
Yes, immediately. Yes. Yes. I can tell you who's out there destroying a check, and I can tell you who's working.
Which uniform do you look better in, your police uniform or your official's uniform?
Police, man. I love a police uniform. I like my officiating uniform, but I love my police uniform. I think I look good in my uniforms, period. I'm a big guy, and I like to look neat in any of my uniforms.
What's more difficult, keeping control of a football game or an IMF demonstration?
Good question again. I think when you have a rivalry in football, it's very close to working a major demonstration. You can feel it when you're at the point of attack. You can feel it when you're around the big linemen, you're surrounded by 300-plus pounders. But when you're at a situation that's about to break loose, you know something is different -- your intuition takes over. . . . I think what's more difficult is the riot, because at the game you have coaches coming in and at a demonstration you only have your fellow officers. But it's close. . . . In Washington, we have the biggest demonstrations in the world -- it's no different than being in a football stadium with 70,000 people. As a police manager here, we have to get accustomed to that and do our job. That's what I love about working in the police business and working in officiating; no matter how bright the light is, you still have to do your job.
-- Dan Steinberg