From Sunday April 26, 2015
Contrary to what many folks might expect, bitter enemies CAN become best friends. Steve Hartman shows us how:
They were the bitterest of enemies. For more than a decade, here on the streets of Milwaukee, two men shared a mutual disgust.
One was a hardnosed cop named Ray Robokowski.
"I wasn't a social worker; I was a police officer," he told Hartman. "My job was to take care of what needed to be taken care of."
Which was why Jacob Maclin didn't like him. "Oh, I definitely didn't."
Maclin, a drug dealer and gang-banger, got arrested so many times you can watch him grow old in his mug shots. And it was that career thug -- and this officer -- who sat down one day over a cup of coffee. The district attorney's office arranged it.
The meeting was to see if cop and criminal could work together, and come up with a way to get out of this vicious cycle. But neither guy was buying it.
Ray was only there because his boss made him come. And Jacob was tricked into coming -- told he had a job interview. So they basically just glared at each other the entire time.
So what was Robokowski thinking? "'You're going to screw up and I'm going to find you and put you back,'" he recalled to Hartman.
To which Maclin responded, "Yeah, I'm glad he changed his mind."
It was Maclin who changed the cop's mind. Eventually, over the next couple months, Jacob proved to Ray that he wanted to get a job and turn his life around.
"He sent me on, maybe, 14 or 15 interviews in two weeks," recalled Maclin. "And one of them was Community Warehouse."
Community Warehouse is a non-profit, home improvement store that hires ex-cons and teaches them job skills. Jacob started working here eight years ago, and is now on the management team.
To this day, he can't thank Ray enough.
Hartman asked, "You grateful?"
"Very, very, very, oh man, very ..." Maclin responded. He said "very" at least half a dozen times.
And as for that very helpful cop, he retired from the police force last year. But he still wanted to work, still wanted a job. So whom did he turn to for work?
"Jacob Maclin!" said Robokowski. "And he laughed. Now he held the cards. But I wanted to be here."
Through Community Warehouse, with his new friend Jacob, Ray has now helped more than a dozen other ex-cons leave their past behind.
Hartman asked Maclin, "Is Ray a different guy than he was when you first met him?"
"Oh, definitely! Oh, did I say that too loud?"
Jacob, of course, is equally unrecognizable. Today his only high-speed chases are around swing sets. He's got three kids and has vowed the cycle stops with him.