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Once a Cop

The Street, the Law, Two Worlds, One Man

New York City Book Awards Hornblower Award Winner

African American Literary Award Winner for Best Biography/Memoir

As a youth, Corey Pegues was a criminal. As an adult, he became a high-ranking police officer.

In this fascinating look at life on both sides of the law, Corey Pegues opens up about why he joined the New York Police Department after years as a drug dealer. Pegues speaks honestly about the poor choices he made while coming of age in New York City during the height of the crack epidemic. He’s equally candid about why he turned his life around, and takes you inside the NYPD, where he becomes a decorated officer despite bureaucratic pitfalls and discriminatory practices. Written with the voice and panache of someone who knows the streets, Once a Cop is a credible and informative look at the forces that lead some into a life of crime and what it means to make good on a second chance.

Photograph by Michael Law / Michaud Lormil Jr. / The Law of Photography

Corey Pegues, a native of Queens, retired from the NYPD as a deputy inspector in 2013, after twenty-one years of service.

“As the spotlight on law enforcement grows ever harsher, the perspective of a top cop — a black cop — makes one sit up and take notice. [Corey Pegues] gives us an incisive look at life on both sides of the blue line . . . . a nuanced perspective of the often-fractious relationship between communities of color and law enforcement.”

– USA Today

“This edgy, yet captivating memoir is a page-turner, which demonstrably gives insight into the headspace of how and why poor choices are made by inner city youth, how negative energy or untapped talent steered correctly can make a world of difference, as well as what can happen if [you are] given a second chance in life.”

– Judge Greg Mathis, author and TV personality

“A rollicking, no-holds-barred account of life on the streets, seen from both sides . . . . This insider account of street and squad-room life is riveting, and Pegues’ writing style is assured and polished."

– Booklist (starred review)

“New York City experienced a wave of crack-related violence in the 1980s and early 1990s, followed by a dramatic decline in crime. In his compelling memoir Once a Cop, Corey Pegues describes his life as a young hustler, slinging drugs and battling rival gangsters -- and how he turned his life around by joining the military and then the NYPD, where he became one of the highest-ranking blacks in the department. Pegues holds nothing back in recounting the political landmines he navigated -- and the personal price he paid -- for advocating for reforms within the NYPD.”

– Ruben Castaneda, author of S Street Rising: Crack, Murder and Redemption in DC

“A fascinating look at an era of New York City history—the crack epidemic—and at how a young, misguided man chose a life of crime, then redemption. This isn’t just a good story, it’s the quintessential American success story.”

– Reggie Ossé, aka Combat Jack, host of the Combat Jack Show podcast

"Pegues has an important story to tell.”

– Library Journal

“Gritty . . . . ornamented with raw street vernacular, lending it authenticity.”

– Kirkus

“Gritty . . . . ornamented with raw street vernacular, lending it authenticity.”

– Kirkus

“Gritty . . . . ornamented with raw street vernacular, lending it authenticity.”

– Kirkus