In honor of Black History Month, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office would like to highlight an employee that goes above and beyond in their contributions to the criminal justice system and the community. This coming April highlights the seventh year Detective John Byrd started working with MCAO. He currently works for MCAO's Investigations Division in the Family Violence and Trial West Bureau.
Before working at MCAO, Detective Byrd spent five years as a detective with the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. During his time there, he realized the potential and importance of working with youth.
After his work with Juvenile Corrections, Detective Byrd became a Criminal Investigator with the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. When a detective position came open with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, it was a perfect fit for Detective Byrd. "The Maricopa County Attorney's Office sounded like the perfect job for my skill set. Due to my familial upbringing, I was raised to possess an authentic love for people. I learned the key to prosecutorial success is to love the community I serve." To Detective Byrd, this means entering a case with a trauma-informed approach. "It means integrating my lived experience with trauma-based education to make the connection with the victim and their families. It means building rapport with a community member experiencing the re-traumatization of a traumatic event. It means taking the extra moment to listen to a domestic violence survivor on the brink of hopelessness, as they try to keep hope alive."
Raising awareness of and working in domestic violence prevention is also essential to Detective Byrd. "As I have committed to furthering my education reference this worldwide health crisis, I have learned that trauma-inducing behavior impacts every society. Working in the family violence bureau allows me to do my part in bringing justice, healing, and self-empowerment to those who have suffered in silence under the domination of coercive control."
In addition to his busy schedule and growing workload, Detective Byrd is actively involved in the community. From fundraising and participating in the Arizona Special Olympics to his contributions to elementary and high school students, his work in the community has made a lasting impact. One of the projects he is most proud of is developing a mentorship program at Solano Elementary School. "The experience was amazing! Seeing young children (3rd-5th grade) go from lacking confidence and positive self-worth to standing tall and confident about their identity and humanity was transformational!" The experience was particularly rewarding because of the personal connections he built with students. "During the program, several young people approached me and expressed the trauma they were experiencing because of absentee fathers. This was especially difficult to hear because I bared the same scars. However, being able to educate them about what trauma is and where it is located (in the body/brain), we were able to introduce and apply solutions that induced trauma integration."
When talking about the importance of Black History Month, this is what Detective Byrd had to share:
First, based on historicity, I would reframe "Black History Month" as "American History Month." Black History is American History. The power of word usage is vital in this regard. Black History is forever interwoven into the foundations of our colonial origins.
Next, "Black History Month" began as "Negro History Week," which showcased Black Contributions to America in 1926 under the guidance of Carter G. Woodson. Further, in 1976 this initiative was expanded to a month-long designation to deepen the study and scholarship of African American contributions to America.
On a personal level, I understand and carry with me what the antecedents suffered and sacrificed, including the baring of unthinkable acts of invasion, dehumanization, and subjugation on the land we stand and abroad. I understand they were captured and sold as human cargo and merchandise to maximize profit. I understand their cultures, languages, customs, spirituality, and human liberty were diabolically stripped away. Consequently, I have integrated these experiences and pay homage to the ancestors daily.
Further, my designated last name (Byrd) is an ever-present reminder of the history within me. In the words of James Baldwin: "History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history".
Detective Byrd, we are thankful for all you do for our office and, more importantly, the community!