When Officer Joshua Jackson clocks out of his shift with Baltimore Police Department's Central District, he becomes "Saint, the Rapping Cop" — a recording artist who writes rap songs about his passion for law enforcement.
The Baltimore Police Department posted online Tuesday a music video, produced in-house, featuring "Saint" and his new song titled "Baltimore's Finest," which includes sentiments about police-community relations, long 16-hour shifts and the rewards of working in law enforcement.
The video marks the second time the department has spotlighted Jackson on social media accounts — another video was shared on the department's social media accounts in July. Jackson said he wrote "Baltimore's Finest" and several weeks ago pitched the song to the department in hopes officials would share it with the public.
The department's communications team cooked up a plan to film Jackson while he recorded the song in a professional music studio. A department staffer then added police department footage of officers on patrol to polish off the music video, according to spokesman Matthew Jablow. The video may be used in future recruitment efforts, he said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
"It's not corny, it's real and that is because we didn't plan this," Jablow said. "(Jackson) did it on his own."
The song's lyrics reflect Jackson's hope that community members will view police as approachable, he said.
Jackson raps, "Yo, imma try to help you any way I can. I talk to the citizens like they were my fam. It's straight from my heart and I hope they understand."
The 25-year-old Anne Arundel County native, who started with the department in 2017, has been dabbling in rap since he was a teen in high school, he said. Jackson started out writing Christian rap, but later decided to branch out to secular music in hopes of reaching a wider audience. He eventually decided to merge his two passions into one persona.
In the past, Jackson has shared publicly how police work can be draining work and that music is his way of processing the tough emotions that come with it. "Baltimore's Finest" combines images of police officers responding to calls in inclement weather day and night. The lyrics speak warmly of fellow officers.
If the video seems to offer a rosy picture of the police department, Jackson said, that was intentional. He wants the music to inspire police and show the public that officers are "human beings," he said.
"There's always people who won't agree with what I have going on," Jackson said. "I don't respond to anything negative. But if someone wants to rap it out, we can rap it out."
Jackson's music comes at a time when some Baltimore police have anecdotally reported low morale in the department, stemming from a stubbornly high homicide rate. The department has struggled to recruit candidates to fill the 500 vacant patrol officer positions. And nationally, tensions have been high between law enforcement and communities of color, some of whom say they have been unfairly and aggressively targeted for years.
While the music video for "Baltimore's Finest" was produced by the police department, the song's sentiment and lyrics are Jackson's — inspired by a job he loves. And his popularity expands beyond the police department's social media accounts.
As "Saint," Jackson has his own hefty Instagram following of more than 14,000 accounts. He often shares videos of himself recording songs and photos of life on the police beat.
"I actually enjoy being a cop here," he said. "I see a lot of officers working a lot of hours. It can be discouraging at times. But I wanted to make (the video) so they can hear the song and feel proud."
Still, Saint's Instagram account occasionally hints at a disconnect between police and community members.
In one post, Jackson holds up a lollipop that he said a child handed to him, calling him "sucka" while taking a photo and laughing with his friends.
"I just want that young man to know that regardless of how you feel about me, I love you," the post states. "Please judge me not by the job but by the content of my character."
Jackson said he knows young people are listening to his music, so he writes clean lyrics and maintains positivity. He's received messages from children around the country who say they want to grow up to be a police officer.
"It was a hobby, but then I realized I could make a huge impact on the music industry but also on police," he said. "I have kids who hit me up, who live in Oregon, and ask me how I became a cop. I'm reaching a lot more people."
Back home in Baltimore, people have started pointing him out on the street and once even asked him to perform on the spot.
"'Aren't you the rapping cop?' (they ask). Yeah, I am."