​Cop and ex-con join forces

MILWAUKEE -- They were the bitterest of enemies. For more than a decade, on the streets of Milwaukee, two men shared a mutual disgust. One was a hardnosed cop named Ray Robakowski

"I wasn't a social worker, I was a police officer," said Ray. "My job was to take care of what needed to be taken care of."

The other was a drug dealer and gang-banger named Jacob Maclin. Jacob got arrested so many times you can watch him grow old in his mugshots. And it was that career thug -- and Ray the officer -- who sat down one day over a cup of coffee. The district attorney's office arranged it.

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Various mugshots of Jacob Maclin over the years
MILWAUKEE POLICE

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 only showed up 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.

Ray thought Jacob was sure to screw up and wind up behind bars. But 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 and one of them was Community Warehouse," said Jacob.

Community Warehouse is a non-profit, home improvement store that hires ex-cons and teaches them job skills. Jacob started working there eight years ago and is now on the management team. To this day, he can't thank Ray enough.

Jacob says he's very grateful -- so grateful that 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 Ray still wanted a job. He turned to Jacob Maclin for help.

"He laughed," said Ray. "Now he held the cards. But I wanted to be here."

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Ray Robakowski, left, with Jacob Maclin, right
CBS News

Through Community Warehouse -- with his new friend Jacob -- Ray has now helped more than a dozen other ex-cons leave their past behind. Jacob says Ray is a different guy than when he first met him.

Jacob, of course, is equally unrecognizable. Today his only high-speed chases are around swing sets. He's got four kids and has vowed: the cycle stops with him. All proof that if you can find the trust -- sometimes your enemies can be your best allies.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.