Friday, December 19, 2014

SUICIDE: AN OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD FOR LEO’S




ONE MAN’S LONG DANCE WITH DEATH
HELP IS AVAILABLE
PRIDE IS NO REASON TO DIE
NO MOS SHOULD SUFFER IN SILENCE


TAGS:  NYPD MOS SUICIDE, SUICIDE AS OCCUPATIONAL

HAZARD FOR LEO’S, DISCREET HELP ALWAYS AVAILABLE,

SUICIDE IS NOT IN EVERYONE’S VOCABULARY,

SENSE SOMETHING ABOUT A CO-WORKER, REACH OUT

TO HIM OR HER, MOST SUICIDES ARE PREVENTABLE





(Friday, December 19, 2014, NYC)  He had had his nights.  Times when the world seemed to be at a hazardous kilter that was making him dizzy.  His thoughts would race on those nights and like the repetitive bursts of the same songs as the scan mode went through the stations on a car radio; his mind scanned through his memories and kept revealing the same handful of scenarios over and over again until they became one cohesive block. It was a bit unnerving that in that vast ocean of his past that he would always come back to that handful of moments, moments frozen in time where he perpetrated an error of commission or omission. Yes, he had had his nights; sometimes, after a 12 to 8 tour as the rest of the City was going about on their way to work he would find himself in the lonely shadows of a Blarney Stone or some other shithole tavern that actually did a brisk business at that time of day.  People who sit on bar stools at 8:30 in the morning see the world outside differently.  That was fine.  There were few people who could see the world the way he did and, even those who occasionally did, were rarely up for a few shots of Jameson’s  before the morning rush hour was even over.  So, he drank alone.

He was a good drinker, a good bar customer.  He sat alone at the farthest corner of the bar so his back was against a wall: laid out his cash, placed his cigarettes and lighter to one side of an ashtray, read the paper, did a crossword puzzle and bothered no one.  And no one bothered him.  Of course those were the days before the Imperial Mayor had swept into City Hall and began to regulate the habits of New Yorkers.  Fucker.  There was no small irony lost in that the City had become the safest large City in the country, the number one destination for foreign travelers, very business friendly, and clean thanks to the efforts of Bloomberg’s predecessor and the NYPD.  Things were running so smoothly that he had time to dream up all sorts of “quality of life” ordinances and initiatives.  Rudy Giuliani had inherited one God-awful mess after the abysmally inept David Dinkins and during his two terms things, the things that really matter, turned around.  He had been proud to be part of the PD when that tectonic shift occurred.

But on this particular morning he wasn’t thinking much about anything or anyone besides himself.  Typically, when he got in one of these moods, he could identify the precipitating event.  On this morning which was shaping up to be sunny and clear as far as he could tell, he wasn’t sure why he was sitting where he was. Clearly something triggered this mood; some scene or words exchanged with a mope; something was eating at him like the itch in a phantom limb that an amputee can never scratch.  Some cluster of nerve endings in his un- or subconscious mind was twitching.  Not caring at the moment for some introspection he let the warmth of the smooth Irish whiskey  to gradually round the edges in his mind.  It usually did.  For some reason on this morning he couldn’t identify the singular event or encounter that was troubling him and, after a few more Jameson’s he realized it was not a single event or scenario; it was the cumulative effect of the countless jobs, situations, scenarios, crisis, disorder; of witnessing year after year the callousness of people, the petty, trivial things they will kill over, kill for, deliver violence and brutality of an epic scale upon those least able to defend themselves.  Yes, it was always the children; the children are what could make his blood boil and heart ache.

*****     *****     *****

Suddenly, without recognizing him at first, an old friend came and sat next to him.  He was familiar with this specter, this mindset that conjured up what he’d long referred to as “the option”.  The option had traveled through life with him since his early teen years.  For a very long time, most of his lifetime actually, he could and would not speak to another about the option.  To do so might get him a permanent appointment with a Department psychiatrist or even worse some bleeding heart liberal psychologist the Department had on retainer would have him reassigned to "Thee Bow and Arrow Squad".  So he kept his option a secret; he protected his secret from anyone who might disparage it or otherwise imply he suffered from some sort of mental illness. After all, who besides a deeply disturbed man would ever even consider such an option?  But he found an odd sense of comfort in owning the option. His thinking in this regard was akin to that of an agoraphobic; a person who always had to have an escape route planned just in case…just in case of what?  Just in case of a panic attack or some other sense of being confined or impending doom. No but he held on to his option for similar reasons; if he ever decided it was time to exit, he could take himself out. Death via his service piece or one of his other fire arms was literally an arm's length away.  If he ever arrived at the point where his ambivalence towards life became a hazard for others, he’d be close to a proverbial door and simply slip out.  Yes, he found comfort in the option.

*****     *****     *****

Given the estrangement that has set in like a tenacious virus between the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, one is left to wonder if the Mayor has reached out to the family of the 33 year old, father of two, 10 year veteran Police Officer Sachin Singh who killed himself yesterday.  Sadly, this tragic story has not been covered in the media aside from a short blurb in the Daily News.  Suicide retains its age old distinction as a taboo, an unnatural act committed by a mind housed in a body that is completely constructed to cling to life.  Human biology is fundamentally, when taken in total, all about survival.  While we are composed of “selfish genes” determined to thrive, it is in the dark recesses of the soul, the shadowy nether regions of the mind that suicide lurks.  Like toxic mushrooms suicide grows in the damp shaded underbrush of a spirit that sees no light.  But it is a spore that does not take root in everyone’s mind; it simply doesn’t register with most people as an option for anything and therefore it is a closely held secret by those who’ve allowed it to flourish.

As a rule the NYPD does not call attention to the suicide of one of their own.  They keep very quiet about it as they instinctively, collectively circle the wagons knowing that every detail of the suicide’s life is going to be scrutinized by the Internal Affairs Division (IAD).  They will look into his bank accounts; speak with his colleagues, family, neighbors and friends looking for something untoward in the Officer’s life that they can explain the suicide away.  This is some of the nasty, disrespectful fallout that ensues after a Cop’s suicide.  In the locker room of the Precinct the suicide was assignation to the other Cops would scour their memories of the last interaction, the last conversation each of them had had with the deceased.  Some would wonder if they had missed some warning sign, some change in demeanor or personality that may have, could have been a red flag that something was not quite right with their colleague.  This line of thought occurs quite naturally after every suicide be the deceased a Cop or civilian.  Suicide just seems so far beyond most others comprehension that they need to know why; why did this happen and could I have done anything, anything at all to prevent it?  Rarely are such questions ever answered.  Death by suicide typically leaves more unknown than known.  The answers are held by the suicide into the grave.

*****     *****     *****

The bar he found himself in on this morning was called the Molly Wee.  It was on 8th Avenue and 30th Street just a  block south of Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.  His Dad had always called this bar and others of its ilk a “bucket of blood”.  But, now, there was no crowd from a Knicks or Rangers game, no college revelers doing shots of weird concoctions after a big concert at the Garden.  No, for these hours this was a hard-core drinker’s bar.  Despite the Irish name the only thing Irish about this tavern were the bottles of Jameson and Bushmills on the top shelf of the back bar.  Since the long dirty window faced west as the rush hour gave way to mid-morning the bar was graced by bright sunlight that illuminated the gauzy cloud of cigarette smoke that hung in a slow moving layer like some indoor vapor trail just above the old wooden bar.

Without realizing it the bar had begun to fill up a bit.  A few old grizzled Irish pensioners, likely retired  longshoremen and stevedores, talking quietly and smoking cheap cigars; a few Latino guys with the logo of an office cleaning service on their shirts, a hooker of indeterminate age slumped on the stool nearest the door with the tell-tale track marks on her arm of a heroin addict, and a couple of big firemen from the Engine 1, Ladder 24 House on 31st Street between 7th and 8th Avenues.  They nodded at him and raised their glasses and he in return raised his.  He recognized them from the days he spent working in Midtown South.  He liked fireman for a number of reasons and was just a bit envious of the public appreciation they received, and rightfully so;  he wished the public had some modicum of appreciation for his Department and the men and women who served on the front line between civil society and chaos.  But, shit, what the fuck, he thought.  Everyone has a role to play; everyone made a choice many years ago and that was that.

For a moment he lost sight of the option and wondered if he’d slipped out the back door between the restrooms and a storage closet.  In that moment he found a wave of relief wash over him because frankly, he knew he was just not up to dealing with the option today.  It was often a draining experience to spend time with the option; sometimes terrifying, at other times tranquilizing.  The dichotomy inherent in this relationship was not lost in him but, long ago he’d ceased analyzing his relationship with the option.  They knew each other well enough to know when to poke and prod and when to back off, to just let life unfold in its all too messy and random ways.

*****     *****     *****

The first suicide victim he had ever seen was a 66 year old man, a divorced retired military officer who was at the time the director of security for a big building in Midtown.  This fella, possessed of whatever personal mayhem that raged on that night in his mind, sat on the lid of the toilet and placed a .45 caliber sidearm in his mouth and pulled the trigger. His neighbors had heard the shot; a .45 is a big, heavy, loud gun and they had phoned 911.  He and his partner arrived only to see what was left of this man’s cranium precariously balanced on his facial bones while the rest of his skull and brains were plastered to the wall in chunks and clumps behind the poor fucker.  It was during the hours it took for the Medical Examiner’s crew to arrive that he spent time looking at this man with half a head on his shoulders.  What possessed him to do this?  How much balls does it take to commit suicide in such a brutal, sloppy manner?  Was there a note left behind that might explain why he did this?  Who was his legal next of kin and have they been contacted?  Once a person expires from whatever the cause a well-worn, efficient mechanism is set in motion by the NYPD on the scene and the ME’s Office. The victim’s family is contacted if there is any lead as to who they might be. It is not unusual to trace a dead end seeking the next of kin of a suicide.  Had they had better relations, more contact and communication, perhaps the suicide would never have happened. He was probably some one's grandpa. This is a common thought that every Cop whose ever had to "secure" such a crime scene wonders about.

The process can be perceived as a cold, callous,and intrusively obscene as a  routine by the next of kin but, every such incident is first assumed to be a homicide and is handled as such.  In this particular case it did not take very long, merely a matter of hours, to determine that this man had indeed taken his own life.  To this very day he could see that man’s final facial expression.  He looked to be oddly at peace. 

*****     *****     *****

It was nearing noon as he walked back to the men’s room that reeked of piss, disgust, and Lysol. As he stood there relieving himself he could not help but to read the graffiti on the wall in front of him and the metal partition to his left.  It was mostly the typical barroom shit, the names of unknown women who had committed unknown transgressions by the guy who carved some insult in the paint maybe with his apartment key.  There was something sad in all these emotional, bile-driven epithets and he was left to wonder anew about his own past, the women who had come in and out of his own life and, at some point in their relationship, had realized it was in their best interest to leave him to his own devices, to not ask to be introduced to his demons, and, above all, he’d guarded the existence of them. That was his option.  The results of a life carried out in such a fashion eventually catches up with you and this he realized more clearly with each passing day.

As he washed his hands in the rust stained sink he looked into the stall thinking perhaps the option was just hiding from him for the moment, poised to pounce at any second.  But that would not be the case on this day.  He collected his cigarettes and lighter, left the newspapers behind for the next person to read through, gave the barman a very generous tip and walked out onto 8th Avenue.  He could see the bright yellow and blue umbrella of a Sabrett’s hot dog vendor on the next corner.  He walked in that direction, ordered two dogs with onions, mustard and relish and continued on walking south.  His apartment was a bit of a walk from where he started but he needed the sunlight, the air and the activity.  Before he realized it the option had taken leave.  That was a good thing.  He was planning to go to bed and sleep as soon as he got home.  The option could visit anytime; sometimes at the worst of times but for the time being they seemed to have forged a fragile d├ętente’, a ceasefire that would last for who knew how long?  At least today he’d kept the option at arm’s length, the very same distance in which he wore his service piece.  The .38 caliber, five shot wheel gun with a 2 inch barrel was worn on his ankle; this was the piece his Dad had given him when he’d graduated from the Academy eons ago. 

He thought often about his Dad who, at the still tender age of 18 found himself a Marine on a landing craft to be beached on Okinawa.  He had occasionally in his later years spoken about death and it was from him that he was taught that everyman, no matter what they proclaim or say, will cling to life tooth and nail.  Marines in the island-hopping South Pacific battle theater learned this lesson exceptionally well.

But life is not meant for everyone; longevity as a goal might reside in our DNA but in the minds and souls of others, it has no appeal.  To do battle with an ambivalence towards life seems so anathema to most that those who have a long-term relationship with the option know they cannot speak of it.  

At 23rd and 9th there is a church.  The doors were open so he walked inside, his vision unfocused from the abrupt change from the light of day to the darkness of the church.  He sat for a moment looking up at the stained glass windows; various Saints captured in an artisans mind made real in wedges of thick glass.  If it was a Saturday he may have waited around to make a Confession but there was no Priest to be found on this early afternoon.  He said a few prayers, asked God to forgive him his many transgressions and also pleaded his case for a rapid and imminent death.  It was probably a sin to pray for death but it couldn’t hurt.  He immediately recalled the axiom to “be careful what you pray for…you just might get it”.

DEDICATED TO THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE SERVED WITH
DIGNITY, HONOR AND VALOR YET BECAME CONSUMED
BY THE REALITIES OF THEIR CHOSEN PROFESSION.

GOD BLESS AND KEEP THEM ALL.

AMEN 



 Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved


Monday, December 15, 2014

EVERY LIFE MATTERS: BLACK, BROWN AND BLUE



WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
PROTESTORS PEACEFULLY WALK ACROSS THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
OTHER DEMONSTRATIONS IN NYC SAW SOME ARRESTS



TAGS: ANTI-POLICE PROTESTS, ANGER AT GRAND JURIES IN FERGUSON AND STATEN ISLAND,
DEMONSTRATIONS COAST TO COAST, ENDEMIC DISTRUST OF LEC
 IN BLACK AND LATINO COMMUNITIES, OLD SCARS TORN OPEN BY
IGNORANCE, BIGOTRY, AND PREJUDICE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE DIVIDE,
CHANGE CALLED FOR BUT WHAT KIND OF CHANGE WOULD BE FEASIBLE,
REASONABLE AND RELATIVELY RAPIDLY IMPLEMENTED?
 


(NEWS ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY)


(Friday December 12, 2014 South Bronx, NYC)  At rare times in our history an event or series of events occur that serve as the “tipping point”, the heavy weight perched out on the end of a limb that causes that limb to break.  The events that have been covered in the media exhaustively and we are by now  rather familiar with  as well as the  details of similar events seem to have ignited what could be a “movement” except it is unclear what kind of a movement it should be.

We have witnessed as the breathless personalities occupying the “newsertainment” cable networks have provided round the clock coverage of the nationwide protests that have been staged in cities from coast to coast. They have no shortage of scholars, experts, pundits and hacks available for on-air discussions and debate which are typically efforts in futility.

Four recent incidents of White Police Officers shooting and killing unarmed young Black men has torn open the ugly knotted scar on our nation’s underbelly and has released a putrid mix of long standing prejudice, virulent bigotry, racism, and the pervasive sense of frustration and anger on both sides of the divide.  It is fair to say that our racial divisions are as wide today as they were in 1964.  But this is not primarily about Black people and White people.  It is however all about Black people and White Police Officers.  It is about the belief that many Black people hold tightly to: they believe their lives don’t matter; they believe White Law Enforcement Officers can shoot and kill them with impunity, without any consequence of substance.  This belief creates an additional degree of friction between the policed and the Police; a friction that is dangerous for all involved.

So, on one side stands the predominately White Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA’s) and their behavior in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods, Precincts and entire smaller towns like Ferguson Missouri where a 67% Black population of 30,000 residents are policed by a force of 54 Officers only four of whom are Black.  What may come as a surprise to some and stands firmly against and contrary to public opinion, the 34,000 member NYPD has a “majority minority” composition.  Approximately 51% are non-Caucasian.  So it is more than a statistical likelihood that a person interacting with an NYPD Officer will be looking into faces that are Black, Brown, Asian or some other non-White ethnicity.   

Not only is the Law Enforcement Community (LEC) distrusted by Black people but more alarmingly, our entire criminal justice system; they have lost all faith in the Grand Jury mechanism of criminal indictment, and the Courts in general are viewed by far too many Black and Latino men as discriminatory and dysfunctional.  Agree or disagree, it is not difficult, if considered objectively, to understand why they have the beliefs they do and why they feel as they do.  Long simmering tensions boiled over after two Grand Juries returned “no indictment” verdicts for the White Officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner on New York City’s Staten Island.  The death of Mr. Garner was particularly enraging since his attempted arrest and his verbal and physical resistance to arrest was partially captured by a young man on his cell phone video camera.  The whole world has been able to see that tense scenario escalate to the point it did and it is a fair question to ask if the Officers involved had handled the situation properly.

(The Brooding Cynyx have never hidden the fact that our affiliation, association, affinity and support has always been and remains solidly with the NYPD.)

THE SOCIAL COMPACT

Much of our criminal justice system is based on old English jurisprudence as defined in the Magna Carta.  We have established our own version since the birth of our nation by legal precedent and rulings by the Courts up to and including the Supreme Court, the highest legal body in the land.  Our brand of criminal justice has evolved over the years and it was often only after repeated unlawful acts by Law Enforcers, the efforts of agents for change, the recognition of “gaps” in the system that it has been malleable enough to adapt.  It has only been since 1966 that the “Miranda Warning” became codified after a Supreme Court ruling in the case known as “Miranda vs The State of Arizona” and is now an integral component of a suspect’s rights.

There has long existed an unwritten but widely acknowledged compact between Law Enforcement and the public.  After all, the Police do not keep “law and order”; it is the concept of the Police that keeps law and order for the most part.  In a country of over 400 million diverse, disparate citizens there are approximately 700,000 men and women actively employed by Law Enforcement Agencies.  This number includes Federal Officers from a wide variety of Agencies, to the levels of State, County, and Municipal or otherwise local Departments.  This comparative equation illustrates just how thin the “Thin Blue Line”, a term for Law Enforcers writ large, is in the United States today.  Obviously we cannot have Officers present on every corner in every city; resources are often stretched very thin and without adequate funding it is often difficult for Departments of any size to properly recruit, screen, and train personnel.

And so it is easy to see given the complexity of our society and the nature of certain aspects of our culture, that it is the concept of the Police that prevents society from widespread wanton criminality.  We live in a fast-paced, violent culture with an increasing admixture of belligerence, disrespect, as well as all the societal ills that persistently plaque large portions of our populace.  For decades scholars and researchers from a broad array of disciplines have researched, studied and documented the relationships between social ailments and criminality.  Sadly, for far too many of our fellow citizens, not much has improved their lot appreciably despite decades of government programs some of which were well meaning but were essentially nothing more than ill-conceived programs of social engineering.

A fundamental component of this social compact is that law abiding citizens are permitted to live freely while pursuing the full complement of needs and desires from housing, education and employment up through the inalienable rights as written in our Bill of Rights.  This also includes tacitly, the right to live as one pleases provided one’s pursuits do not infringe on those of another. Life in a civil society comes with some responsibilities particularly in certain areas of individual actions in public places.  A prime example of this comes from a Supreme Court ruling in 1919 regarding free speech.  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes used the metaphor of “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater” as an example of a point where one’s freedom of speech has a negative impact on many others and thus, as a breech of social order, may be criminal.

Our basic Constitutional rights naturally extend to the degree that our society protects us all from illegal search and seizure, harassment from members of the LEC in that there must be “probably cause” prior to an Officer initiating contact with a citizen.  It appears that the majority of Black Americans see this last provision as a “joke” while in their minds and hearts they believe that they can be stopped while just simply  walking down the block, congregating on the corner or “driving while black”.  There is ample evidence to fortify their beliefs but there is, as there always is, another side to that perspective.

THROUGH BLUE TINTED GLASSES

When the majority of an entire demographic stratum is possessed of an endemic distrust of the LEC, the criminal justice system and the way they are treated by authorities in those roles, our entire nation has a problem: it is not merely an issue between young Black men and White Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s). This level of distrust puts the lives of the innocent and the guilty, of young Black unarmed men and White armed police Officers in peril.  As Abraham Lincoln said in his famous 1958 speech as a Senate candidate from Illinois, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”, and what we must recognize today is the sad fact that we remain, all these years later, a house very much divided along several deep fissures of race, employment, education, income, and opportunity.  Add to this context a segment of the population who see the LEC as an occupying force, and it is a recipe for disaster.

In the ongoing public demonstrations in cities across the USA the focus of the protestors is “Police brutality” and “Police misconduct” with the de facto element that virtually all LEO’s are White, many of them racist, brutal, and too quick to draw conclusions based on scant probable cause.  The protestors argue that the Prosecutors are too close to the Police and that it is nearly impossible to have a Police Officer ever face charges no matter what the infraction or action.  They cite the Grand Jury non-indict verdicts in Ferguson and Staten Island as the living proof of what they belief to be harsh reality. 

One element of the recent protests and media-hosted debates is that there is no lack of data, research, and statistics that can be cited to bolster the arguments of each side. While much of this information is flawed and corrupted by faulty methodology, inherent bias on the part of the researchers, and all too pliable statistics, there are some raw numbers that are undeniably straightforward. Yet, what must be kept in mind when citing the raw numbers is the per capita population ratio between Black and White Americans, Black men involved in Black on Black crime, White men involved in White on White crime as well as the likelihood a Black man has at some time in his early life of having a negative encounter with a LEO.  Actual, reliable statistics are notoriously hard to come by since each jurisdiction seems to classify method and mode of death differently, they each have their own internal classification systems, and a number of other factors make it very difficult to find accurate statistics that account for young Black unarmed men being shot or shot and killed by White Officers.

There is no excuse for Police brutality and abuse of any kind.  One missing cog in the gears of this discussion is the prevalence of illegal firearms on the streets of the inner City.  Legal gun ownership is a Constitutionally guaranteed right as well it should be but the problem is with the guns in the hands of people who could never apply for legal ownership. This proliferation of illegal guns in the hands of people who use them for criminal activities adds a serious component to many interactions between a Police Officer and a citizen.   In America, on average, every 58 hours a Law Enforcement Officer is killed in the line of duty and many of these deaths are delivered by illegal guns.  Despite this fact it is extremely difficult to discuss any form or type of measures that would have a relatively reasonable chance of being effective when it comes to "gun control".  It is especially – almost irrationally challenging -  discussing anything related to the ownership and the availability of firearms even among the vast majority of legal gun owners who are lawful people; those who hunt for sport, target shoot and some who own for self-defense and for the protection of their families and property.  There is no one in government that aspires to take the guns away from their legal owners but thanks to a strong NRA lobby, guns remain a sacrosanct topic in most of the country and could spell the end of many a politician's career.

Every life is valuable and the members of the LEC go to work day in, day out, serving their respective communities always with the intent of protecting the public, being pro-active when possible to interdict crime before it happens, and otherwise “do the right thing”.  They often face those who roam with criminal intent and are called into dangerous scenarios involving seriously emotionally or psychologically disturbed people, people who have no regard for life, and others who roam the streets as predatory opportunists ready  pounce on an unsuspecting victim.  Often an Officer places him or herself in between the danger; that is part of the Compact they are bound by.  What is being obscured in the rancorous debates, protests, and demonstrations is that the percentage of Officers that demonstrate or have demonstrated brutality of any kind in the past or present is extremely small just as is the number of Officers involved in shooting situations.  This recent cluster of Police killing unarmed Black men is not at all representative of some broader, more ominous pattern of behavior or intent.

NOW WHAT?

We have lived through many tragic events that were viewed at the time as being seminal moments in our recent history only to prove they “didn’t have legs”; they were brief moments of national concern and discourse but they soon faded from the headlines and the national conscience.  It has been two years since the brutal school shooting in Newtown Elementary School in Connecticut where the lives of 26 first and second graders were lost.  Despite all the outcry at such a heinous, cold blooded attack on those young innocents, no real changes have been enacted.  If an event such as that could not foster an atmosphere of willingness in Congress and Statehouses, what will?

Regarding the issue at hand, some are calling for more transparency in the investigatory process that follows a Police shooting.  Others are demanding a total overhaul of the Grand Jury system.  Various politicos are advocating for “better training” for LEO’s, to have “independent prosecutors” conduct Grand Jury proceedings whenever an Officer kills a citizen or anytime a suspect dies in Police custody.  Some of these are knee-jerk reactions while others have some degree of merit and should be studied. 

One thing is certain; we cannot as a society continue on in a climate of perpetual protest, unrealistic notions of immediate change, nor can we simply scrap parts of the criminal justice system because of an isolated number of unpopular Grand Jury non-indict decisions.

Yes, every life matters, every one of us was once some mother’s son.  What will it take to establish some measure of trust between the Black and Latino communities and the Police?  It is hard to say.  But, it is likely that another shooting incident between the Police and an unarmed citizen may occur before any change will be adopted to restore the faith in the Black and Latino communities  for the criminal justice system.  These are perilous days; we are torn and bleeding as a society, often callous and impatient as a culture.  What we need most now is to step back from the brink, take a deep breath, engage in a positive manner and, above all be patient.  Remember change does not come quickly in America even when, at times like this, there is such an urgent hunger among so many for change they can see and feel.


RELATED LINKS








 Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved

TWO COPS WALK INTO A BAR…



THERE IS NO PUNCHLINE, JUST SOME REALITY
THE BANALITY OF RACISM:
WE ARE ALL HUMAN
This is not the bar in the story but is pretty close to it


TAGS: NYC, NYPD, SOUTH BRONX, WASHINGTON HEIGHTS,

TWO COPS, RACE RELATIONS, PD INTERACTIONS WITH PUBLIC,

NYC IN DARKEST DAYS – 1970’S-1980’S,

HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED,

A STORY



(Sunday December 14, 2014 Washington Heights, NYC) It was a dive bar, more akin to a corner saloon than a bar.  It was the kind of place where the top shelf liquor had been replaced by the rotgut well booze.  There had been an even seedier bar a block south back in the years they worked this neighborhood but that had long ago changed into a nail salon that did hair weaves, sold wigs, and had a worn out bookie taking the street number asleep in the back room 24/7.  The place was pretty much empty at the time they arrived; just a few old Dominican guys working off the hangovers they’d bought last night.  Despite the Citywide ban on smoking in public places like restaurants, diners and bars, the ashtrays on this particular bar looked like they’d not been emptied since the last time the Giants actually won a game.  They were winning on this day though.

They sat drinking ice cold bottled beer not speaking to each other, just watching the game.  They were comfortable in each others silence. This was the natural result of having known each other since the neighborhood back when they were scrawny, wiry kids playing in the brick strewn lots and partially burnt out husks of what were at one time beautiful brick pre-war five story walk-ups.  They grew up a block apart along a stretch of Fox Street in The South Bronx just as that once desirable Borough was in the process of becoming “The South Bronx”.  They attended different high schools, he went to a Catholic School, his buddy, the local public high yet they remained friends throughout which, at times, was not without problems.

THE FOX STREET OF THEIR YOUTH

 
His buddy did a stint in the Army after high school and served in some remote base in Texas in a unit of the Military Police. He went to college during those same years enabled to do so by a modest scholarship and a generous work-study program supplemented with a few hours a night in the produce section of the A&P on Jerome Avenue.  Every time his buddy came home on leave they would meet up and go out somewhere “downtown”, somewhere in Manhattan.  His buddy would tell him stories about his MP duty in far southwest Texas while he would talk a little about college and that his mind was beginning to open somewhat.  It seemed to him that it was important to get an education but was not precisely sure why.  He had no major in his first years just drifting through taking courses that seemed interesting to him.  His buddy said he planned to take advantage of the GI Bill once his Army tour was over and said he thought he might like to be a cop. 

*****     *****

January 1981 was one of the coldest months in the history of New York City.  While everyone dealt with the brutal arctic blast and anxiously await the Spring, they would be in for a more bracing reality than anything yet delivered by Mother Nature.  By July 1981 crack cocaine and drug-related crime, an enormous homeless population, and a pitifully stagnant economy had rendered our Great City a boiling unsettled caldron that would continue to simmer for the rest of the decade.  It was into this toxic mix that he and his friend found themselves newly minted rookies with the NYPD.  They had made it through the Academy and both were selected to work with “The Big Boys”, a term that distinguished the main NYPD force from both the Housing and Transit Police Divisions. (The first Bill Bratton, the Bratton who served as NYPD Commissioner under Mayor Giuliani until this City got too small for both of them ) did away with those distinctions and united all rightfully into a consolidated, singular NYPD with Housing and Transit Patrol Bureaus in 1992.  It was now that their real training would begin and, for the next seven years they would still be regarded by their peers as rookies.  The older Cops believed it took a rookie seven years to mature out in the streets, seven years of baptism by fire to attain the level of street smarts, instincts, and effectiveness the Job required and to earn the trust of the older fellas that is so vital to how pairs of Cops work.

As fate would dictate they were both assigned to the same Precinct.  The NYPD once made aware of personal friendships between Cops, in those days did their best to have them assigned to the same Precinct.  They did not, however, extend this “courtesy” to members of the same family.  No brother would be assigned to the same Command as his brother.  It was in recognition of the dangers of the Job that prohibited the possibility of two members of the same family finding themselves in mortal danger.  A mother should not lose two sons on the same day from the same incident but it was different than with lifelong friends.

*****     *****

As they sat quietly nursing their drinks and smoking the place began to fill up.  Soon the atmosphere was loud; full of laughter and easy banter among the regulars.  While neither of them knew anyone in the bar personally, they would catch a glimpse of a familiar face in the mirror behind the bar.  When eyes met there were almost undetectable nods of recognition.  Both he and his friend had spent years working in this neighborhood and, just like Cops, the denizens of the streets and hot summer nights had good memories for faces.  Despite the toll the years had taken on their faces, they were all still recognizable to each other. None of the familiar faces came over to them to say hello or share a drink; they were, after all, on different sides of the fence.  If anyone in that bar harbored long standing resentment or anger towards either of them they were wise enough to keep it concealed and to themselves.  They may have been two middle aged men having some Sunday afternoon drinks in a shithole bar in Washington Heights but, they were Cops.

As the Giants struggled on TV they began to talk about current events; the circumstances and happenstance that seem to have thrust their City into disarray.  Nightly demonstrators and protestors were taking to the streets; some obstructing traffic, others staging mass “die-ins” at key intersections throughout the City, while others marched and chanted demanding “justice” and “respect”; some calling stridently against the NYPD and the “brutal practices” and “patterns of abuse” that they believed granted White Police Officers the license to kill “people of color” indiscriminately. 

It was at this point in their discussion that they looked at each other and began to laugh.  They laughed hard for a minute or two amused by the recent rhetoric in the papers and on TV.  They were, at this point in their careers, considered by many as dinosaurs; some of the few who had stayed OTJ for reasons the younger guys could not understand.  As their laughter subsided they began to speak about the unprecedented divide between the NYPD and the Mayor, the self-avowed “reformist”, Bill de Blasio.  The disillusionment and distrust of de Blasio among the members of the NYPD had escalated to what felt to be a point of no return.  When PBA President Patrick Lynch began to distribute cards to be filled out by all Members of Service (MOS) to formally uninvite the Mayor and some members of the City Council from attending their funerals, it was an audacious move but certainly not an abstract one for the MOS.  Every time a Cop begins his or her shift on Patrol; in the projects, subways and on the streets, there is no guarantee they will see their families again.  Life on patrol for a Cop is beyond hazardous and always has the possibility of life and death hanging in the balance.  There is no such thing as a “routine” call.

*****     *****

It was the Summer of 1984 and they were part time partners.  They slowly rode up and down the narrow tenement lined streets just south of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.  It seems as if each stoop on these blocks had more people hanging about than the next.  The non-stop, static from the radio transmitted calls without much distinction between urgency and banality.  The crack cocaine trade was in full throttle and the dealers had grown sophisticated enough to have look-outs on the rooftops with walkie-talkies in hand to alert the dealers in their fortified apartments of the location of “Five-Oh”, the “PO-PO”, the “Polices”. 

Calls that required them to get out of their RMP immediately put them at risk as people in the buildings would rain down everything from soiled Pampers to household trash.  Sometimes they and their RMP were hit by rocks or other thrown items.  It was a hostile environment and one in which the local drug dealers would always reign with the upper hand.  Working in an environment such as this can change a man; it can harden his heart, occlude his innate sensibilities, and have him rendered to the point he acts on pure adrenaline-fueled experience and instinct.  It is beyond frustrating; the upside down nature of working such a sector can make the Job feel like a Darwinian enterprise where only the strongest survive.  And, make no mistake about it, it was a Darwinian environment, one in which the NYPD was not fully in control of.  Given that state of affairs, the reality in those neighborhoods and on those streets, the Cops had to assert greater authority and sometimes such displays of authority amounted to nothing more than sealing off a block with RMP’s and having the Cops walk towards each other from opposite sides of the block asking for ID’s, conducting some impromptu Q and A, with the occasional crack in the head of some mope who mouthed off or was otherwise “non-compliant”.  By the time they got back to their RMP they needed showers from all the baby shit and garbage that had been hurled down on them.

*****     *****

On this Sunday afternoon those days seemed a lifetime ago.  They both carried scars, physical and emotional from those days, but they were still in the mix.  Neither of them ever had the mindset of “20 and Out” and, to many of their peers that seemed almost akin to insanity.  After all, who would stay in this Job any longer than they had to?  Perhaps more than some realized.  They’d both earned their Gold Shields in the early 1990’s, been assigned to different Detective Units, gone back to school at John Jay on NYPD’s dime, and felt they had more to offer not to the Job per se, but to the youngsters coming up.

They had both filled out and handed in their Detective’s Endowment Association cards with the same language to the Mayor and City Council as those produced by Patrick Lynch, President of the  PBA.  They were both equally disgusted and disturbed by the turn of events that had the NYPD so horribly estranged from the populace and City Hall.  They each recognized that this was not an open wound that would heal anytime soon.  And, to them, that was a shame.  But they would not be persuaded to “pull the pin”, they would not file their retirement papers until they felt weariness in their bones and minds.  They each had a few good years remaining OTJ.

By the time they walked out onto St. Nicholas Avenue the Giants had won, the night had come calling and a brisk wind from the north made it feel colder than it was.  They walked to the subway station on 168th Street and descended the stairs to the warmth of the cavernous station platform.  He would take an A, C or E Train south to his neighborhood on the lower Westside while his buddy would change trains at 59th Street for an F Train to Queens.  Some of the people on the platform looked at them oddly, these two men of the same age and similar heights and weights.  They smelled of Cop; every mope on the street could tell a Cop from a mile away.  The only reason the folks on the platform gave them a second look was because one of them was White, the other Black.  Yes, Black and White, lifelong friends and fellow Cops; two men bound by an Oath and a shared belief. 

They lived their professional lives wading through shit storms of every variety; encountered every type of person at their absolute worst.  They each separately felt the instinctual pangs when they rolled on a “domestic” and found an innocent, quivering child huddled beneath a bed bearing the telltale signs of prior physical abuse. Such experiences do not harden a man’s heart, they open it. 

As the subway swayed and squealed its way to a stop at the 59th Street station they shook hands, slapped backs and said see you later.  Each went on the train ride home alone, one Black Cop, one White Cop, back into the anonymity of a late night subway ride.  As always they’d made tentative plans to meet up to watch a playoff game, probably in a bar in Jamaica, Queens in a predominately Black neighborhood.  They parted with that thought in mind while simultaneously saying a quiet prayer for each other.  As Cops no tomorrow was promised, no plans guaranteed. The City could rage in anger and frustration around them but they would not abandon it for Westchester or Rockland County.  No.  This was their City and as long as they served they would conduct themselves largely as they always had just a bit more seasoned, somewhat wiser, and more confident in their tasks and ability to see around corners.  There were likely many ways to earn a comparable salary but neither of them would even consider it now; not yet.  They still had a taste for The Job and would not shy away from whatever dish was being served.


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