Tuesday, December 23, 2014
That's what the cop taking the photos you see above tells you when you sit down in a uniform shirt 8 sizes too large that probably has the germs and sweat of thousands of cops on it. It's a odd statement because you take this photo soon after you start the Academy, when really you're all smiles because you're looking forward to doing amazing work and helping people. It's also why there's no collar brass on your shirt, because you won't know what command or precinct you're going to.
"You know why you can't smile?", the old timer taking the photos asks me. I don't. "Two reasons. First, if you shove an umbrella up some guy's ass and you're smiling, it looks like you wanted to do it. Second, if you get killed, this is the photo they put in the Daily News or the Post"
His first example, though crude, was a lesson from 1997 when a savage named Justin Volpe wearing an NYPD uniform sodomized Abner Louima with a plunger causing internal injuries. His second example didn't need much explaining I thought.
Their names are Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
Liu was 32 and had been with the NYPD for 7 years and had just gotten married 3 months ago.
Ramos was 40 years old and had been on the job for 2 years, coming over from School Safety. He was married with two kids, one of whom is an eloquent 13 year old.
Both were Sons of New York City, Princes of Brooklyn.
I talked about in an earlier post what I thought some of core issues between the protesters and the police are, and it's literally like looking at that picture that's an old lady or a young lady depending on how you look at it. The issue here is that no one is helping the other side see it any differently, mostly because the rhetoric stakes are so high. We have a war on cops or the government sanctioned murder of thousands of black men. See how it's hard to find a common ground there?
When a cop is killed, it is devastating, but especially for the police. Because honestly, even though there are dangers in the job, you don't constantly confront them mentally because that would make you pretty useless as a cop. So you end up confronting your mortality when another officer is killed. What makes the death of Officers Liu and Ramos so especially cruel is how they were killed. They were assassinated. See, when cops are killed, you try and put yourself in their shoes to see if maybe you would have done something different. Cop killed on a traffic stop? I may approach stopped vehicles on their right side. Cop dies of a heart attack chasing someone, I may think that won't happen to me because I'm in shape, etc. But every cop has sat in their car somewhere talking about something trivial or talking on the phone to a loved one, and so all of us are terrified of an ambush. The only way to prevent that is to not go outside, though even that might not work.
Allow me to say off the bat that the only person who killed those officers was one man.* The Mayor didn't do it. The City Council President didn't do it. Pat Lynch, the PBA President has gotten into hot water for saying that the Mayor has blood on his hands. Listen, Pat is a cop from Brooklyn who rose through the ranks of the PBA many years ago. His job is to bring in money in the form of raises, which he does by making sweet love to the NY Post and giving them awesome quotes. No knock on the guy. He does a good job, but he's not a national media kind of guy. However, cops can't talk about these issues which is why its done through union presidents and these guys aren't known for their nuance or hidden messages.
Quick Story: Once got accused by a gentleman I arrested of stealing money from him and so there was an investigation and IAB came and my union sent their guys. This happens a lot, not to me, but in general where people feel like it will help their criminal case if they lodge a complaint to tarnish the officer's reputation. So no big deal. We're all in a room, tape recorder is rolling and IAB asks "Officer, can you explain where you were on June 1, 2002?" At which point, my Union Trustee who I met 3 minutes ago says, "He wasn't eating cheese like you, you fucking rat." At which point the tape stops and it's clear that the IAB guys and the Union guys see each other all the time and they're going back and forth. But my point here is that the union is like the id for the police department. Perhaps like Sharpton or other community activists are to the community.
While I don't believe that Mayor DeBlasio is a murderer or has blood on his hands, I do feel that he has chosen the easy way out every step of the way. And to me, that's not leadership. He ran a campaign against aggressive police tactics like Stop, Question and Frisk and when elected Mayor, he got those policies pulled. I wrote about how SQF is a sham that had roots in a good place, which was sound police work and instincts. However it was his public comments where he said he gave his son the talk about being careful around cops that really started the split. Look, I understand the issue, but to say this while men and women of the NYPD's Intel Division are protecting Dante DeBlasio with their lives seemed a little obtuse. The split continued as the protests began and continued. I also get it. He's super liberal, and he's not a centrist. [Honestly, the only reason he's Mayor is because Mike Bloomberg bent the rules to get a third term, thereby upsetting the delicate ecosystem that is term-limited NYC politics. Which is also why he DeBlasio beat Joe Lhota so handily, because Joe wasn't supposed to be the candidate. And DeBlasio is the un-Bloomberg.] But his base is not the police or their staunch supporters, so it was an easy call I think.
Let me say this about the protests. They're great. NYPD is awesome at handling them. Just look at the NYPD response compared to the response in Ferguson. Thousands of people get on the street and find it empowering and addictive when they get to walk in the street wherever they want, while cops hold traffic. But its not sustainable. People can't block the Holland and Lincoln Tunnel every day for months at a time. And the longer it goes on, the more it becomes an expected outcome. So when it's not addressed 2 months later, the cops tell people they can't cross the Manhattan Bridge or stand in the street, people object because they think this is how it always is and should be. Discussions should have been had early on with a plan voiced by the Mayor about how long it will go on for.
Recently Mayor DeBlasio said that the protests should stop while the officers bodies are being laid to rest. Bullshit. Don't hang this on Officers Ramos and Liu. They're gone and can't speak for themselves, but I'll say it for them. This is bullshit. If the Mayor thinks the protests are healthy and fine and a wonder of democracy, then let them continue. Or if he feels like they've gotten unruly or out of hand as the rhetoric has gotten louder, in some cases calling for cops to be killed, then put on your big boy Mayor pants and say so. Take a goddamn stand, but don't put this on the cops. This is your job as Mayor of the City of New York, you need to walk the line between the police union bosses screaming on behalf of their members and the community activists screaming on behalf of the dead. And there might not be a good way out, but sometimes life is hard. Just ask Eric Garner, Wenjian Liu or Rafael Ramos.
Two days ago, I tried to engage people on Twitter on this issue, but I just ended up getting blocked because there's no air in the middle, much like our current national political environment. The group Black Lives Matter recently wrote condemning the linking of the murder of Officers Ramos and Liu to the protest movement and said they shouldn't have to apologize. This makes sense, as I said above, because only one guy pulled the trigger. However, what if I said that as a cop, I shouldn't have to apologize for the actions of my fellow officers. That when I pull a car over and the occupants of the car yell "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" as I walk up, that I'm insulted because I would never shoot someone who has their hands up. Why? Because I'm a professional and I take my job seriously and I did take this job to save lives, and because we're all not the same beneath the kevlar and non-breathable, highly flammable uniform fabric.
Their names are Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. They are Sons of New York City and Princes of Brooklyn.
* I'm not going to list the killer's name, because he needs no more column inches. Fuck that guy.
P.S. I'm only claiming to speak for me. I no longer work for the NYPD, though it was an honor to wear the shield and serve the city I was born in and love. I often get asked what I think about events like this because most of my friends don't know any cops, and also because there usually isn't a voice from the police side save unnamed sources or union officials.