Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Heart of Gold

I first met Rebecca Buck in 2000 at the 28th Precinct.  I had just gotten out of field training and sent to evening shift. She was a 30 year old newly pressed Sergeant in the NYPD and she had come to evenings.  Specifically she had come to the best squad on evenings, C-2.  As a bit of an explainer, there are three Platoons in a precinct (Midnights "A", Days "B", and Evenings "C") In each platoon there are three squads that rotate five days on, two off, five on, three off. I had found myself placed in Squad C-2, the second squad of the evening shift.

New Sergeants are an interesting breed.  They just came from humping a radio car like you and so they understand all of the scams and the work, but they also have been told over and over in BMOC (the Basic Leadership class of the NYPD) that officers are not your friends anymore and they will get you in trouble or fired.  And C-2 was a hot mess of officers who had lots of years on working in a busy precinct and a short, young attractive blonde sergeant was going to be tested.

Right after she became our Sgt, she invited us all to this Brazilian steakhouse in Queens.  The whole squad, which was like 12-14 people. And some of them were misfits.  My favorite quote was a more senior guy asked her "Do we have to invite Satan?" referring to one of the more disgruntled guys we had.  She insisted.  So we went and ate and drank and she paid for the whole thing.  I imagine this happens to Teach for America kids who get to their first school in a bad neighborhood and decide to give peace offerings as a first act.  We even told her that she shouldn't do this because it wasn't necessary.  But she insisted.  And she spent a lot of money on us losers.

As she grew into her role as our boss, there were some tensions.  I remember we went on strike with our activity for some reason.  Jose, a Dominican guy, thought it was a good idea and just kept yelling "STRIKE!" in a heavily tinged accent, which seems as good a reason as any to not write tickets.  I'd ask him if he remembers why we went on strike. but he's currently on an 18-year vacation.  You have to turn in your activity sheets at the end of the month and as each guy handed in their sheet, her face dropped more and more, until she ran out of the room and went to the Lieutenant to try and figure out what the hell was going on.  Fair question.  We had no idea either and activity returned to normal as soon as Jose stopped yelling.

What I remember most about Sgt. Buck was her kindness.  I remember asking her to come to one of my calls to see if I had enough to make an arrest.  And then we got into a discussion like this:

Me: So, Boss, here's the details, is that enough for an arrest?  

Her: You looking to make an arrest today? 

Me: I'm totally fine taking the arrest and staying on overtime, I just don't know if this is an arrest or not.

Her: You got plans tonight?  You want to go to court tomorrow? 

Me: Listen, Sarge, if I wanted to shitcan this (NYPD parlance for making things go away) you would never even know this address existed, but I called you and I embrace whatever decision you make,  You have the stripes.  

Her: Lock her up.  

Me: Thank you.  

She also smoked like a chimney, which meant that when she took me as her driver, it made for interesting times.  Point of reference, since all NYPD patrol units are two-officer cars, they give the patrol sergeant's a driver (operator in job speak) so they can respond to calls as well.  Normally, i could just roll down the windows, but on the days I drove her and it rained, it was a scene out of a comedy.  She would be smoking with her window barely cracked while mine was down.  My left side would be soaked, and she would ask "Campbell, does this bother you?  I can put it out." To which I always replied, "No Sarge.  I just like the feeling of rain."

Sergeant Buck went on to become Lieutenant Buck and retired from the job after 20 years of helping people and somehow not becoming a terrible, disgruntled person counting down their time like a prison sentence.  Rebecca passed away last week after suffering from 9/11 related illness.  Former colleagues turned out on Facebook to express their sadness and happiness at having known her.  And out of those posts, an odd pattern started forming.  Many peopl
e said that she had reached out exactly two weeks before she passed and they had a great conversation where she said she was doing well and asked about their kids and lives.  The theory is that she was gravely ill and wanted to reach out to talk to those she cared about to say goodbye without burdening them with her health.  Even to the end she was selfless.

She is being laid to rest today in the Hudson Valley in New York.  I can't be there as I have a crazy work week and it hurts.  As I've mentioned before I learned you always make the funeral and I simply can't.  But she is in my mind all day and has been since I heard the terrible news.  I am reminded again sadly that 9/11 has killed more officers (84) than were killed on 9/11 (24).

Rest easy Rebecca Buck.  Hope there's a smoking section in heaven. I'll miss you calling me "Big Bird."  Don't spend any money buying people dinner to make sure they like you up there, because they won't be able to help themselves.  Even without a green paddle for more prime rib.

Fidelis Ad Mortem.  Squad C-2 forever. 


Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing the memories. I worked in the 28 in the 80's, retired in 06 but never met Rebecca. Sounds like I missed out on knowing a great person.

Joe S.

Ann R said...

She was my boss in MNTF and I thought the world of her. She was smart, kind and decent. Thank you for writing this tribute. Most of us in Task Force spent a good bit of time down there. Poor Becky.

Hero to the Masses said...

Thanks for the comments. Always oddly surprising that people read this blog. She was an amazing person and she's missed clearly. Who's better than the 28?