The city comes
alive in its streets, f
rom the highways that Robert Moses built to roads named
after veterans killed in battles many of us are too young to remember, to streets
named after heroes who lost their lives on September 11th, to
highways and plazas named after explorers, a baseball player, and men and women
who contributed to the history and values of our city, particularly Peter
Minuit who purchased a little island named Manhattan from the Lenape Indians
for a mere $24 in trinkets and who really is the father of gentrification.
We live in a
so many people have mental health issues, where so many make their
homes underground that the A train is known as the homeless hotel, where so
many people are looking for jobs, where heroin overdoses outnumber homicides,
where people are more consumed with Facebook and Twitter than they are about
the welfare of a neighbor, in a time that we are besieged by coyotes downtown
and Elmos midtown, and elected officials for whom integrity is just a word.
participants in the NYPD’s Citizens Police Academy came from the different streets
of our city: rabbis, reverends and imams; a public school
principal, teachers, social workers, a forensic psychologist, an athletic
trainer, and an aide to a state senator from Staten Island where Eric Garner
once lived, from the Lower East Side where photographer Jacob Riis showed us
how the other half lives more than a century ago to basketball courts around
the city where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar perfected his skyhook, from a postal carrier
named Anita who walks her beat near Gracie Mansion and celebrates two years of
being cancer free, to those living near the most magnificent parks in every borough.
sadly, the lives of those around us—wearing the uniform of the NYPD or the
uniform of color, race, gender, age, rich or poor—mean very little. These same
streets can also take away. And that they did with deaths of four men who
recently lost their lives in the line of duty.
Police Academy works quietly behind the scenes to enhance communication between
the NYPD and the community. A record 222 people attended this last class held
at the old Police Academy on 20th
Street, mostly African-Americans with
a smattering of Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Whites, Hispanics, and Asians, bused in by police vans from their respective
precincts. Most were well past the recruitment age of 34 and they
were there with the mission of connecting with and finding out how NYPD
operates. Attendance was mandatory for clergy connected with local precincts.
Presentations—abbreviated versions of classes taken by recruits in the Police
Academy—came from detectives and
police officers from the Domestic Violence, the Gang Unit, Internal Affairs,
Community Affairs, School Safety, Homicide, Hostage Negotiation, and
Counterterrorism units with programs on law and justice and emotionally
disturbed persons presented over 14 weeks. We learned of tactics using weapons
and tactics using words and how, in less than four and a half seconds, the time
it takes for a violent situation to unfold, a life can change and be changed.
We learned how the rest of the
city lives. ISIS is here and recruiting; how gangs like the Bloods, the Very
Crispy Gangsters, Tomb Raiders, and Young Bosses use Twitter, Snapchat,
Instagram, and Facebook to recruit, document, and threaten. Teen suicide has
grown to epidemic proportions. Kids take online bullying seriously. And
sometimes homes are so hostile that anger is the norm in those households with
kids being told to “handle it” without the specifics of how exactly to handle
what and how. An average of 759 calls come in a day for domestic abuse: there’s
a lot of people fighting in New York City. And that policing isn’t a science
because people aren’t a science. That steps are being made to connect the police with the community, from Neighborhood Policing Officers in Washington Heights and Inwood, cops back on bicycles, and through technology. Precincts are now using Twitter to report news and updates and the 34th Precinct in upper Manhattan is the first to have a Facebook page. And tablets mean that information is at fingertips and a history of an incident gives the officers responding more information for a hopefully, more measured and logical approach Fitness classes are in place in some precincts, and new and old recruits are taught to take a deep breath when the anger and animosity come their way. Additional and better trained police officers are on their way. And we learned that the average life of a police officer
after retirement is only 10 years.
Detectives and lieutenants and
sergeants and police officers are not permitted to talk about cases as per NYPD
policy and so they did not. They spoke about procedures, tactics ranging from how a Taser
works and how and why some people are unstoppable, that there’s little or no time
in an emergency situation for questions or pleasantries, and how the
fundamentals of policing work and how they don’t. They didn’t change some minds
but hoped to open them up a little to see how the other half lives.
there are many other halves. And have and have-nots. And in less than four and
a half seconds, a life can change and be changed.
They all recalled stories,
with great joy and pride, of their mothers, who, in a long ago time, reminded
them all to get home before the street lights went out —or else. And one reminded us that there is another reality. As a
seven-year-old growing up in the Bronx, it was he who cooked for two younger
brothers. His mother didn’t come looking for him after dark. She was out on the
street looking for her fix and at 10-years-old, he was the one who brought her
Detective Derek Wilson
reminded us that there is an art to talking, to persuading, of finding the
right words, asking a question: Are you all right? What do you need? Not simply
talking but saying something important and worthwhile, of being in the moment.
We learned that an EDP, or as
Detective Jimmy Shanahan says, “an every day person” – could be any one of us
triggered by something seemingly mundane or of great consequence. Some of us,
unfortunately, are born into lives where the “everydays” are every day. The
unpredictability of people is the one constant thing in our city. And that is
what police officers respond to.
We listened to
Detective First Grade Alfred Titus of Homicide who is earning his doctorate so
soon he may be Dr. Detective: do not disturb anything and everything is evidence from the
cigarette in an ashtray to a footprint in the dust at a crime scene; how the
direction of blood spatter can help solve a case; and the role of the medical
examiner in dissecting bodies and cases.
School Safety Agent
Vernon House kept the crowd riveted with stories about bullying in public
schools around the city, and how the punishment of taking away a kid’s cell phone
is one of the strongest ones imaginable to them.
Cambria of the Hostage Negotiation Unit who trained many police officers, and
who is retiring this year, focused our attention on the tactics of patience and
avoiding two dangerous words designed to incite the calmest person: calm down. And
by the way, the next time you’re typing something in Microsoft Word, you’ll
find him there. He’s the only member of the NYPD to have a font named after
him. It’s called Cambria. Maybe there's an officer named Helvetica or Garamond but we haven't heard of him or her yet.
applause was given to Detective Shanahan, for whom all the world’s a
stage, a bit of a ham who entertained with his good humor and approachability
that underscored the seriousness of his work. He, too, stressed the importance of how cops and the rest of us
should and could talk to people and that “police science” is still made up
of people like us.
members of our class, armed with knowledge and information of how another half
works, will make our city better. We all come from the same pool of New
Yorkers. We are all neighbors. We all want our streets and our homes to be
safe. And we must all work together – neighbors, police officers,
politicians. This takes sacrifice, this takes courage, this takes the
overcoming of prejudice in every form, and it takes recognition and respect of
others. We must engage with those around us and come up with compelling
alternatives as to how we live.
We can go back
to our communities and reassure others that we are here together as a city to
make it better for all of us. Muhammad Ali once said, “Often it isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out,
it's the little pebble in your shoe.”
Let’s pick out those pebbles and get to work.
This record class of 222 graduated on Tuesday, June 23rd, the largest class of citizens in NYPD history and the last class to attend training at the Police Academy building on 20th Street in Manhattan. The building, which has graduated thousands of NYPD police officers and commissioners, is being repurposed for other NYPD units. Training will take place at the new Police Academy in College Point, Queens beginning in the fall.
Labels: Citizens Police Academy, New York City Police Department. homicides, NYPD, policing