The People and the Police

It isn't as black and blue as people think

The People and the Police
Victor He

There's typically a 12 year interlude before new cars, new homes, and new procedures take hold, or outnumber their predecessors to the point they become the standard.

In NYC, this happens a little quicker, especially in regard to the people and the police.

As stated before, the population of NYC is underestimated. I worked as a census collector, and some people will not open the door.

If there are 12 undocumented immigrants living in a studio apartment, they aren't opening the door.

There are immigrants from other countries who inherently fear the government and police, and they won't open the door.

The population is officially listed at near nine million, but google heat maps, which have mysteriously disappeared, indicated that on any given day, an average of 20 million people are in NYC.

Our police force is numerically proportional compared to other cities based on a population of nine million, but even so, that's still a lot of people. and most criminals here never get caught, and if they do, we don't have the prison facilities to accommodate everyone, so even if they're successfully prosecuted, even violent offenders tend to get out pretty fast.

I've lived and worked in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city, and one thing they have in common is that the people are constantly protesting for more of a police presence. They paid for it with their taxes, and they aren't getting it, and while many think "Defund the Police" is poor messaging, money is the only thing that talks.

One person I spoke to thought the google heat maps were taken down because they offered terrorist targets, but it was primarily because they reinforced something most New York criminals already understand.

There are just too many people, and if you wear a dark hoodie and a Yankee cap, you look like at least a million other people.

When I first came here, Rudy Giuliani was still relatively sane, and Bloomberg continued to enforce the Broken Windows laws, or arrest people for jumping turnstiles or publicly urinating, which became conflated with racial profiling, but while these laws worked, they also led to a paradox within liberal politics.

Minorities and the poor are stuck in ghettos. Liberals rightfully argue that if they had more opportunities, they wouldn't be trapped in a cycle of crime.

But at the same time, if these are the populations committing the most blue collar crimes, doesn't it make sense to police them? We should commit more money to improving these neighborhoods, but for at least the last 20 years, we haven't had the resources or inclination to do so, and again, the law abiding citizens there want more police.

I'm not white, and racial profiling goes both ways. If a car full of white kids is spotted in a neighborhood notorious for selling hard drugs to anyone who drives by who is interested, they're more likely to be pulled over. I learned this the hard way because I had more white friends at the time.

A retired cop working security in Brownsville, where I worked for about half a year, explained it best, and he's Black.

He told me under Rudy Giuliani and Bloomberg, they weren't profiling as much as they were enforcing more petty crimes. It was technically illegal to smoke pot on the street during his time and is still illegal to drink in public, but as long as you made an attempt to hide it, or cupped your joint and kept your drink in a paper bag, they'd leave you alone.

But he told me if you saw someone jumping turnstiles or deliberately pissing on someone's cars, the old policy was to stop and frisk, and that nine times out of ten, they had outstanding warrants or were carrying. Once he radioed in and found an outstanding warrant, that gave him legal cause to search, and he usually found something, be it a knife, heroin, or a gun.

The cops during his time were also given more power. If they responded to a complaint about a homeless person, many of whom either had psychological problems to begin with or developed them from living on the street, the cops could say you have three choices. You go to rehab, you go to jail, or we buy you a bus ticket out of town.

Now, if that person refuses to move, they're left where they are.

I concede the old ways were a bit fascist, but they worked, and while those procedures have changed, others haven't.

There is a lot of crime here. I don't particularly like cops because I've gone through the system a few times, but it ultimately helped me, and it would help those more entitled.

The old ways that haven't changed come down to domestic disputes, and as this former cop told me, it's a matter of judgment.

If they see signs of violence or inebriation, both get arrested.

If they don't, they get the speech, and the cops typically say it loud enough for everyone in the building to hear.

"If you ever call us again, you're both going to jail, and your police privileges are suspended. You can call and say someone is trying to murder you, and we won't come. "

This is harsh, but it works, especially in better neighborhoods. If you get arrested on a Friday, you won't see a judge until at least Monday or Tuesday, and a few days in jail makes you appreciate not being in jail.

There was a story I heard about a detective in Chicago who let three suspects escape. Everyone thought he was incompetent until he had to defend himself.

All the people he let escape were non-violent offenders, and he knew they were guilty, but he also knew the DA didn't have enough to prosecute them, so he gave them chances to escape, and they took them.

He said those guys would be looking over their shoulders for the rest of their lives, and would clean up their lives. He checked up on them and found that to be the case. They had all become law-abiding citizens.

There are newer cops the police hire to keep off the street. They're terrified to go into some neighborhoods, and have to pump themselves up into a frenzy like a high school football team before they go out.

The older cops and detectives are typically disgusted with them.

The police have committed injustices, and a lot of decent cops who tried to stand against them have been blacklisted or forced into retirement.

This is not a defense of cops or criminals or anyone else.

It just isn't as black and blue, or black and white, as most of the narratives we're fed.

To end on a good note, I grew up in Upstate New York, and those cops were so bored they bullied as many teenagers as they could.

The NYPD has had its ups and downs, but like most people in NYC, they don't going looking for conflict, and will even give you a break if you're young, honest, and seem like you might have a good future.

When I first moved here, I had a car, and I was pulled over for yet another DWI. The cops threatened to arrest everyone in the car, but I told them to just arrest me, and admitted I'd drank at least eight beers, but hadn't eaten and didn't realize how fucked up I was.

They threw my car keys in a gutter, which was enough of a pain in the ass to convince me to get rid of the car, which was a pain in the ass here anyway.

What they didn't do was talk to me like I was a subhuman. They acted more like parents, or at least talked to me.

This was in the mid 1990s, when the murder and crime rates were much higher. They probably had more pressing issues to attend to, and I was darker then. I am getting whiter as I age, or turning into a ghost.

They weren't afraid, they deescalated, and gave me a break.

When the US first formed, most citizens were against police. They felt they were responsible enough to live without them.

There is no way for me to really know, but I think most cops are decent people, and that the younger ones are still too afraid to just talk, and I know that some cops are dirty, but the same could be said of most of the population, and at least for now, we need cops.

They're people just like us, and if they do too good of a job, or clean up a neighborhood, that precinct gets shuttered or underfunded.

It's the same problem a lot of us have at work. If you do too much too well, everyone else is going to be undervalued even more, or fired, and if you fix a problem, it might make you obsolete.

The NYPD has an ongoing deal with the devil, or Dominican drug cartels. As long as they don't kill any "real people," or people who aren't drug dealers or addicts, and enforce the boundaries the NYPD had imposed, or don't sell in tourist areas on the street, they have carte blanche.

But people want drugs, and until they're all legalized, made safer, and taxed, I don't see a better approach.

We were more progressive in this respect in the 1970s, when people with mental disorders and addictions had access to free clinics.

Now the cops have to deal with all of this, and they aren't qualified to do so.

Again, there's no doubt the police have failed us at times and have systematically been corrupt, and they should be held to a higher standard than regular citizens.

But they've also been pushed into untenable situations. The cops in NYC get paid far less than the cops on Long Island who have much easier jobs, and when a cop stops a crime, it gets no press.

I have mixed emotions about cops, but we need them, and they need more support, or better training and more social services that do the jobs they weren't intended to.

The world has several major problems, but when the pressure goes up, it affects everyone, including the police, and we've already seen this happen.

Their job is to protect and serve, but who they choose to protect and serve is going to become a bigger problem.

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