Blue uniforms, blue vests, blue hats – this is how they proudly stand, the men and women of the New York City Police Department. But they are surely not as touristy, fancy, and professional as they appear to be…
When I first came to New York I paid attention to them mostly when I was wandering around Times Square. The cops on their horses, the cops in the middle of the square, the cops standing in a line…. Over the course of time, though, all the stories and observations started to accumulate and helped me in forming my own unique view on these uniformed people.
I collected my very first ticket when I was “drinking in public” in one of the most remote areas imaginable in Bushwick/Brooklyn. This car had been randomly cruising the side streets and must have detected our small group who was clustered around some deserted industrial buildings close to a dead alley. My friend was forethinking enough to throw his can of Coors light into the trash bin as soon as he saw the white-and-blue-car sneak up to us. I made a jump and hid it behind a stack of wooden boxes but failed to cover it up from every angle. Lucky for us, the cops were moderately friendly on this night; they disregarded the beverage my friend had so obviously thrown away but still fined me with a $25 ticket because the hidden can was not too-well-hidden after all. I also remember how I was bending down to get to look these people in the eye and explain to them that we were from Germany and that it was legal to drink on the streets over there. One of them said he understood but unfortunately it was not legal here. All arguments were basically in vain. Had I been smart, I had given them my wrong address, but at that time I wasn’t too acquainted with the methods of how to circumvent an arrest and a ticket in this case. Therefore, you should know. Just say you forgot your ID and give them a completely wrong address, make sure you mention a wrong apartment number in addition to this. Almost everyone in New York lives in an apartment.
I also remember how one of those officers’ eyes went down to my basically non-existent cleavage as if searching for something underneath that zipped-up-jacket. This was pretty much the first time the presence of a person who is supposed to make me feel safe in public made me feel very uncomfortable.
Weeks followed and my observations continued. From cops standing at my train station, delightfully eyeing the full rear section of the younger West-Indian ladies who had to pass them on the way down to the subway. How disgusted I was with this. Isn’t this almost sexual harassment, I thought? Over cops arresting a 16-year-old teenager because he had used his school-ticket to get into the subway. The reason for this arrest? Well, he hadn’t been on his way to school and therefore didn’t have the “right” to use it. Not to forget sporadic street performer arrests my former roommate told me about (read post here). To cops who hit the newspapers with true horror stories, such as raping a man with their stick or raping a drunk woman when leading her into her apartment.
My Austrian friend made a fast observation when he visited me back in May. He had only stayed for two weeks but to form this exact same observation it had taken me a good three months longer.
“The police here don’t make me feel safe at all,” he said after walking in after another rough sightseeing tour in Manhattan. “They seem violent and like to arrest people for nonsense,” he went on. “I don’t understand how these people can represent the law in this country.”
He had a few good points. I myself had sometimes wondered how a cop with waist-long braids fits the disciplined example and couldn’t really make sense of it. I thought these forces should reinforce similar standards the military does. So that everyone looks equal and feels equal in their group of work. Obviously not. I am not sure how true this is, but someone once told me the way they typically recruit police officers in New York came do a true down when they started aiming towards the socially disadvantaged places in town (Bronx, Bedstuy, Canarsie, anyone?) because they knew the people would be desperate enough to work for 30 k a year. Which is quite a high pay for someone without a college degree, at least in this city.
So I’ve had experiences with a few cops in those one and a half years that have passed. Some have indeed been very positive, no doubt. Such as the nice Latin woman and the white guy who were trying to make my former roommate come to her senses when I had been robbed by her younger boyfriend. I will also always appreciate the cops who give the right directions and are honestly trying to help out people who are lost.
But then somehow the bad stuff sticks out. Such as the Halloween parade three weeks ago. I had been sitting on a fence drawn to regulate the flow of oncoming and going pedestrians. Because the crowd was pushing me almost off of it I was desperate to jump on the other side and circumvent the horrible crowd of squashing people. All of a sudden there is a cop behind me. One of those mean a**holes who like to get meaner. As soon as my foot goes over the fence he is there trying to prevent me from jumping away from the crowd. I try to make it clear that I would be squashed to death otherwise. He doesn’t care. Even better, he gives me an ultimatum of either “going back or I will make you go back.” I am courageous enough to ask him how he would do that. He then he slams his fist into my back and before he can deliver the final push I voluntarily jump back. I then look him in the eye and say: “Ah, I see, you’re gonna push me you as**hole”.
Pretty incredulous to be part of this at the moment. I also witness how he whacks a Japanese tourist in the face because this one had poked his head one inch too much over same fence. So much aggressiveness was going on that evening. I already told you about those five cops arresting one drunk guy (read here). It was just a mess and its’ a pity that the whole evening has been ruined or at least has left me with a bitter aftertaste because NYPD clearly doesn’t have its workers under control.
Police in New York – it is really too bad that those few nice cops are being drowned by the immense amount of all the cops who like to take their aggressiveness out on innocent people. Take the pepper spray attacks on passive Wall Street protesters for a start.
I guess I am happy I am not in LA, though. Their police system seems to be messed up to a whole different degree that will hopefully never hit New York! Other than that I will do my best to circumvent anyone who is dressed in this awful hypocritical blue uniform!