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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why does NYC hate its cops?

When I first came to NYC in the '60's I was just like Stevie Wonder, “New York City. Just like I pictured it.”* It didn't take long for the picture to change.

I was walking through the Bronx with a friend and as we stopped for a light I said “Hi” to a cop standing there and remarked that the weather looked like spring was finally here. As my friend and I walked away he asked “What the hell was I doing talking to a cop? You don't ever talk to a cop!”

In the '70's I remember NYC as a place where law and order had broken down. In the subway you put your back to the wall and scanned left and right, left and right. Once on the train you were regularly treated to gangs coming through, doing whatever they wanted. In many neighborhoods you walked fast and didn't look back.

Last week a motorcycle rider was killed in the Bronx when he ran into a police cruiser while trying to outrun the cops. Tragic but who was really to fault? Online, many exclaimed that the police deliberately ran him down. It had to be the hated police, it couldn't be the rider's fault.

I read the same news accounts and came away with a different view. Think of speeding toward a rail crossing. The lights are flashing, the train is blowing its horn, but the cops are on your tail and if you make it you'll be free. In the movies the outlaw hero makes it and the evil cops are stuck in frustration.

In the real world it's very different. The cop probably was trying to use his cruiser to block the getaway path and the rider took the chance that he could beat it. Since it wasn't the movies the end wasn't so happy. I wasn't there, I don't know the true facts. Neither were the cop bashers. I have to wonder why so many were so quick to jump to the defense of a person exhibiting criminal behavior in one of the most dangerous and crime ridden neighborhoods of NYC and so quick to condemn the cop trying to control the situation.

My guess is that a lot of the people weren't around in the '70's. My guess is that they don't live in the Bronx. My guess is that they know few, if any, cops personally. I'll also guess that if they were robbed, or burgled, or had their own motorcycle stolen they would call the police and not their friends. Very likely they would be online complaining about why the cops weren't doing more to make the neighborhoods safe and capturing the people responsible for such crimes.

Cops are real people trying to do a miserable job. There are good ones and bad ones. Some days they can do no wrong, on other days they make mistakes. They aren't helped by people who view them as an occupying force.

When was the last time you were on a street corner and said “Hi” to a cop?

* "Living for the City" is a 1973 hit single by Stevie Wonder for the Tamla (Motown) label, from his Innervisions album.