I just finished reading a new book titled “BLUE ON BLUE,” an expose written by a cop who headed NYPD INTERNAL AFFAIRS for 20 years. Interesting subject matter! But while reading, I harbored all sorts of suspicions about the author. At times, it sounded like a paid political announcement in favor of the department. Like the part about 99.9% of policemen (and women) are good cops. Really? To be introspective, I wasn’t so sure that my thinking wasn’t biased. So I searched my soul to figure out why I rolled my eyes one too many times while reading and remembered back to a couple of significant moments which shaped my opinions on the men in blue.
At age 10, I attended a lawn party at my aunt’s house where family and friends were celebrating my cousin’s Sweet Sixteen. Auntie lived in a swell house in an equally cushy town. And for whatever reason, there was a local Nassau County policeman on the premises to ensure everything went off without a hitch. Now even at that tender age, there were some things I understood. Like you’re not supposed to drink and drive – or steal something that wasn’t yours.
During the party, I watched that cop sneak several drinks. And when it was time for the fiesta to disperse and the policeman to exit, homey was many sheets to the wind. Ya know…like really sauced. A .20 easily. No problem. The dude just climbed in his cruiser and weaved away! I was standing on the lawn watching this in disbelief (I mean…this dude was really fucked up) as my aunt sidled up to me to add “And he stole two bottles of liquor.” Nice! Ok! So let’s say that only 1 in a thousand cops would do what this peace officer had just done. Still, not a pretty thing for a kid to see.
Fast forward 5 years and me and the boys (the same PHD professors with whom I convene to this day) are out at about 11 PM scoring some pizza down at Willy’s. No weed…no liquor. Just three kids getting a few slices. Now I have to admit that to a significant degree, I invited this next episode.
As we’re walking home, a police/fire box phone rings on a telephone pole and being young and dumb with no girls to play with, I pick it up – and hang up – within one second. Laughs all around. Remember, we’re 15. The the phone rings again and Pomerantz answers this time to say “Sorry, wrong number!” Dumb. Really dumb!
We continue walking home smitten with how renegade we are when a cruiser pulls up to admonish us about what three little assholes we truly are. Properly contrite, we apologize and are on our way for maybe 10 seconds when the cruiser returns to say “The sergeant didn’t like what you said,” (obviously the “sorry wrong number” thing). “I gotta take you in.”
So we hop in his ride and voyage just a few blocks to the local precinct where the cops are gonna have a little fun. They sit us in the locker room where the shift change is in full swing and many gendarmes are coming and going. Pretty much everybody had something to say along the lines of “Kid! you got the kind of fucking face I’d like to tear off your fucking skull.” I mean…they were really verbally abusive. I was in amazement and actually answered one of the insults with the observation “Yikes! You’d think we held up a bank or something.”
With that, this big fucking blowhard of a cop comes up from behind and gives me the back of his hand. I’ll put it to y’all this way. Forty five minutes later when Mr. Pomerantz picked us up and deposited us with our respective parents, mom took a look at me to ask “What happened to your face?” That’s how hard he hit me.
I will say that the moment this fat slob smacked me almost the entire department took off from the locker room. Everybody knew the guy had crossed the line. And two sympathetic cops stayed behind to do the right thing. Ya know…ask us how we’re doing in school. And it wasn’t fake. They didn’t like what they’d just seen. Anyway…mom was cool. She called the precinct and to the best of my recollection said “My son did something stupid and inexcusable. But why’d ya hit him?”
Indeed, the entire department was buzzing about the incident. The desk sergeant acknowledged his officer’s indiscretion (somebody had already reported the aggressor) and the Chief of Police actually came over to the the house to apologize in person. For her part, mom said we could go to Newsday and make a big stink about what had happened. For what reason I’ll never know, she didn’t. (Hey! She wasn’t the one who got smacked!) And it was over. But that didn’t mean my view of the police hadn’t changed. I wasn’t impressed by the men in blue given my early dealings with them. Ever since then, I’ve always “yes, sirred,” and “no, sirred” cops whenever I’ve had occasion to interact with them. But that doesn’t signify respect. It shows caution. I don’t trust the police.
On the subject of the book itself, I’d actually recommend it. You’d be impressed by how deviously some policemen manage to augment their income – and how much they can steal on the job. In between all the nauseating stuff about how almost all cops are honest, there’s some good and informative reading.
Of course, there’s the additional matter of who actually did the nuts and bolts writing. And given that the ghostwriter is actually credited on the cover, I have to draw the only rational conclusion. An anecdote if I may:
Many years ago when I was a cabby and before all this happy adult advertising horse shit, I was freelance writing for both the New York Times and Gallery Magazine. At the time, my editor at the Times had mentioned that he’d been assigned the job to oversee a cop’s account of life on the streets for the City Section, which was a very popular piece of the Sunday edition.
One day while up at the offices of Gallery, the editor complimented me “It’s great that I found a cabby who can write. Now I need a police officer,” to which I countered that I might have one for him, thinking that the cop who wrote for the Times might be a candidate. So I called the guy at the Times to represent and Bob (the editor) laughed me off. “He’s not your guy. He can’t write at all.” Which was to say that the cop related verbally his life on the job and Bob wrote the entire piece for him – and of course, gave him a by line.
Well anyway…enough of all that. I’m sure there are many excellent policemen out there protecting the citizenry who can write their asses off. Just so they leave me alone, I’m good because early experiences have taught me to have as little association with them as is humanly possible. You get the idea.