But I not a police officer. I have great respect for police, and especially the NYPD after September 2001.
But Ive got to admit, Im a little unsettled by your post. You seem a little gleeful in disabusing the NYU kids of their idealism, or specifically the desires of one of them to work to tell the stories of the poor. I don't understand that.
People throwing rocks or bottles at cop cars is reprehensible, no doubt about it. Likely culprits? Black or hispanic teenage boys (depending on the precinct, I guess). Do you think these kids are just more prone to sin or misbehavior than rich NYU kids? Or do you think they have grown up more hopeless? More desperate?
If it is the latter, than I would venture to say that "pleasant and bright" but sheltered kids should be encouraged to pursue careers that puts them in close contact with their desperate counterparts -- be it documentary film making or police work.
People say that being a cop is really hard, that cops are prone to burn-out and cynicism. I believe it. I hope youre not too burned out or cynical, Apache. The Bronx needs good men.
You raise some very valid points and concerns and you are obviously the good natured sort so I feel obliged to do my best to give you some answers. Here’s my take on some larger social issues that will hopefully shed light on the topic.
Firstly, there are a number of hard working people that live within our precinct boundaries that work tirelessly, attempt to better themselves, and dream of better lives for their children. These individuals may be constrained by a lack of education, poor English skills, or a bad family situation. However, they struggle to survive with visions of future prosperity and the promise that one day the American dream will belong to them or future generations of their line. One hundred years ago my family came to the same city with nothing but the shirts on their backs and endured many of the same challenges and overcame many of the same hurdles. These individuals garner my utmost respect- it gives me great personal satisfaction to serve these people in their times of need, and to put myself in harm’s way to protect their lives and property. I am proud to lead and work alongside so many like minded individuals that compromise the vast majority of New York’s Finest.
That being said, it’s just too damn bad that the aforementioned individuals are now in the minority in the ghetto. The cultural divide between civilized society and the ghetto has widened to the point where it simply seems it is beyond repair. The gap is so wide that an understanding of ghetto culture is now beyond the grasp of many people in our society (and I speak mainly of the left). They fail to see what is essentially chaotic and savage and tend to assign their own values to those they do not understand (I find they do the same thing with regards to the Islamic World). A compulsive desire to ‘please’, ‘understand’, empathize with, or even show compassion to these members of our society can be misguided and harmful despite the best of intentions.
The ghetto is an upside down place. Morality as we know it does not exist there. There is a different code of conduct. Attitudes on what is acceptable in the rest of our society do not apply. I don’t even know where to begin… sex between pre-teens, reliance on public support as a means of permanent sustenance, violence against women, drug use, the predatory behavior… when it ceases to be condemned by the community, it becomes the standard. That is where we are at today- chaos is the accepted standard. I’m sure you’ve heard the terms ‘baby momma’ and ‘baby daddy’. They have replaced husband and wife in the ghetto- and the latter usually has a few of the former and declines to satisfy even the most basic obligations of a father. Yet there is no outcry. There is also no outcry from acts of violence when crime is black on black- and before you think it, intimidation has NOTHING to do with it. People are all too happy to give damning information on another if they can get something out of it. We can get information from informants… when we pay for it. Violence has become acceptable and many times encouraged as a medium for dispute resolution (Of course, God help the cop who shoots the suspect in the middle of even the most terrifying and confusing of situations). Catching bad guys is a much more murky affair in the ghetto, as that the ‘victim’ is often only slightly less of a criminal than the ‘perp’… and the ‘victim’ does not like the police any more than the offender who just acted against him.
Ghetto people have different priorities, and personal responsibility is not one of them. It has been replaced by hedonism. The cultural icons are now ‘gansta’ rap stars, who surround themselves with all that is excessive. Unlike the NYU student who sees a famous and wealthy film director and says to himself “If I work hard, I can someday be like him”, the ghetto youth looks at the rap star and says “I want those riches, and it is not fair that I don’t have them”. Social betterment? Family stability? Financial security with age? No way. Extravagant material possessions are the goal. Any means to obtain this goal are acceptable. Modern day ghetto culture has been created and sustained not by a lack of individual wealth, but by a sense of individual entitlement. It’s a truth that many Americans refuse to accept, but it is plain as day to those who spend any time in ‘rough urban areas’. Social mobility is dying and nothing but ghetto culture is to blame. The modern ghetto has nothing to offer the greater society. Instead, it consumes the resources of the upper tiers and instead of trying to wean itself of this socialistic practice its leaders only demand more. Misguided liberals and opportunistic politicians are all too happy to give and in turn only further damage is done. Social programs that give handouts can not fix today’s ghetto- the whole damn ghetto culture and individual mindset needs to change… and it needs to come from within the community. All the good will in the world from civilized society won’t make this happen… especially not documentaries on the ‘plight of the underprivileged living in poor areas’. The ghetto poor don’t need any more social programs. They don’t need any more charitable handouts- there is already enough out there for the taking. They certainly don’t need their ‘stories told’ by outsiders. The ghetto poor need a cultural revolution and a mentality change… and it is something that liberals with all of their good intentions just can’t give them.
Am I “a little gleeful in disabusing the NYU kids of their idealism”? No. I was A LOT gleeful. Quite frankly, it was the highlight of my day. It’s not often that you see the impairment of fuzzy liberal vision stripped from a person’s eyes so that a horrible and disturbing truth can be seen for the first time. It’s a truth that seven years ago a young and sheltered ND alumnus learned the hard way when he gave up his promising career at an internet ad firm and traded a cubicle for a gun and shield thinking he could help every person he came into contact with. The ugly truth is that some people can not be helped. Their own beliefs and behavior prevent this from happening. I think two young students today got a look at that truth. In addition to the bottles off roofs (affectionately termed 'airmail' by cops), they saw people give intentionally false perpetrator descriptions and directions of flight for no other reason than to toy with the police. They saw obvious witnesses walk away without caring one way or another about the horrifically violent act. They saw neighborhood people remove their outgarments so they could match the perpetrator's description of wearing a white shirt so they could confuse our canvas- all along shouting 'this is for Sean Bell'. (I actually was not there, THEY told me this). Community members with nothing to gain from these acts deliberately conducted themselves in a manner prohibitive to our response and in doing so were nothing short of barbaric. The students went to numerous calls before the shooting and saw much of the same. They took mental note of everything they witnessed. I think it changed them for the better and they may focus their energies and efforts into endeavors that will produce better results. In the prior post I chronicled today’s little affair directed at people who I know to have a general understanding of all of the above- something that I supposed could easily be confused with a sort of schadenfreude over the students obviously unsettled disposition. I assure you that is not the case.
To answer your final query, am I ‘burned out or cynical’? Fuck no. I am wiser, more savvy, and grounded. I love my job. Although I am mostly tied to a desk now doing analyst work, I am soon due to move up yet again into a position that will get me back in the field. I can’t wait. There is no feeling in the world like throwing handcuffs on a guy that just beat up his wife, running down a purse snatcher, or taking a gun off the streets that could have claimed numerous lives. There are very hard and sometimes terrifying moments too that I won’t delve into, but make no mistake, being a cop is fucking fantastic.
for the time and thoughtfulness of that response. I appreciate it and I learn from it.
I have found myself working in the Bronx, in East L.A., in Cabrini Green, in Camden, and now in third world slums that make these places look like paradise, so I can certainly appreciate your vivid description of the malaises found in these sorts of places.
On that note, I guess we agree. It's a sad world these people live in.
I suppose I also agree with you on how to move forward. "The poor need a cultural revolution and a mentality change," you wrote. That should be emblazoned on a title page or spray painted on bodega walls. It's profoundly true.
But what does it mean? How would this revolution look? What would engender this change in mentality? Maybe -- because of the ND connection -- I can assume youre Catholic? If we share that, we might also agree that the only real 'conversion' is one that leads people closer to God, through the grace of Christ. (Which doesnt go a long way to telling us what the fuck we should *do*... especially cops.) But how do you encourage this change in mentality?
I certainly dont know, despite dedicating myself to this problem. My first instinct is to diagnose what went wrong. And that's what got me writing about hopelessness and despair in my previous post. If I were to state what I think was the biggest misconception about the 'ghetto poor' among people with no contact there, it is that these damned teenage thugs just arent scared enough. They need to be frightened into respecting authority, moral codes, old fashioned American values, etc. This is a misdiagnosis, I think. The problem isnt a lack of fear, but a lack of hope. These adolescents have absolutely no hope for their future.
The most useful 'thought experiment' I think NYU or ND students could do would be to try to imagine their lives absent ANY form of hope. How long till youre throwing bottles at police?
So I guess I just wanted to write to thank you for your post. If I disagree with you at all, it is in your use of (and apparent value in) terms like "left" and "liberal"... as if the real important issue was to skewer the Other Side. Liberal and conservative mean fuck-all, these days, I think. They have become empty terms and function like Coke/Pepsi or State/Tech. Down with the other side.
The cultural crisis among the poor undermines these terms and this way of thinking.
"I certainly dont know, despite dedicating myself to this problem. My first instinct is to diagnose what went wrong. And that's what got me writing about hopelessness and despair in my previous post. If I were to state what I think was the biggest misconception about the 'ghetto poor' among people with no contact there, it is that these damned teenage thugs just arent scared enough. They need to be frightened into respecting authority, moral codes, old fashioned American values, etc. This is a misdiagnosis, I think. The problem isnt a lack of fear, but a lack of hope. These adolescents have absolutely no hope for their future."
Pretty much. You can't scare people into accepting the things you listed. It is LIFE that is not respected in today's Urban ghetto- hence the lack of hope. The ingredients necessay to change this though, are beyond me. Change this though, and the rest will fall into place.