"You have to be stupid," the Mayor asserted from his podium at City Hall, his words trailing off like a puff of exhaust from an old city bus.
"Stupid?" a uniformed cop on patrol in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn asked me. "You don't have to be stupid to be a cop in this city," he said after giving the Mayor's comment a bit more thought. "You have to be nuts!"
"Nuts?" I asked, surprised with his response.
"Nuts." He reiterated. "Certifiably crackers."
I nodded my head up and down and considered walking away. Some cops are cops; some cops are crooks and some cops are escapee's from Bellvue.
"Look at me, " he adds, pausing to bite into the hot dog that some vendor drowned in Gulden's spicy mustard. A spot of it mixed into the blue of his uniform, which he smudged further with a paper napkin. "Here I am, in the twilight of my career, serving a public that doesn't trust me. I have to work for Bosses that are so concerned with maintaining a holier than thou image, the won't stand behind me and if I bust somebody in the commission of a crime, I'm not even entitled to the same benefits that he is. He's at least innocent until proven guilty, but if he uses those words, excessive force, it's modified duty pending the outcome of a departmental investigation. I have to be nuts."
The cops who are alleged to have abused their authority in this particular case, I reminded him, were caught on video tape breaking into the home of a drug dealer. Unfortunately, for the cops who allegedly committed this crime, the home was not the property of drug dealers. Instead, it belonged to detectives, investigating allegations, suggesting that police offers were once again shaking down drug dealers.
"This isn't exactly Headline News," I said. "I mean, it has happened before."
"And I'm sure it'll happen again," he added, taking another bite of his mustard-foaming hotdog.
"Now," he continued. " Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure," I told him. "Ask away."
Have you ever seen anyone break the law? Do you know of anyone around here that deals drugs, or maybe vandalizes cars?"
"So what if I do?" I asked.
"What are you doing about it?"
"I'm not doing anything about it," I said to him. "It's not my job to keep the neighborhood free from such jerks."
"It's not your job," the cop lamented. "But you can make a difference in the success or failure of my job. If I heard the news reports right, the cops that are about to be arrested, were turned in by a fellow cop. So, we have a case of a fellow cop catching his neighbors, not abusing their authority, but breaking the law. If you have a drug problem in the neighborhood, or if you know of child abuse, or spouse abuse then it's up to you to report it. You can make a difference in what goes on in your neighborhood. If you want to partake in what you might call the Blue Code of Silence, however, then I guess you're every bit as responsible for the activities going on in these streets as those involved in the activity itself. You don't have to leave your name with anyone, or your number. Afraid of caller I.D.? Then go out and call it in on a pay phone and don't expect instantaneous results. It takes time to investigate an allegation and to prove it, but you can make a difference."
I had to lift my hand to my cheek just to stop my head from spinning. The cop polished off his hotdog with a twisted grin and tapped the side of his head.
"Stupid?" he asked. "You don't have to be stupid to be a cop in this City. You have to be nuts. So they caught some crooked cops. Cops are a lot like everybody else. We have homes to go to, families we love and faults, just like the rest of the world. Show me an employer who has never been betrayed by a single employee and I'll eat my socks on a hot August day at the end of my tour."
I looked down at the cop's feet. They were big feet and I guessed the Mayor was really talking about being a cop in this City and committing a crime. I suppose there's an employer out there, somewhere. Of course, I hope I don't find him.
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