Wednesday, October 27, 2010

George's Greatest Hits: "Why I'm Still Proud to Be a Cop" (originally published in the New York Daily News, August 28, 1997)

Introduction:  The New York papers are full of the tale of Feris Jones, the 50-year-old NYPD officer who got up from her chair at the beauty parlor to shoot it out with a 20-year-old perp who thought he was going to rob the place.  It didn't quite work out as he had hoped--he lost the gunfight and, after a brief time on the lam, he went to the hospital (yes, he survived and will be preying upon us for many years to come), and then to jail.  And she went to Police Headquarters to be promoted to detective by the Police Commissioner and the Mayor.

How did she stay so cool?  "That's my personality," she told the reporters.  "I don't fuss about much."

The newspapers will milk this story for a few days, then go back to writing about how the cops' health coverage and pensions are bankrupting the city and must be cut immediately.  But the media's hypocrisy should not make us jaded--it is she who is the star of this show, not them.  In what she did when she had to--and how she carried herself afterward--she gave New York something to celebrate and someone to look up to.

The following piece appeared in the New York Daily News on Thursday, August 28, 1997--and, man, it's even truer now than when I wrote it.

-George Molé

Why I'm Still Proud to Be a Cop

by George Molé

New York Daily News
Thursday, August 28, 1997 

I still remember why I became a cop:  I wanted to walk down a dark street and make everyone feel safe.  I wanted to see the kids crowd around, and the girls smile, and the hoodlums slink off the corners, and the old people unlock their doors and come outside on a summer night.  All because I was there.

Every good cop starts with that enthusiasm, that heroic vision of police work--but it's not always easy to hold on to.  The maddening bureaucracy of the job, the lack of support from the public and courts and politicians, and the distorted view of the police often presented by the media can disillusion the most idealistic cop.

And the great, tragic scandals that at long intervals roil the department--like the ongoing horror at Brooklyn's 70th Precinct--can shake a cop's sense of pride, the confidence of being respected by law-abiding people.

But I have worn an NYPD shield for seven years, and every day makes me more, not less, proud to be a New York City police officer.  Because every day I see my co-workers doing the world's hardest job with skill and humor and extraordinary grace.

Although I don't speak for anyone but myself, I believe that most cops are, like me, attempting to keep an open mind about the innocence or guild of the accused Brooklyn officers.  But the horrible allegations against them--false or true--are so far outside anything I've seen in my career as to seem the stuff of fiction.

Here's what I have seen:

Cops of all races and both sexes work together with a mutual respect and affection that should be an example for the rest of society.  Cops know that the ethnicity of the person who's watching your back in a dark alleyway or on some desolate rooftop is quite unimportant.

Cops will go out of their way to talk to or play with or comfort a child.  Perhaps thinking of their own children, they try constantly to counter the negative influences, the lack of love and guidance, that many of our city's kids experience.

Cops will almost always, even at the risk of their own safety, try to resolve a situation with words instead of force.  "Let's talk about it..." or "Try to calm down, pal..." are always preferred to a stick or a gun.

And sometimes, while they're doing their jobs, they die.  Unexpectedly, violently, painfully.

If cops ask for respect, or the benefit of the doubt when they take action, that request has been paid for, many times over, in blood.

I think of Police Officer Vincent Guidice, killed last year with shards of broken glass while trying to protect a battered woman.  Don't bet the rent money that Al Sharpton will organize a march to protest his death.

Guess what:  Cops are people.  They're subject to the same weaknesses, temptations and dark impulses as anyone else.  But what's remarkable is not that, on rare occasions, they succumb to them--but how rare those occasions are.

So let's condemn the very few corrupt or brutal cops.  I do.  But then let's salute the rest of my 37,000 brothers and sisters in blue, who humble me with their patience and bravery, their incredible decency.

Because right now, somewhere in the city--maybe even in the 7-0--a cop is handling some tense, potentially violent situation, keeping everything cool with cynical wisdom and a sense of humor, common sense and the right words.

He or she wears the NYPD uniform, and so do I.  Nothing could make me prouder.

Molé is an NYPD sergeant and freelance writer. 

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At September 11, 2012 at 5:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your words are so poetic and beautiful. We are all indebted to the rare people like you in this world who courageously enter dangerous situations without fear for their own safety to protect others and at times pay with their own lives.


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