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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Reality of Police Work

This morning Brian Lehrer interviewed Paul Bacon, the author of Bad Cop: New York's Least Likely Police Officer Tells All. Mr. Bacon describes himself as a left-leaning person who avoids confrontation and is afraid of guns, who none-the-less felt compelled to serve after the experiences of 9/11. He has a lot to share about the attitudes and practices of typical New York City beat cops, from a mostly sympathetic point of view, that would be of interest to anyone concerned with policing policing and law enforcement culture. Listen to the interview here (this might take a second to load):



Mr. Bacons' book is similar to the classic by Ted Conover, New Jack. After the Department refused him access to write a book about what it was like to work in a prison, the author, a very successful writer, went through Correction Officer training and spent a year guarding at Sing-Sing in order to write an insider's account about daily life for those who are charged with guarding inmates. Another place that you can get an insight into the (often highly inflammatory) opinions of NYPD rank-and-file is NYPD Rant.

For some interesting exerpts from the Brian Lehrer interview, Read More:

"The typical cynical viewpoint that you learn as a police officer [is] that nothing you can do works, so don't try. . . . It's what comes after being screamed at by people all day long, every day. Generally speaking, as a cop you're showing up at people's worst moments and most people are inclined to lie to you. And when you put those two things together it's easy to become cynical while still wanting to do a good job, but really it's a challenge to remain open minded."

Are [cops] people who like to fight and have confrontation? "Absolutely not, not generally speaking. There are some officers who are quicker to become physical but generally speaking most cops want to resolve every situation with as little trouble as possible, because they have to go from that situation to the next situation, and the one after that....Everybody is trying to make things work smoothly."

He claims that firearms training is very meticulous, including the test on justification and firearms discipline. 'Testi-lying' is not taught. "The things that happen in the news the academy, the job, take very seriously, they don't want those things to happen." "Do you think that cops lie a lot in court?" "No, I really don't."

Quotas for summons are very much a part of everyday life and the "number" is very much on the top of everyone's mind. "[If there weren't quotas], I'm almost sure that no cops would write tickets....Why would you want to add that much trouble to your life?...It's how you get in arguments, its how you get civilian complaints, it's how fights break out."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how you guys always find fresh material!

Nathaniel said...

Hi,

Being a police officer can be a very fulfilling job. Aside from the fact that police officers are well-paid with benefits, it is also a chance for you to help your community. Police officers are expected to keep the community feel secured and regulate anti-social behavior. You will earn the respect of the members of your community as you will have a very challenging job. Also, if you are to be a police officer, you will have a break from the monotone of a 9-5 job. Your job will never be boring.