Friday, September 7, 2012



NYPD Officers on Franklin Avenue in The Bronx after shooting during armed robbery

(Sept. 7, 2012, The Bronx, NYC)  It’s as sad as it is sickening and, for the men and women of the NYPD it is disheartening, insulting, offensive and overtly wrought with bias.  

Another tragic episode transpired here in the small hours of this morning when a 20 year old bodega employee was fatally shot by an Officer responding to the call of an “armed robbery in progress”.  A grainy surveillance video captures the defining moment when the fleeing bodega worker, Reynaldo Cuevas, ran from the store behind his uncle who owns the Aneurys Deli on Franklin Avenue at East 169th Street.  As Cuevas quickly exited the store, he collided, head first into an Officer who had drawn his service weapon shortly after arriving on the scene.  Presently the shooting is being designated as an “accidental discharge” by NYPD.  Police Commissioner Ray Kelly commented, “The tragedy here, of course, is that Mr. Cuevas was shot, but I see nothing wrong with the procedure.”

The fact of the matter is that there was nothing wrong with the procedure, nothing at all.  One of the first four responding Officers peered into the bodega window and observed a man pointing a gun at two other men on the floor.  Clearly this was an armed robbery in progress, a potential hostage situation and a volatile scenario that could have resulting in others present being injured or killed.  No excuses or explanations negate the tragic loss of an innocent young man’s life.  That goes without saying.  However, the torrent of vicious, vile and venomous criticism being leveled at the Officers involved and the entire NYPD speaks volumes about the knee jerk reaction, rush to judgment large segments of New Yorker’s make whenever there is what they perceive as a “controversial” shooting by a member of NYPD.

This is just the latest episode in what has been a long hot bloody summer in our City with a disturbing increase in gun violence throughout the Boroughs.  This too is the most recent opportunity for all the critics and activists, pundits, “community leaders” (whatever the hell that means), race-baiting bigots who stand ever at the ready to pounce on NYPD.  Just two weeks ago a disgruntled fired employee of a Midtown accessory company gunned down his former boss on 33rd Street and he himself was shot and killed in front of the Empire State Building.  The hue and cry was initially the predictably ignorant rhetoric accusing the Officers involved of “excessive force” and as being “trigger happy”.   That was just not the case once numerous video clips that captured the dramatic scene were made public.

(Just for the record and the sake of truth and clarity, one would be hard pressed to identify any current of former member of NYPD who would honestly say they are or were ever “trigger happy”.  Typically, an Officer involved in a shooting incident especially when that Officer’s actions result in a death is forever a changed soul and will replay the memories of that event over and over for the rest of their lives.)

If anything, given the myriad challenges of policing an urban environment as diverse, disparate, congested, crowded and often hostile in certain Precincts, as is New York City, NYPD should be commended and appreciated for their collective restraint and individual professionalism by all the millions who live, work or visit here.  Unfortunately, that is not the case. 


There are two sides to every controversial issue, two perspectives in every civilian encounter with a Police Officer.  There are two usually divergent perceptions of every sudden Police action as has been proven time and again by the various, often conflicting accounts provided by “eye witnesses”.  Sadly in some of our most troubled neighborhoods, in the roughest sectors, the darkest streets, the almost alien and hostile landscape that emerges on these blocks in the small hours of the morning when the pulse of the rest of the City is quietly beating at a restful pace, the residents are more prone to see what they want to see, to call virtually any Police action “excessive”, and haul out the old worn ugly charges of a Police force out of control. 

But it is not that way.

Decisions are made in a fraction of a fraction of a second; a nanosecond.  Adrenaline, excitement, the sense of duty, danger and one’s own morality and mortality collide and repel against each other within the minute confines of a synapse.  Training, experience and reflex interact on a sub or even unconscious level and it is there that choices are determined.  The confrontation becomes all consuming; the desire to “do the right thing” somehow remains tantamount amid the confusion of the chase.

Armed or unarmed, who is it that I chase, I confront, is running into me?  What danger does he pose to the innocent bystander, my partners and me?  The heartbeat escalates more than the physical exertion warrants.  Everything appears in the crystal clarity of slow motion yet the reality of the moment allows for no “replay.”  This is it.  I will see my wife or husband and children again, I will do the best I can but; why won’t he stop, why does he keep coming?  The throat burns from the rapid breath and frantic, emphatic yelling yet, the perp keeps running at a pace that appears otherworldly, still fights savagely or simply, inexplicably refuses a direct order from a Cop.  All this in the blink of an eye, in that one single heartbeat, lives can change forever or end.  Only those who’ve lived through such a lethal synapse know its depth, its heat and its longevity.


The Crime Scene Unit had not yet completed their grim tasks before this particular event was being labeled a “scandal”.  We’ve come to expect it if not accept it.

What is truly scandalous is the attitudes and opinions of our teeming City when it comes to the performance of their Police Department.  The public wants to feel “safe” yet is willing, sometimes eager, to render harsh, misinformed judgments on those they count on to keep them safe.  The irony is stupendous, the hypocrisy used to be just puzzling; now it is just a sorry fact of life.

The public can wonder where the “us against them” attitude they assign to NYPD comes from.  They can speculate on its origins and ramifications when, in actuality, it is in large part the direct result of an organization of hard working men and women grown weary of the criticism, the lack of respect – not appreciation – that would be far too much to ask for.  The lack of respect is what cuts the deepest.

The population of this City dials 911 over 40,000 times a day on average with the NYPD responding to approximately 30,000 of those calls.  People call, NYPD responds.  People call about all manner of complaint, conflict, disruption, disaster, illness, injury, altercation, suspicion, and crime in progress.  Every time Police Officers respond to a call no matter how innocuous, silly or harmless as it may appear they are acutely aware that no call, no call is “routine”.  Any situation can erupt and turn volatile; every call has the potential to be out of the ordinary. 

But, the complaining public continues to call and will continue to call because they know they will get help, assistance, a response.  Members of NYPD will always be there for the City.  Every now and then the City should be there for them.


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