Sunday, July 24, 2016


October 24, 2014 a man later identifed as Zale Thompson approached
 with an axe a group of NYPD Officers and,
 in an unprovoked attack, struck two of them with the
axe before Officers fired upon the subject, killing him.


(Tuesday July 19, 2016 Mott Haven, The Bronx, NYC) As the streets and sidewalks continue to boil in the relentless heat of an already hot Summer in neighborhoods such as this across the country, every competing narrative be it political, societal or cultural, insists that “words matter”.  That, they do.  They matter a great deal not only as the nouns, verbs, and adjectives of any news item, argument, or opinion but in the way they are strung together to give life to difficult to express concepts and perspectives very different from our own.  Words matter whatever the source; logical, reasoned verbiage will emerge over hyperbolic, emotion-fueled, heated rhetoric in any arena.  Our politicians and candidates employ speech writers, “wordsmiths”, to help them craft an artful, compelling message; a message they hope will “connect” with the particular audience they are intended for.  The broader the target audience, the more clarity and simplicity the message requires.

In these past weeks of Police shootings as well as the ambushes that have sent Police Officers to violent, bloody death, there has been a veritable ocean of commentary and opinion from all quarters on every side of the myriad issues under discussion and debate in public media, in political advertising and campaigning as well as in the confines of Police Precincts here and everywhere. There are two words that are not getting any traction in Precincts and among the rank and file MOS of the NYPD; “fear” and “scared”.  It is dangerous to have these words used as descriptive modifiers in debates and discussions about MOS of the LEC. 


Beginning on the first days a NYPD Cadet spends in the Police Academy, they are taught about situational awareness, presence of mind, and the necessity for constant vigilance.  Over the months of training these themes are repeated so often, exercises designed specifically to instill these principles are as much a part of the curriculum that they are interwoven into other more topic specific instruction and study.  But this is only the beginning of the indoctrination to these principles; once on the streets teamed with veteran Officers, they learn rapidly how to access a situation, make the nano-second calculations often required to insure the safety of the public as well as their own, and to develop and come to trust their “instinct”, that ill-defined sense born of practical experience and continual exposure to scenarios that range in hazards from very low to “life and death” high. They are also taught that no job, no call or response is ever “routine”; any situation carries with it the unknowns and the potential for escalation and complication.  Cops learned to keep emotions in check, to depersonalize certain stimuli to devote full attention to the more problematic components of the scene they find themselves in.  This is not meant to be interpreted or in any other way even remotely imply that the emotional shut off allows Officers to “devalue” anyone’s life; quite the contrary.  Officers are as much tasked with protecting the lives of others as they are to maintain order, a sense of cohesiveness in our society.

Police Officers are produced through the Police Academy; Cops are made on the streets.  For many of us of a certain age we can recall when the veteran Officers would preach that a Rookie is a Rookie in their eyes until they have spent seven years out on the streets. That even year designation was no random standard arbitrarily chosen to keep younger less experienced Officers at arm’s length.  Not at all.  It was thought that it took a solid seven years before a street Cop had scene at least once essentially every type of scenario they’d be faced with over their career.  It was a good marker to set.


Fear has its place; it has been an integral component of human beings’ survivability from the days our ancestors of antiquity lived in caves.  Fear produces the “Fight or Flight” response flooding our bloodstream with a variety of hormones and enzymes that assure that our bodies are physiological prepared for the fight or the flight.  There are many degrees and gradients of fear just as there is a similar range for all our behavioral patterns from response to threats to the genetic imperative to love and protect those most closely related to us.  Arguably, no human is entirely devoid of fear.  Even the brave first seven Mercury Astronauts who were blasted into space in a small capsule perched high atop a literal ballistic missile had some measure of fear in other aspects of their lives.  Fear can be dealt with, it can be channeled, handled, shunted in such a way that it becomes an asset not a liability.  Fear in its rawest manifestations can be partially conditioned out of a Police Officer with that rawest of feelings replaced by hyperawareness, measured breathing, and an automatic reflexive response elicited from their training and experience.


As we all have witnessed from sites and incidences from just a few miles south of here at the ground where our Twin Towers once stood to the war-torn landscapes of the Middle East, Afghanistan and other countries terrorist have targeted, a person willing to die is essentially fearless.  Men that would crash passenger jets into skyscrapers, conduct suicide attacks of every kind and actually believe their death to be their eternal entrance to martyrdom, are virtually impossible to stop.  Every gene in our bodies as well as every recess of our brains commands in us the unparalleled desire, the desire to survive.  Actions antithetical to this are difficult to comprehend but we have learned the lessons quickly over the last 15 years.

What some among us may not fully realize is that there are those individuals in our cities, on our streets, perhaps right in our neighborhood that so devalue life, their OWN life, that they are in that sense “fearless” and a person without that fear will perpetrate any act or actions they are moved to.  Sure, some are terrorists or wannabe terrorists, others infected by serious mental health ailments, still others are simply caught in a cycle of criminality (and all the societal ills that help cultivate it) and a mindset such that committing murder be it premediated or in the heat of the moment manslaughter, is just another fact of their existence.  Individuals such as these do not fear jail or prison; they fear no punishment our criminal justice system provides for.  They most certainly do not fear the Police; even those who protest that they fear a random encounter with the Police, or view the Police as an “occupying force” in their neighborhoods continue to behave in ways that only increase their chances of a Police encounter. 


The public discourse of the last two weeks clearly highlights the profound differences among virtually all demographics of our population particularly in our largest urban and metropolitan centers.  Each side has their ironclad base beliefs and “core values” that allow for everyone to talk down to or over an opposing perspective.  This is “Democracy” in practice even though arguments on each side fall a bit short in ethical and moral objectivity.  It seems that every newspaper, periodical, cable “newsertainment” network and talk radio station have their loyal cadre’ of retired LEO, attorneys, experts of varying renown in a wide array of academic disciplines as well as official representatives from the LEC that reinforce any particular media outlet’s political bent.  Yes, there are more “Policing experts” on air than had been previously suspected to have even existed.  When one of these talking heads is paired off with their polar opposite the discussion turns rancorous and often devolves into nothing more than a petty shouting match.  It benefits no segment of society to have such volatile representative allegedly “speaking” for them but these epic shouting matches sure do drive ratings and, make no mistake about it, each media outlet has a distinct bias and are all ratings driven.  Rating keep the money pipeline from corporate sponsors flowing.

There is, however, a very significant and substantial between all the experts, politicos and pundits claiming to be Policing mavens.  The most appropriate analogy we have developed is in the story of the male physician who goes on to be the world renowned unmatched expert on pregnancy.

This male doctor holds every Board certification available in his field of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN).  He has written texts books on human pregnancy and is know the world over as the preeminent expert on pregnancy.  This doctor knows the physiology, endocrinology, gynecologic, obstetric, emotional and every other physical manifestation of pregnancy in a woman’s body.  He literally is “Dr. Pregnancy”.

Despite all his knowledge and expertise, his decades of practice, research, teaching and writing about pregnancy he can never fully know – know in his body and mind – what precisely it feels like to actually be pregnant.   

We employ this analogy as a counter argument to all the well-meaning, sincere, and thoughtful critics of the Police and even to those who demonstrate their idiocy every time they speak publically.  Unless a man of woman has served, has donned the uniform, hit the streets, and personally acquired a first-hand account of what being a Police Officer feels like, what it is to function as one in the communities, neighborhoods, subways, housing projects, and every other environment you can think of, then they cannot truly speak about “knowing” or “understanding” Policing, Police Officers, and all that the Job entails.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the primary cold hard fact of the debate; unless you have actually done it and done it for years, you do not, can not grasp, try as you might, understand the Job.

This is not to say that there is no basis for honest, open, objective examination of and discussions on Policing.  It is to suggest that the Police have the finest of fine lines to walk.  While they defend their profession and colleagues, as they listen to the legitimate complaints and highly emotionally charged grievances of members of the communities they serve, they must exercise the discipline to not simply dismiss all Police criticism as just so much horseshit.  Sometimes it requires super human restraint but we as a community, the LEC, should at least listen objectively as we possibly can and to participate from within our own Organizations in any practical efforts or initiatives that might begin the lessen the abyss between “Us” and “Them”.  After all, we are, much like the famous Dr. Pregnancy painfully learned, the only people who can. 

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2016 © All Rights Reserved
Copyright Brooding Cynyc 2016  © All Rights Reserved

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