This essay appears on the Daily News online. I’m sure you are aware of the tension in New York City between Mayor Bill DeBlasio and the NYPD. Much has been said on the subject but this says volumes about the way most New Yorkers feel;
“I used to live on E. 3rd St. in Manhattan, across from the Men’s Shelter. It could get pretty stinky but I was fond of a lot of these guys. Tommy the Jacket Head, who wore a jacket over his head and walked in circles mumbling to himself and then blurting out things that could have come from Stephen Hawking or Søren Kierkegaard. There was an enormously fat guy who would blurt out ‘Armageddon! Armageddon! Hoom!’ every 10 minutes or so, but otherwise, didn’t move or say anything. A lot of the men there had something incredible that made you kind of love them.
But at one point, around 1980, Rikers Island was overflowing and they released about a third of the inmate population. A lot of them ended up on my block. Third St. became more like a jail yard. It became dangerous. And the guys who had been released were terrorizing the bums. Stealing from them. Beating them up. And in a few cases murdering them. I would see stuff going on from my window and call 911 but no one would ever come. So I took to throwing pennies from a big jar to try and break stuff up.
One night at about 3 a.m., I heard something going on outside and stood up on my window ledge to see what was happening. There was a cop, by himself, in a precarious situation. A guy with a metal pipe over his head was standing in front of the cop. Two other guys were behind the cop and seemed ready to attack. An old bum was lying on the pavement and appeared to have been knocked unconscious by the other three. The cop was white and everyone else was black. I am not sure that that matters but there you are. Now if I had been the cop and had a gun, I cannot imagine that I would not have shot the guy with the pipe.
But he didn’t.
The cop managed to disarm the guy with the pipe by rushing him and pulling his arm over his shoulder, then handcuffing him almost all in one motion. Then he took out his gun and told the other two to get lost. It was so insanely brave, that when I got down off of the window sill, I was on the verge of tears.
One cannot expect anyone to act as heroically as this man had — alone, in the middle of the night, with no one to see, no cameras, on a block most officers didn’t dare to go on — risking his life to not take another’s.
If you joined the force to carry a gun and hang with your buddies, crack nasty jokes and bully kids who hang out at the convenience store until they feel like they have no other recourse than to fight back because these things inexplicably make you feel more manly or powerful, if you band together to turn your back on someone speaking at a funeral, then you are an embarrassment.
Simple as that — you are an embarrassment.
But if you, in any small way, aspire to be this cop on 3rd St, 35 years ago — then, I’ve got your back. In any way in my power, I’ve got your back If you show this kind of integrity and courage, I dare say the whole city will have your back.”
–John Lurie is a musician, painter, actor, director and producer. (via NY Daily News)