A PR Suggestion for the NYPD

By now you’ve seen the video of a woman walking down the street and all the catcalls she gets. The NYPD could make a similar video. My eyes were opened to what a cop has to deal with when I hung out with one of the cold case detectives who’d been assigned to a post at the Iraq war protest (obviously this was years ago).

Here’s what happened. People trying to enter the protest were constantly being stopped from doing so. They’d come up to a cross street but they’d be told it was closed and they had to go up to the next street to enter the protest. Except they’d go up to the next street and be told the same thing. Go up to the next block. This would keep happening. At one point I asked, “Just tell me the truth, which blocks are actually open,” and the cop had to admit they didn’t know. So after 10 or 20 blocks of this people would lose their patience and they’d stop asking so politely.

I spent some time with a detective who was at one of the closed off blocks. He was further uptown, so he was getting people who were basically tired of being jerked around, they just wanted to join the protest already. My sympathy was with them. But at the same time, it wasn’t this detective’s fault that his block was closed. And it was the boss’s fault that the cops assigned to the blocks weren’t being given accurate information to tell the protestors, like which blocks were open.

So I watched for a few hours as people took their frustration out on this detective and the other cops with him. He knew what was going on and why they were frustrated and he remained polite in his answers regardless of how anyone talked to him. But after a couple of hours his responses got shorter and shorter, and while he wasn’t exactly impolite, he was definitely less friendly and impatient as time wore on. I can see how people with poor anger management skills (and who weren’t being watched) could behave a lot worse under the circumstances. But I could also see losing it. I’m not sure people realized how assholish they were being, even if they had a good reason to be mad.

This is a long way of explaining why I suggest making a film like the one of the girl walking down the street. The NYPD could make a similar video showing some of the things people say and call out to cops as they are doing their job. I know how it can get quite ugly, and it could give the public a real sense of what a cop has to deal with every day. You might also include—except I know this would never happen in a MILLION YEARS—what some of the bosses say and do to their own men and women. That was a real revelation to me when I researched my book, the fact that some of the jerkiest behavior a cop has to deal with comes from the inside! They are not all on the same side in there.

But it would make a great video and it would show how often cops are in a no-win situation, getting it from both sides, the public and the brass.

Looking out my window and down to the street where the police and the fire department are working together to evict a mentally disturbed man from his apartment (this was the guy who thought a Time Warner repairman working in his building was there to kill him and turned on the gas jets in his apartment and left them on). This was the day after Christmas. Talk about a not-fun part of your job.

NYPD and FDNY Eviction

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

2 thoughts on “A PR Suggestion for the NYPD

  1. Could bodycams achieve the same purpose with fewer concerns about tendentious editing? Of course, citizens might be a bit less rude if they know they’re being filmed.

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