Most of the men and women I worked with in the NYPD were raised and nurtured to embrace compassion, empathy and respect for all life. Most of my sworn, and civilian co-workers, many who also lived in this Brooklyn, NY community, were raised much like me, to be honest, truthful, compassionate and to respect our neighbors.
After completing a year of classroom and field training, when they learned I was assigned to what was considered a “high crime” Brooklyn community, a few of my field training officers told me to be prepared for “culture shock” .
When I was told this I thought to myself, “what are they talking about, how much different can it be from my community?”
I was a toddler when Motown was in its infancy, we grew up together as virtual friends. My Motown friends wrote and composed great music intended to make people smile and dance, which many of my friends and neighbors did when we enjoyed the music they shared with our world.
Before becoming a cop I worked in a service industry dealing with people from all backgrounds, this is when I learned that ALL my fellow humans, regardless of their background, have the capacity to be decent people or just plain jerks.
Plus, when our military deployed my dad to Korea as a mechanic, he met a black guy who grew up not far from him in Queens, NY. They became friends and upon returning from Korea together they opened an auto repair business, got married and started building their families. I was just a kid but as far as I could tell, the only difference between my dad and his friend/partner Jesse, was that Jesse had a dark complexion, a cooler hairstyle and seemed to smile more than my dad.
So what are these training officers talking about when they tell me I will experience “culture shock?”
Soon after being assigned to my new precinct I noticed that many people in the community, especially young men and teens, embrace a 24/7 attitude projecting, “I’m not in the mood to be messed with.”
I understand young people puffing their chests out, I grew up around more than I can count, I understand that in some communities acting fearless is a posture required for self-protection and to maintain a reputation, however I don’t understand why so many in the community are angry 24/7.
What really baffled me was the great number of young people in the community, guys and gals, who had uncontrollable tempers that often turned into seething rage, not only when dealing with the police, but when dealing with people within the community?
I was also puzzled by the attitudes of some/many young people toward the police. Sure, in my resident community we did not like the police messing with us when we were just trying to hang out and have some fun, but we respected the fact that the law kept our families safe and the officers were doing their job.
During the many times the police chased us off the corner or broke up our drinking and pot parties in the nearby state preserve, even when the police were less than professional in dealing with us, I cannot recall anyone taunting or overtly showing hatred toward the police. While some were not happy being “harassed” by the police, we knew they were right and we were wrong.
One evening during my first week as a beat cop in my new precinct, I’m walking to my post along a residential city street lined with fairly nice brownstone homes when three teen boys walk by and begin taunting me, “Look at the shiny brand new cop with his shiny new badge and shiny new gun,” is one of the taunts I recall.
Can I be plainly honest? I was scared. I was a brand new cop who reviewed the crime reports for my beat before patrolling it on foot. I learned that on my tiny five block beat there were numerous crimes reported during the previous weeks and months, many of them violent and many of the suspects described by victims were teen boys.
Due to my inexperience and concerns for my personal safety I decided not to introduce myself to these community members. I continued walking not reacting to their taunts, experiencing my first encounter with a few young people I reasonably assumed were described as unnamed criminal suspects on one or more of the crime victim reports I read before walking to my post.
I continued walking to my post wondering why I was subjected to unprovoked taunting and hate?
Later that week, not far from where the taunting occurred, I responded to a call of an unconscious male. I found two young hot dog vendors lying on the floor of their rundown rented storage garage with bullet holes in their heads. I watched the pool of blood expand as I called for back-up.
As a new cop this was not the first encounter with violent death. After completing my academy training I was assigned to a Neighborhood Stabilization Unit where I first witnessed the aftermath of homicide. A married cable installer from Virginia is getting a hummer in his work truck when her pimp shows up and places a cannon size bullet through the installer’s head that also pierces a heavy steel security gate of a Bodega across the street from where the victim was parked.
I handled my first encounter with violent death pretty well, although shook up and disturbed that a person was killed over a few dollars, I tucked the event away in my mind’s “Experience” folder.
However, witnessing the aftermath of violence perpetrated against these two young people, who were working people no different from me, I began to develop a healthy wariness of dark complected humans.
Working in this community, it did not take long for me to understand what my training officers meant by “culture shock.”
However, after gaining some experience in serving this community I determined what my training officers characterized as “culture shock” had little to do with “black” culture, and had everything to do with a “child abuse culture.”
A Culture of Child Abuse and Neglect that Kendrick Lamar, Tupac Shakur and dozens of other American rappers describe in their lyrics or public interviews.
Quoting a January 2011 LAWeekly interview with 2015 Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar:
“Lamar’s parents moved from Chicago to Compton in 1984 with all of $500 in their pockets. “My mom’s one of 13 siblings, and they all got six kids, and till I was 13 everybody was in Compton,” he says.
“I’m 6 years old, seein’ my uncles playing with shotguns, sellin’ dope in front of the apartment. My moms and pops never said nothing, ’cause they were young and living wild, too. I got about 15 stories like ‘Average Joe.'”
Sadly, much like Kendrick’s community conditioned him, his parents, friends, neighbors and elementary school classmates to become inured to a life of child abuse, depression and violence, this Brooklyn community caused me to view differently people of color.
As horrible as this sounds, today when I see people dressed or acting like many of the depressed, angry, frustrated, unpredictable Brooklyn people who caused me and peaceful people living and working in the community to fear for our personal safety, my first thought is, “Is he or she a victim of emotional child abuse/neglect?”
I began life respecting and admiring Motown people, I still do. Though because of my life experiences, reluctantly I view differently many of my Motown friend’s children and grand children.