I was wondering what to write about today, I had an idea about writing about a cop that committed suicide in front of a candy store (now called bodegas or delis) on the corner of North 7th Street and Driggs Avenue in Brooklyn. The only thing that made me think of that was that I painted an apartment for a friend right next door to the said store, which is now known as Joe’s Busy Corner. It’s a grocery store/deli. I bought a tuna wrap there Thursday.
This morning I tried to find reference to the suicide, it happened sometime in the ‘70s and the cop that shot himself was a “Prince of the city.” That meant that he’d belonged to SIU, the Special Investigation Unit of the NYPD, which came to be known as the most corrupt unit the NYPD ever had.
In the movie The Prince Of The City they show the guy putting the gun in his mouth and blowing his brains out, a case of guilty conscience of a deeply religious cop.
In reality, the guy was shot in the heart, and though ruled a suicide the circumstances are ambiguous at best.
I know there was another movie about corruption that starts with that suicide, and in Prince Of The City they actually shot the scene in front of the deli/grocery. I used to live in that area and was very familiar with the store, but I couldn’t find reference to the other movie anywhere. So that’s that for my idea about writing a blog about that.
The first thing I saw on TV this morning when I started my research was two cops in California tasing and then beating the shit out of some guy who’d stolen a horse. Well, they used to hang horse thieves on the spot so a beating is an improvement of sorts. But it’s still not right, especially if the perpetrator is tased and handcuffed first. The whole scene was caught on video from a news helicopter’s camera.
More disturbing this week was the footage of the North Carolina shooting of a man in the back by a cop. There was a lot of talk in the newspapers and on the TV news about body cams and surveillance footage and personal phone footage, it seems that you can’t get away with anything nowadays. A good thing for some, not so good for others. I myself lost my last job because of a security camera; if the camera hadn’t been there I would not have gotten fired.
I even have experience getting beaten up by cops. One night in 1978 I was with a girlfriend in front of Max’s Kansas City on Park Avenue South when we got into a fight with another couple. The four of us were beating the shit out each other when the cops came and finished the job for us. I couldn’t see what happened to the others, but I remember a cop playing Sing, Sing, Sing on my head with his Billy club as I lay on the sidewalk in front of Max’s. I covered my head with my hands and was lucky he didn’t break my fingers. I rode to the 13th Precinct face down on the back of the police car with a cop’s size 13 Brogan on the back of my neck. As if I were going anywhere.
They took the four of us, and my girlfriend and me were handcuffed to a bench with a special handcuff rail, and the other couple was handcuffed to a bench about 10 feet from us. The girls continued to spit and screech at each other; me and the other guy just sat waiting to resolve the matter. Somehow my girlfriend, who was really small and thin managed to slip her hand out of her handcuffs and lunged for the other girl. I was quick enough to grab her by the back of her jeans with my free hand and call the desk sergeant before she got an additional beating. I guess we were all high on pills or something. The cops let us go after a couple of hours after we all decided not to press charges against each other.
That incident taught me one thing, when a cop sees a “perpetrator,” they do not see a person. They see a “skell,” an “asshole,” a “shithead,” or as the TV show Hill Street Blues made popular, a “dirtbag.” I think that comes from “scumbag,” something I’ve heard cops call people. In other words, you are not a person, you are a thing, a perpetrator, whether you’ve committed a crime or not.
This is the URL for “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell. https://youtu.be/7YvAYIJSSZY
During the rape of Nanking, the Japanese soldiers were told by their officers that the Chinese people were not human beings, they were “pigs,” and were to be treated as such. It made it easier for the soldiers to rape and murder thousands of Chinese civilians.
There is an attitude of “us against them” prevalent in the police service in this country, and that needs to change. I understand that police officers see the worst in people’s behavior against one another, and it inures them to seeing people as people, but that does not make it right to treat someone like something that needs to be extinguished from the earth. Or that needs to be taught a lesson by beating them. That needs to be left up to the courts.
The prevalent use of cell phone, news, and security cameras is changing the way we see things, and hopefully it will change the way the police act. Before it was the cop’s word against yours, now it’s the camera’s word, period.
Cops are people too, just like the rest of us. I found that if I treated them with respect, they would do the same for me. But I know that it could all change in a split second if the cop feels threatened. Keep your hands where they can see them, and for god’s sake, don’t run. It makes them mad if they have to run after you, and they usually let you know when they catch you.