Recently I got an email I thought I'd share regarding a comment made on the Yahoo list serve. I've heard it enough times anecdotally, and twice to my face - local cops saying "why don't you move?" or "what did you expect?" or "what are you doing in this neighborhood anyway?" There are many stereotypes that exist about police (and about whites moving into majority black neighborhoods for that matter), but one thing is certain - most policemen do not live in the neighborhood they serve, and a huge proportion live in leafier parts of the metropolitan area. It's not just longtime black or immigrant Brooklynites who experience the cultural disconnect; there's long been a blue-collar/white-collar divide in this country that can expose a gap nearly as wide, often within people of the same ethnic origin. Dating back to the days when the NYPD was largely Irish (many still are, of course), NYC residents have often viewed the cops as a breed apart - to be feared, but sometimes even ridiculed. I think of all the movies and TV portrayals of dumb Irish cops I've seen through the years. It's often uncomfortable to confront the stereotyper in all of us. Hey, I still feel comfortable mocking a Transylvanian accent when I do my best Dracula impression. "The Sopranos," as entertaining as it was, probably set back attitudes about Italian-Americans a few decades. Even the "immigrants work hard" statement implies that others don't - it's an implicit stereotype that we're reinforcing.
What does this have to do with the price of donuts? Well, I know it offended me the first time a cop told me to "move" when I asked what could be done about the knuckleheads on my block. But just as a Tottenville, Staten Islander might not understand the new young educated person's desire to live in central Brooklyn, that same youngster might not understand why anyone would want to live in the homogenous suburbs. The point is that we all want safer streets and homes and trains and buses and parks. If we live here, we don't want our choices (or circumstances) questioned. Case in point below from a reader, who retells and examines one such incident:
It makes me happy to see so many of us jumping at the comment made by police. It's been interesting to see how the police react to each of the different times I've interacted with them. There does often seem to be an exaggeration, I've been told by many officers that I should reconsider living in the area bc bluntly, I'm a young, nice, white female. I push back against the comment every time, expressing how wonderful the neighborhood is, how much I love my neighbors and we watch out for each other. I've lived in the area since the summer of 2009 and the few "incidents" I've had could have happened back home in Boulder, Colorado. And none of them involved a weapon or violence, or robbing me, Ramble.
It seems there is so much collective effort being done on the relationship between the community and the police, including the wonderful (and reportedly successful) efforts to add beat cops to Flatbush and Nostrand. In light of these recent comments towards this particular crime [mugging mentioned in list serve], I continue shaking my head at the extreme disconnect between NYPD's vision and attitude towards this neighborhood and the reality for us living here. (This goes both ways too--the perception of frequent violent crimes on one side and the ignoring of drug dealing out in the open on the other.) And the inequality of resource distribution on all these fronts. (I could write a whole novel on the incident whereby SWAT knocked down the door of an apartment above me one Saturday morning at 5am...to recover basically nothing, while i watched three deal happen on the street 1/2 block away).POINT: is it time to rethink how we are approaching our relationship with the police as a community? What previous efforts have been made and who is currently leading our liaisoning with the 71st? I'm right on the border at Clarkson but was in the 71st when I was living on Empire. My negative interactions have been with the 71st while my (albeit slightly) better ones have been with the 67th.Anyways. I have some background in community organizing, but more than that I want a better relationship with the police. Of course there are a lot of overarching policy barriers that will always cause friction, including the ridiculousness that is CompStat/CrimeStat and how numbers are reported. I could go on about some of the idiocy but at the end of the day, the cops have to work within the same bureaucracy. On some level, I think its about getting them to see the neighborhood through our lens, not theirs. Is it time to rethink our approach? And if so, who... is we? Can we have a sit down with them, presentation, well formed, thoughtful, about this disconnect? IDK. Am I an idealist?