I know this is a very sensitive subject. I’m prepared to take my lumps. I think this is one cops perspective that should be heard. I’ve been back & forth all afternoon deciding if I should post this. I decided that I would.
Lt. Steve Osborne became known to me from his vivid stories on The Moth radio show. He was on the job for 20 years, retiring in 2003. This means he was around in the days of dark NYC, on the heels of the wreckage that was the 70’s, in to the crack & crime epidemics of the 80’s. NYC was not a particularly good place to be then. It was fantastic & dangerous simultaneously, and if you were a kid born there, you were stuck there and fiercely loyal to it. It was still a magnet for artistic dreamers from all over, but if you grew up there you were tough as hell and knew the drill, women & men alike. As a side note, Times Square was still the seedy nightmare you heard it to be. All of the legends are true. It was horrifying & glorious.
Anyway, he tells ridiculously funny stories and utterly heart breaking ones. I’ve linked the Youtube versions because the curse words are his voice.
“The Stakeout”; funny as hell.
“The Mug Shot”; Heartbreaking. Forward to the 10th minute for the gist.
His years of The Moth stories lead to a book offer. It’s been published and today he was on Fresh Air w/ Terry Gross.
I know this is over an hour of audio to listen to these links. Try. It’s illuminating if you are not familiar with NYC and if you are, you’ll recognize this voice immediately.
For 13 years, until last year, my sweet baby was mine. He was also an NYC cop. We were a September 11th love story, as if that could be possible. His presence, his Brooklyn accent, the time frame, his stories & his humor all align with Osborne. Uniform & plain~clothes & special units. The “Dead Letters” kept in the precinct lockers. Over a 25 year career (he retired in 2010) he shot his gun ONCE. Mayhem & restraint, street smarts & real smarts, humor & grief...it’s all there.
I find this passage particularly relevant:
He went on to say that he & many of his NYPD friends had talked about it and all were in agreement that it was fucked. When asked why police don’t publicly share their condemnation of shootings like this, he explained that they are not allowed to. It’s a semi~military enterprise and that no random officer is going to call a journalist on the record because he’s a pee~on that will then lose his job (para~phrasing).
However, in the interview he “white” washed racial profiling, which my bullshit meter caught right away. When called on it, his explanation seemed sound, but that is not really how it goes down in the real world for most cops & young black men. You don’t even need a rudimentary knowledge of crime or statistics to know who is getting screwed in America.
I posted this because I find it heartening to know that cops can have a 20~30 year career without EVER firing their gun. That they can make split second decisions that are the right decision. That they know that there are awful injustices playing out between citizens & police every day, and feel it.
And in the end, that the grief they encounter along the way in the hearts of others, for whatever circumstance, stays with them. It lives in them, too.