July 13, 2020 |

Henry Gifford writes: 

My uncle was a New York City police officer for a few weeks in the 1960s. Tall, strong, handsome, Irish (when that helped a lot), Navy veteran. He and some other cops answered a call for a burglary at a jewelry store. The other cops started stuffing their pockets, but my uncle took nothing. The others urged him to just take something. He didn’t. They explained “the owner will just do the same before the insurance company gets here.” He took nothing. He was off the force within the week. Until an honest cop can be trusted, there is no room for an honest cop.

In the 1980s I lived and owned apartment houses in a part of Manhattan where drugs were sold openly on the street, by people yelling at the top of their lungs about the quality of their heroin and cocaine. The cops came for raids with the sirens on from three blocks away, going the wrong way on a one-way street (slowed them down a lot). I saw the cops rob drug dealers in broad daylight, and was then asked to be a witness because “if I show up emptyhanded they will kill me – please be my witness.” Who was right and wrong in this situation?

Years later, in the 2000s I think, the newspapers reported that in “the dirty thirty” – the 30th precinct in Harlem - an undercover cop from another part of the city parked himself in an abandoned building with no apparent reason for being there, just sitting there doing nothing, and some local detectives figured he must be dealing drugs, so they came into the building and beat him up and took his money and his gun, and never arrested him, and never turned in the gun or the money. I think over 10 cops were caught in the sting, and the worst any of them got was 30 days in jail. Is it that different in another part of the city? What did the light sentences teach?

Today I was driving back from The Catskill Mountains – formerly and fondly known as “The Jewish Alps” to an older generation, resort area two hours drive North of NYC that has never recovered economically from the invention of the jet plane, and got off the highway and pulled into a gas station on the main street of a not-prosperous small city to fill up. I quickly realized I was the only person not there to buy or sell illegal drugs, and got out of there. If I could tell in seconds, how long have the local cops known about this, and why don’t they do something about it? A car parked there, or a few cameras would make a huge difference to the people living around there and to the children of the participants, but the semi-open drug market thrives with no apparent hindrance from anyone.

I don’t have a solution, but I have three ideas for things that might help just a little:

1 – double the police salaries, and if that doesn’t produce a competition for the job based on quality, increase the salaries again.

2 – don’t hire anyone for the job until they are 30 years old with a clean police record. This will weed out some career criminals, while enhancing the real-world life experience of those on the job.

3 – require that police officers live within X miles of where they work, preferably in the same city or county.

Not solutions, but they will help, I think.

Christopher Cooper writes: 


“Throw more money at it” seems to be the solution for everything these days.

I do think that Scott has the right ideas, but the chances of them happening are nil.

In my family there are 4 male siblings. Two are in law enforcement, and 2 are ex-felons. We’re not a close family!

I don’t think this problem gets solved until you can trust that police, and the rest of law enforcement, will do their jobs and prosecute each other instead of protecting the brotherhood in blue. I wouldn’t trust my brothers to do that.

Russell Sears writes: 

Until we get prosecutors and cops incentives to reform criminal not just prosecute them then there will not be too much of a solution. 



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