Ean Evers, son of a cop, personifies the tolerance and maturity the N.Y.P.D. now seeks in recruits. But on the rebound from scandal, the force finds that old habits die hard.
As Ean Evers discovers, tougher recruiting and training standards are only the initial changes in New York's Police Department. The rest of the story lies in what happens when rookies hit the streets.
OVER THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS, NEW YORK CITY has been a laboratory for a great law-enforcement experiment, and America now knows the results. It knows, at any rate, that the chances of being robbed or shot have been greatly reduced, and gunfire has become a noteworthy event in neighborhoods where it used to be background music. Far less attention has been paid to the changes wrought inside the agency that has received much of the credit: the New York City Police Department.
A disinterested researcher would probably not have chosen this particular department for the first pilot study of a bold new theory in policing, any more than a nuclear-waste dump would be the obvious place to test a new concept in horticulture. At the beginning of 1994, it was a debilitated and scandal-ridden force whose name conjured up the image of rapacious young cops beating and robbing drug dealers and of superiors who weren't paying much attention to corruption or crime. Administratively, it was a mile-high hierarchy in which an underling strove above all to protect his superiors from embarrassment.
That was then. Now this same department is everybody's favorite exemplar of purposeful efficiency - hailed in the press, in law enforcement, even in such unlikely precincts as the Harvard Business School, where one day last spring three top New York police commanders dispensed advice on how to run a "high performance organization." It would be hard to name an enterprise, public or private, that has climbed so swiftly from ignominy to acclaim.
It is this remarkable transformation that I set out to examine, a year ago, by following a rookie. cop through his first months. The idea was to find out, at his side, what the new N.Y.P.D. is like at ground level, how it is seen by the rank and file and how closely the new public image squares with reality in a department where, historically, they have often widely diverged.
Nine months after training began, graduation at last means the real work can start.
I found the department much changed, it would not be going overboard, perhaps, to speak of a change in culture and to discern in it some significant lessons in human and organizational nature. As is often the case in the aftermath of a great achievement, however, the thrill has begun to wear off. The N.Y.P.D.'s metamorphosis was a joint undertaking of labor and management in a rare interval of mutual admiration. Lately, the issue of pay has reared its ugly head again, along with other points of contention less obvious but no less vexing. Names have been called. Threats have been made. Between a hang-tough Mayor and an embittered union, relations are turning stormy, and the moment of breakthrough and the formula for success are clouding over. Even so, the contrast with the early 1990's is sharp.
The archetype of the corrupt cop of that time was a young suburbanite who, prior to being thrown into a drug-ridden neighborhood with a badge and gun, knew little and cared less about the city and its inhabitants. That profile does not fit Ean Evers, the recruit I chose to follow. He comes from Bay Ridge, a largely white middleclass neighborhood of Brooklyn. At 24, he lives with his parents and spends most of his off-duty hours in easy range of his mother's cooking and a network of boyhood friends. He wouldn't trade the satisfactions of life in Bay Ridge, he says, for "anybody's backyard with a pool."
In quest of a more mature crop of recruits, the N.Y.P.D. decided after its last scandal to require 60 college credits or military service. The minimum age was raised from 20 to 22, producing applicants who, besides being more mature, have had more opportunity to reveal any character flaws that might exclude them.
Ean was hired a year and a half ago -before the college or military requirement. He matured, however, along his own path, learning patience from frequent duty as a baby-sitter for six younger siblings and respect for people of different backgrounds from membership on a racially and ethnically scrambled football team at Lafayette High School. He tends to get hot under the collar when he encounters intimations of racism when, for example, he invited a group of his police academy classmates to join him at a bar in Bay Ridge and the nonwhites among them got the fisheye from some of the regular patrons. He has not forgotten the faces of those patrons.
In an era when size no longer helps land a job as a police officer, Ean is 6 feet, weighs upward of 230 pounds and has Popeye forearms, a powerful neck and a torso constructed along the lines of one of the refrigerators he used to cart around as a porter in apartment buildings. Closer up, the impression of brawn is softened by a layer of baby fat and a smattering of freckles.
His police training began at home. His father, Bobby, spent 20 years in the N.Y.P.D. and was never shy about discussing the job with his family. His dinner-table anecdotes conveyed a relaxed view of the perils facing a cop in the streets; the real scare stories involved the department itself. Bobby (who is of Lithuanian heritage; the name was changed from Evaskevich) is wont to compare it to "Mother Russia," since, he observes: 'We have our own trial room where you can get hung. We have our own gulags. We have our own psychiatrist who'll find you nuts."
Nevertheless, two years after Bobby Evers retired in disgust from the N.Y.P.D., Ean entered it, and part of what I hoped to discover in choosing him for a subject was whether he, too, would come to harbor such harsh feelings for his employer.
As Ean soon discovered in Crown Heights, some things just cannot be simulated at the academy.
Tougher training, like tougher recruiting, is one of the department's watchwords these days. Rookies used to spend six months in the academy; now they spend nine, and the curriculum is heavy with lessons in ethics and integrity. Like the other 1,800 recruits who went through the academy with Ean, he got to see -and be repelled by - the filmed testimony of Michael Dowd, the drug-dealing poster boy of the 75th Precinct in East New York. He also got to hear what amounted to a saturation ad campaign concerning the need, and the channels, for reporting such things, as he concluded he would have no trouble doing.
Besides the new emphasis on corruption, the department has been trying to inject more realism into its training. Ean, like most of the recruits I talked to, enjoyed the "fun house" (where the trainees role-play various police situations) and the "verbal judo" classes (where they practice techniques for helping civilians, and themselves, stay cool). What was hard for him to take was the boot-camp style of discipline that has long prevailed in the academy - the reprimands and demerit cards and the periodic summons to the recruit operations office. There, trainees stand at rigid attention, waiting to be noticed by a superior who may be busy eating a sandwich, while, in Ean's words, "You're afraid you're going to have your head ripped off."
Early in his training, before he had been issued a weapon, he sprained an ankle in gym class. He was then ordered to travel - unarmed but, since there are no lockers at the academy, in full police uniform - from Manhattan to Queens to see a police surgeon. When he got home and his dad debriefed him, Bobby was irate about what he considered an appalling, but typical, manifestation of the brass's mentality: "You put a rookie who doesn't have a gun yet in uniform on a public train by himself, injured, to travel 45 to 50 minutes to go see a doctor in Queens. If you're the employer, what are you telling that kid? What are you telling everybody in that classroom? 'You're nothing but a number!"
And yet Bobby had not warned Ean away from police work. Indeed, his great satisfaction with his son's decision was plain to see when the family gathered one March afternoon at a restaurant in Bay Ridge to celebrate Ean's academy graduation; he was delighted, too, that Ean had been granted his request to be assigned to the 71st Precinct, Bobby's old command. And if one of Ean's sisters, Kerri, who is 18, follows through on a vague notion of joining the force, Bobby will be equally proud. He will, however, do his best to prepare Kerri, as he has done his best to prepare Ean, for what he considers the key problem of police life: keeping your feelings for the organization separate from your feelings for the job.
THE SEVEN-ONE COVERS MOST OF CROWN Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood associated in the city's memory with the riots of July 1991, which were a nadir in relations between blacks and Jews - in particular, the Hasidic Jews of the Lubavitch movement, who have their world headquarters on Eastern Parkway. The riots were also a low point in the recent history of the N.Y.P.D., whose anti-riot teams and commanders watched and waited through two days of violence and destruction before intervening.
One reason Bobby recommended the Seven-One to his son was his favorable opinion of its commanding officer, Inspector Joseph Fox. A compact and enthusiastic man of 40, Fox, like others recently entrusted with precinct commands, doesn't spend a lot of time holed up in his office, and no great crisis is required to lure him from his home in Marine Park at the odd hour of the night or weekend - a four-and-a-half-mile trip that he sometimes makes by bicycle.
By department policy, rookies get regular doses of field training during their first three months in a precinct, and Fox, unlike many commanders of old, has made a point of using respected street cops as training officers rather than bestowing the job on well-connected, street-weary veterans who see it as a sinecure with weekends off. He tries to get rookies into radio cars quickly, with knowledgeable partners who will spare them the "forget everything you heard in the academy" routine.
Still, the move from academy to the street remains, as always, a jolt. Some things can't be simulated, like doing a traffic stop with, as Ean put it, "people on the stairs, in the windows, on the rooftops, looking out at you," or encountering your first homicide victim - in his case, a man whose face had been semi-obliterated by
gunfire in the hallway of an apartment building on Eastern Parkway. Assigned to guard the staircase, Ean had the awkward duty of intercepting a lady friend of the deceased who wanted permission for a farewell caress. "Ma'am, it would be better if you didn't," he replied.
Nor had he been fully prepared, either by the academy or his father, for the vitriol he encountered in the neighboring 67th Precinct in Flatbush one day, after being sent there along with a few dozen other rookies to monitor a protest rally. On a site where a young man wanted for homicide and auto theft had been shot dead by the police a week earlier, a group of citizens had mounted a demonstration demanding, in the words of one of their placards, "White Cops Outta R Hood." Over the course of a long tour of duty that Ean spent in their hood, he was spat at, saw a bottle whiz past his head and heard himself called a "blue-eyed white devil."
His mother, Maureen - an outgoing Irish-American raised in Hell's Kitchen - took this last piece of invective in stride when I mentioned it to her. "Oh, I call him that all the time!" she said, while observing with sly precision that Ean's eyes are gray. Ean himself seemed stunned that people who knew nothing about him beyond the color of his uniform and skin could address him in such a fashion. (Happily, for the street officers, intense collective displays of antipolice sentiment are not as common as in years past.) By checkoff time, his head hurt from the onslaught of epithets. "A few beers, and this day will be forgotten!" he declared.
That evening, he fell asleep in front of the TV set with thoughts of a missing element in his life: an understanding girlfriend. He was watching the 1956 movie "Somebody Up There Likes Me," in which Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman) gets knocked out for the first time, and his wife, listening on the radio, tells a friend: "I didn't marry a man, did I? I married a middleweight."
Slouched on the sofa at the end of a hard day, Ean said to himself, a lucky man, that Rocky Graziano.
His first weeks were a revelation in excitement and, at other times, in idleness - a distinct novelty nowadays in inner-city police work. Crime in the precinct has declined by 25 percent in the past two years, and though precinct commanders like Joe Fox are thrilled with such statistics, the rank and file is more conflicted. Action and adventure, after all, are part of the job's appeal. "Times are different - I'm not going to see all the things my father saw," Ean says. Over the span of his career, he hopes to have a hand in making Crown Heights as safe as, say, Bay Ridge; but well before that happens, he intends to make it his business to get assigned somewhere else.
With quieter streets, cops have more time for the proactive policing that is a cornerstone of the new anti-crime thinking. At roll call, with some regularity, Fox drops in to update his troops on the news from the latest Compstat meetings (where commanders from around the city analyze crime statistics and strategies) and often to bring up some freshly detected crime pattern and order them to zero in on the blocks in question, blanketing them with "C-summonses" (criminal summonses) for "quality-of-life violations."
Disillusionment drove Bobby Evers from the department. Can his son avoid the same fate?
Among the new techniques, I discovered, are some that have yet to be widely publicized and that tread on the outer boundaries of what are usually understood to be constitutional rights. On a drizzly evening in May, I hung out at Utica Avenue and President Street, one of the busiest corners in the precinct, while Ean and a group of his fellow rookies, supervised by a sergeant, manned a checkpoint, stopping passenger cars more or less at random and livery cabs and unlicensed "dollar vans" on a more frequent basis.
A few drivers protested, but for the most part the operation was met with surprising equanimity - compared, at any rate, to the likely reaction a decade or two ago or the reaction if such tactics were broadly employed in an affluent white neighborhood. In any case, Ean had spent about two hours on the checkpoint ,- and had a couple of summonses to show for it - when his radio blurted out a man-with-a-gun call at an address on President Street. To my surprise, Ean and another rookie, Thomas Christ, bolted, not even consulting their sergeant before they raced to a rundown apartment building about a block away.
Ean arrived first, entered the lobby and found himself facing three young men, one dressed all in green, per the description given out over the radio. When he ordered the trio against the wall, the man in green made for the exit. A fair amount of pushing, shoving, cursing and yelling ensued, and the noise drew a crowd into the lobby, creating a heart-pumping situation for the two cops until they could establish order and make an arrest.
Although no gun was found, several cops recognized the prisoner when Ean delivered him to the station house, and one reported that he was wanted for shooting at a state trooper. Two months into his street career, Ean was still seeking his first big collar, and it looked like this might be it. But in one of those little reversals that you don't hear much about in cop movies and TV shows, a computer check revealed that the state-trooper business was an old offense, for which the suspect had already served time. That left Ean - so he assumed, anyway - with two charges: disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Until recently, it was procedure for a cop who had made an arrest to bring his paperwork to a conference at the District Attorney's office -an arrangement decried by countless studies as a great waste. Now the cop faxes the papers in and consults with the D.A. by phone; but some aspects of the process appear to be eternal. When Ean heard from the D.A.'s office, a young prosecutor on the other end of the line sifted through the facts and rendered her verdict: the suspect's behavior had been fairly typical of young men in such circumstances, she pointed out, and was "not enough" (words countless cops have heard over the years) to support a charge of disorderly conduct. And if not that, then there was no case for resisting arrest either, since there should have been no arrest to resist.
This first brush with the power of lawyers left Ean in a foul mood. "I had to grab him to pat him down," he told me. "He was yelling and screaming and cursing. He shoved me. And she's saying it's all right for a guy to fight with me. You do the right thing, and somebody who sits behind a desk - somebody who's supposed to be on your side - doesn't back you up!"
A WEEK LATER, I ACCOMPANIED EAN AND HIS FATHER to the 71st Precinct Club, which meets one night a month at a Knights of Columbus hall in Flatbush. Young, old and retired cops eat and drink, tell war stories and air grievances. The club offers a smoky diorama of the shifting demographics of the N.Y.P.D. In 1974, women were 2 percent of the department; now they are 15 percent. Hispanics were 3 percent; now they are 17 percent. Blacks were 8 percent; now they are nearly 14 percent. All these once-invisible groups were much in evidence.
Of course, the department remains far from a cross-section of the city, and even further from a cross-section of Crown Heights. Whites constitute 68 percent of the city's cops but only 10 percent of the precinct's residents, and most of them are Hasidic Jews, a group virtually unrepresented in the police ranks. But the club also provided a glimpse of subtler changes: the sight, for example, of Ean Evers throwing his arm over the shoulders of a series of peers, white, black, Hispanic, male and female.
Partners in rookiedom, Evers and Tom Fitzgerald share a low opinion of cops who do less than their share of work.
The conversation added to the feeling of a profession no longer so insular or defensive. Race was a topic on the minds of cops just then (it was late May), because of a well-publicized incident in Westhampton Beach, L.I., in which an off-duty N.Y.P.D. narcotics detective was reported to have viciously beaten a young black man whose main offense was to be with a white woman. This set of facts (revised in subsequent news accounts, which said the detective was acting in concert with a civilian friend and was not in fact the assailant) inspired a good deal of talk, which was distinguished by a remarkable lack of sympathy for him.
"He will go to prison," Bobby Evers said.
"He should," Ean added.
They were sitting at a large table with a group of Bobby's former (and Ean's current) coworkers and with a pitcher of beer that - as in some Biblical miracle - seemed eternally full. One of the other cops at the table leaned over to me and remarked in a whisper that cops are the worst judges of other cops.
A formidable-looking man, large on every axis, Bobby Evers makes his son look average-sized. He also has a booming voice - handy for police work or managing seven children. Bobby drew two lessons from the Westhampton Beach episode. The best remedy, be told his son, was to be careful about the people you hang out with. But if he were an instructor in the academy, he went on, he would prepare recruits for the inevitable occasions when they would find themselves in the company of other police officers who had drunk too much. His counsel, he said, would be along these lines: "You have to understand that you are responsible for their behavior. If you see them doing something stupid, stop them!" A couple of Bobby's listeners questioned whether this was teachable, but there was general agreement on the underlying principle. As a sinewy sergeant named Jack Lewis put it, "Somebody has to say enough's enough - and it only takes one."
The corruption scandal of the early 1990's prompted the N.Y.P.D. to undertake a serious if belated examination of its personnel practices. The new hiring standards were one result. (Had they been in place all along, the department determined, fully 74 of the 86 cops arrested on graft, drug dealing and other corruption charges in those years would never have been accepted in the first place.) In addition, it became possible, for the first time in memory, for trainees to flunk out of the academy, as roughly 3 percent of Ean's classmates did on one basis or another.
On the way to finding Ean Evers, I interviewed 15 police academy trainees. They were an unscientific sample - but a remarkable one in a force that pays a starting salary of less than $28,000 a year.
Craig Buillard, a physical-fitness buff with his own workout room for neighborhood kids in the East Bronx, expressed a Jackie-Robinsonesque view of his mission as a young black cop: by the force of his example, he hoped to make others consider the job for themselves. "The only way things are going to change for us is by being on the inside," he told me. Andrew Bershad, raised on Long Island by a Costa Rican mother and a Russian father, was an E.M.T. before becoming a cop, and the two jobs, he said, held essentially the same appeal: "The warm fuzzies - that's what carries you, because the money's no good."
Susan Bohack, the daughter of an artist from New Mexico, formed a desire to be a police officer (and ultimately a detective) while reading Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" in high school. Against the wishes of her parents, she moved to New York and enrolled at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. After checking out other career possibilities (and with a less-than-ringing endorsement from her husband, an aspiring Wall Street trader), she took the final plunge, giving up a job as office manager for two Manhattan oncologists, which paid about twice the N.Y.P.D. salary.
The department is undoubtedly getting a higher caliber of recruit than in the late 80's, when, as Mayor David Dinkins's own anti-corruption panel observed, it appeared that "virtually anyone" could become a New York City cop. From what I've seen, however, more careful recruiting isn't the biggest change that has come over the department since Bobby Evers's day.
When he entered the N.Y.P.D. in 1973, it was still reeling from the Knapp Commission investigation, which had pushed one generation of commanders into retirement while leaving the next generation with an intense distrust of the rank and file. Fear of corruption, brutality or racial incident led headquarters to promulgate a series of "Thou shalt nots," which by the time they had filtered down to the street cops sounded a lot like "Thou shalt not police."
Almost any offense involving drugs, for example, was perceived as off-limits to the uniformed force. "Every working cop knew that if you were involved in too many drug collars, the police department would put your name on a list," Bobby recalls. In Crown Heights, he says, gambling and narcotics joints operated with impunity, offering up a few empty boxes of cereal in a halfhearted attempt to pass themselves off as grocery stores. Gun-toting crack salesmen, one of the biggest threats to public safety in the mid-to-late 1980's, went largely ignored until they made the mistake of killing a cop, Eddie Byrne, in February 1988.
Bobby says he never witnessed any stealing or drug-dealing among his colleagues, though he has no doubts that such things happened. What he did see was "thousands of cops" who habitually avoided radio calls, leaving a small cadre - no more than 20 percent, by his estimate- to do most of the work, and they did it, according to Bobby, with little confidence that the department really valued their dedication.
The transforming moment came at the beginning of 1994, when William Bratton took office as Police Commissioner. With the support of the new mayor, Rudolph W Giuliani, he let it be known that a cop who saw evidence of a crime was expected to do something - something more, that is, than fill out an "intelligence report" to be sent off into the headquarters void. By his words, by the people he surrounded himself with and by what got punished and rewarded, Bratton established that inaction, not action, was now the easiest way for a cop to get in trouble.
To a beaten-down patrol force, the effect was electric. The message, according to Tommy Goldsmith, Bobby's longtime partner, came down to: "You're a cop, you're an adult - do what you have to do."
In much the same spirit, the department began to shift authority down to the precinct commanders, who became anti-crime kingpins with the right to make changes in deployment and secure their own court orders; many of them, in turn, brought street-level cops into their deliberations. Inspector Fox cites the example of three policewomen in the Seven-One who, on their own initiative, sought permission to stake out a school in civilian clothes and collared a child molester. Until the last few years, according to Fox, cops would learn about such a problem and have "no connection to the outcome." He told the policewomen, "I never got to do anything like this when I was a young cop."
It took nerve to adopt this approach, and a fresh supply of nerve not to back down when, in April 1994, the 30th Precinct scandal erupted in upper Harlem; 33 cops were eventually convicted of perjury, drug dealing and robbery. In the past, this sort of thing had thrown the department into a bunker mode. Bratton dealt with it forthrightly, but he was determined to be remembered as something more than a mere corruption fighter. Giuliani, for his part, was already well known as a corruption fighter, so he had no need to prove himself in that arena. The best remedy for corruption, he said, was "to give police officers meaningful, active work to do and to have high standards."
ACCORDING TO NO end of management theory books, employees perform better when given responsibility, latitude and respect than in a more traditional command-and-control regime. Bratton, a consumer of this literature, took it seriously and implemented it in, of all places, the N.Y.P.D. The rank and file performed better than many people, including some of their own bosses, might have imagined. Good cops, feeling approval and support as never before, grew more confident and became more of an inspiration to rookies looking for role models.
Most patrol officers in the N.Y.P.D. work fixed tours, and many of the savviest and most energetic gravitate to the midnight shift, whose attractions include a nighttime pay differential and (with manpower at its thinnest) a close sense of camaraderie. For Ean, the first week of midnights (11:15 P.M. to 7:50 A.M.) was exhilarating. He was, he told me, "sitting there like a sponge," soaking up the wisdom of some "awesome cops."
They taught him, among other things, where to respond when you get a burglary call: to some likely getaway route, not to the caller's front door. Another lesson he had not learned in the academy was what to do first with a complainant in a street robbery: get him in the car; tell him, "If you see one of them, let us know," and ask for a description of the suspect he remembers best.
Listening to him describe these insights, I realized that his teachers (one of them Tommy Goldsmith, his father's old partner and now his) were passing along traditions preserved through an era in which they had been widely forgotten. By and large, the lessons had to do with crime fighting or safety, but some, I discovered, were about respect and defusing people's anger. Ean learned, for example, that if he stopped someone matching the description of a suspect and wound up letting him go, he could first ask the radio dispatcher to replay the description. That way, the person would know he had been bothered for a reason.
In some precincts worst hit by corruption, coteries of exceedingly cynical and alienated cops had been leaders and role models. Today, such cops no longer hold their heads quite so high; dedicated cops hold theirs higher. If it is true, as some have argued, that guns and violence have fallen out of favor among young men of the inner city, it may also be true, among cops, that racism and swagger have become a little less cool.
Like his father, Ean has become a harsh judge of some cops - those, for example, who "carry" jobs, waiting to report that they have finished a case so that they can have their pick of the incoming assignments. Some cops, he has noticed, avoid domestic-dispute calls. Others make a point of getting in and out of them quickly, uttering a few perfunctory words, perhaps, about where a woman might go for an order of protection and then "giving her the slip."
One night in November, Ean and Thomas Fitzgerald, an academy classmate, responded to an assault in Ebbets Field Houses - a housing project on the site where the Dodgers used to play. A woman had been beaten unconscious with a crutch and a broomstick by an ex-boyfriend. They took her to Kings County Hospital and stayed with her for two hours, holding her hand and, after she came out of her stupor, getting an account of the incident and a description of the suspect. The next night, following up on her information, they caught him.
Bobby Evers used to be hassled for taking too long on these jobs. Now, according to Joe Fox, the department no longer cares so much about how quickly assignments are handled. Like Ean, it's more interested in how well they're handled.
Down through the years, of course, many cops have handled domestic disputes, have gone back on the radio to declare them settled and have subsequently discovered that someone had been killed or maimed. "That would hurt me bad severely deep down inside forever," Ean said.
One of the bonds uniting Ean and Fitzgerald is a low opinion of cops who do less than their share of work. For their own part, however, they want all the work they can get - including the calls that other cops have ducked.
'We call ourselves radio whores," Ean told me. "If central's holding it, we'll take it," Fitzgerald said.
There used to be plenty of excitement to go around. Now, Ean figures, a cop needs to be lucky as well as good, and over the summer and fall it sometimes looked as if the fates were against him. He missed much of the summer after a jogging accident in which a car with a student driver at the wheel ran over his foot. Then he found himself spending a succession of workdays on "fixers," or fixed posts, or guarding sick prisoners at Kings County Hospital. All this was "part of the job," Ean told me. But when I saw him on a fixer, or sitting in the roll-call room waiting to be shipped out somewhere, I noticed his knees bouncing with pent-up nervous energy.
AS THE CITY HAS GROWN calmer and the N.Y.P.D.'s approval ratings have soared, relations between cops and a crime-conscious Mayor have suddenly become volatile. In mid-January, Giuliani put forward a "final" proposal for a five-year contract that would freeze police officers' pay for the first two years (the years they have already worked since the last contract expired), while conferring raises of 3, 4 and 6 percent in the three years to follow. Other municipal unions have accepted the same freeze, and smaller increases. Still, the proposal is widely perceived by cops as a slap in the face since, as a sergeant in the Seven-One told me, "Everybody knows Giuliani's going to be reelected - and the major reason is not reading scores."
As he spoke, we were standing in front of the station house watching a picket line of about 75 cops. The sergeant, being on duty, could not participate; Ean, processing an assault arrest inside, was in the same boat, though he felt a strong sense of common purpose with his coworkers. The two years of frozen pay had been two years of sharply declining crime. If the Green Bay Packers had been offered a deal like that, he told me a few days later, "you can be sure they wouldn't be in Green Bay anymore."
The demonstration was fairly mild-mannered certainly nothing like the City Hall protest aimed at Mayor Dinkins in 1992, when cops shouted obscenities with the candidate Giuliani egging them on. Some of them blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. But there were flashes of potential for something worse for the current demonstration. One of the chants ran: 'What do we get? Zero, zero! What should we give? Zero, zero." Indeed, a citywide ticket slowdown was under way. 'What else can we do?" Ean said when I asked him about that. 'We can't just walk off the job."
Part of the thrill that ran through the N.Y.P.D three years ago was the knowledge that a law-enforcement man was Mayor and the Police Department was his favorite city agency. That meant, among other things, immunity from the budget cuts that Giuliani had ordered in virtually every other department. Now, under Bratton's low-profile successor, Howard Safir, the department has launched one of its periodic crackdowns on overtime. This is interpreted as a pay cut by many cops, who have begun to rediscover an old grievance - a sense of being badly underappreciated, even if, as Joe Fox pointed out to me, "a cop stubs his toe and the Mayor's at the hospital."
Some of these feelings have been whipped up by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which has encouraged its members to regard themselves as inherently more deserving than other city workers. The drawn-out contract negotiations for which many cops blame the Mayor were, to a large extent, the doing of the P.B.A. With the help of the State Legislature, it had tried to create an arbitration procedure - ultimately rejected by the courts - that would have used the salaries of cops from around the state as a key yardstick. But beneath these unrealistic notions lie deeper and older complaints.
Patrol has long been termed "the backbone of the department." But when the department wants to reward a patrol officer, it does so with a transfer out of patrol, and if he fouls up in a higher-prestige assignment, he gets bumped back down to patrol. Although there has long been talk of creating a new rank ("master patrolman," it is called in other cities) to honor outstanding cops who may not have the talent or the inclination to become sergeants or detectives, it hasn't happened. Instead, street cops tend to flee as soon as they qualify for their pensions. "Twenty and gone" remains the unofficial motto of the patrol force.
"The department doesn't care whether you stay or not," says Tommy Goldsmith, and as a case in point, he cites his former partner.
Bobby Evers is well remembered in the Seven-One. Veteran cops and bosses still tell stories about him, like the time he spent a whole day searching for a missing child and found her in a crack house in another precinct; the time he came into the station so wet from a search in the rain that he had to take off his holster and drain the water out of it; the time he personally evicted from the station a cop who had been arrested on burglary charges in the suburbs.
For all his reservations about the department, Bobby hoped to be made a sergeant, and there were those, including Fox, who considered him a natural. In 1991, after 18 years as a cop, he took the sergeant's test, despite new college requirements for sergeants. Some cops, of course, go to college during their spare time. For a cop with seven children and a moonlighting job as super of his building, college would have been a feat. Once the door had been closed, he explained one day over drinks near his security job in a midtown Manhattan office tower, retirement became irresistible because he could virtually double his income. On the other hand, he added matter-of-factly, "It was the worst thing I ever did in my life."
Ean can foresee himself being in the same predicament. College demands a lot of spare time, and "it's hard enough to have any kind of personal life." Besides, a commitment to school "alters the way you do the job," he reasons. What if he were nearing the end of a tour of duty, he asks, and had an opportunity to make a collar, but knew it would mean no sleep on the night before an important exam?
As 1996 drew to a close, his mind was on collars. At dawn on the day before Christmas, coming to the end of an uneventful midnight tour, he and Frank Incerto, a five-year man, got a burglary call on President Street. Their pulses quickened, for the precinct was experiencing a wave of burglaries - more than a dozen in a two-week period. In a few instances, the suspect had made off with expensive jewelry and had become reckless, even scary, committing his burglaries at night when his victims were home.
That particular morning, he had tried to break into two houses on the same block, the second attempt occurring moments before the cops arrived. After following the owner to the rear of his house, Evers and Incerto and two other officers searched the long alley, filled with cans and cats and fences and garages. Within a few minutes, one of the precinct sergeants radioed from the far end of the alley that he had spotted a suspect prying at a window screen of a house on Carroll Street. "He's going onto the roof," the sergeant added, as the suspect scurried upward, window to window.
In the adrenaline rush of dramas like this, cops have an unfortunate habit of converging on the center of action and creating a traffic jam. Ean did something different. He climbed a narrow fire escape to the top of a four-story apartment house on New York Avenue - the tallest building on the block. Reaching the roof and scanning the rooftops below, he caught sight of a man scrambling over a barrier between one roof and the next. As he radioed the other cops, the suspect made a furious dash to get through a security door.
"Give up!" Evers shouted at the top of his lungs.
"I ain't giving up," he shouted back.
By now, the block was hemmed in by scores of cops from the Seven-One and the neighboring Six-Seven, and several had climbed onto the row of connected rooftops. But they needed guidance from Ean, the only cop who could actually see the suspect. And that was still the case when the burglar made a crazy descent to a lower roof in the rear of one of the buildings, followed by a crazier leap to a corrugated-plastic porch roof, which nearly caved in beneath his weight. Then he started kicking at a window screen.
With visions of a possible hostage situation, Evers alerted his fellow cops and scrambled down the fire escape to the alley. He arrived next to the porch in time to see two cops on its flimsy roof, struggling with the man. After subduing and cuffing him, they lowered him into Ean's arms.
Half a dozen cops played a part in the chase and the arrest ("it was a tremendous team effort," Evers said), but the collar got credited to him. He remained at work for the next 16 hours, doing paperwork, collecting witnesses, conferring with the detectives, briefing the inspector and dealing with a prosecutor who had come out to the precinct to "ride" the case. They were 16 delicious hours. "I'm a kid - I really love this stuff," he told me afterward. "This job is a blast!"
James Lardner is the author of "Crusader," a book about David Durk, the New York City detective who helped to trigger the 1970-72 Knapp Commission on police corruption.