Part Two: STREETS IS WATCHING
The NYPD, be hatin’ / And hopin’ that they gon’ catch us ridin’ dirty / Tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty..
Chamillionaire: “Ridin’ Dirty (East Coast Remix)”
Way back when I was a shorty-shit stain running around my block in the Bronx in the mid to late 80s playing all kinds of street games such as tag, kill the man with the ball, or favorites such as dare, manhunt or spin the bottle, I always felt like there was another, more dangerous game being played while I was running around having fun, doing what kids do. The 1980’s was known as the Crack Era in the 5 boroughs, and Crack eventually made millions for young Black and Latino teens and young men throughout the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Harlem. You see, at that time, the NYPD was comprised of three separate entities: Housing Police (Projects), Transit Police (Subways), and Patrol (Precincts). Drug crime ravaged the streets, but the projects were hit especially hard. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) depended on the housing police to protect its residents, but they were overwhelmed by the drug gangs and overwhelming crime wave that spawned from Crack. So while the kids were playing outside, the real game being played was cops and robbers. I saw so many cops chasing people outside and inside my building I used to think they were also playing tag. Matter of fact, cops and robbers looked fun. I wanted to play too!
“Ayo it’s hell on earth / Who’s next or gonna be first? / The projects is front line / And the enemy is one-time / I ain’t gotta tell you, it’s right in front of your eyes”
Mobb Deep: “Hell on Earth (Front Lines)”
Officer Rosado was the housing police officer assigned to my building; the Bailey Houses, a 21 floor high rise which took up an entire block. Must have sucked for him to do vertical patrols, which is when police ride the elevator all the way to the top floor of a building, then walk up to the roof landing for inspection, and proceed to walk down the stairwell of each floor, zig-zagging both stairwells performing security checks and addressing whatever crime you may stumble across. I look back and shake my head because I’m sure Officer Rosado disregarded all of the project shit he encountered. I know this because he was never around when stuff went down. They used to hustle in front of my building, someone was always calling the pay phone, then deal from the benches or inside the lobby in the staircases. Sometimes, there would be fights, or some cats from another block getting jumped or robbed or stabbed and shot in the back of my building. The cops were never around, and when they had to come to my building, life sucked for them. They had to watch out for air mail. Ducking eggs, onions, apples, shit, the entire produce section from Key Food being thrown at them and their cars, then they had to walk up the stairs because the elevators would be shut off. Don’t ask me how that happened most of the times po-po visited my block. Someone was watching. I know some dudes had police scanners, or there would be lookouts from houses and smaller apartment buildings across the street. Sometimes, there would be dudes looking down from the roof of my building. When New Jack City came out in 1991, I remember how my classmates in Junior High were buzzing about how Nino had lookouts on the roof of The Carter with two way radios, looking out for one time. I wasn’t impressed because they used to do that on my block, and at all of the other buildings around my neighborhood all the way through to Marble Hill Houses (projects). Coincidentally, Queens own infamous drug dealing click the Supreme Team headed by Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, employed lookouts with two way radios during their reign over the Baisley Houses in Queens in the Crack Era 80s. Whether it was my hood; Bailey in the BX, or Baisley in Queens, it always seemed like the police were playing from behind, because the streets were always watching. Cops and robbers was a blowout sometimes, cops usually on the wrong side, until the inevitable 4th quarter come back, sometimes with an assist from the Feds.
Speaking of the alphabet boys, talk about haters right? The Feds are always looming with a RICO indictment if you really play the streets that hard. No one plays “the game” fair. Shit, the dudes playing the game sometimes make up the rules as they go along, chasing that dollar with triple beam dreams. Everyone is watching somehow, someway. But in today’s social media obsessed world, it seems like the roles have flip-flopped. Police are the ones being stalked and recorded. I don’t know how I would have reacted to having cell phones recording me while I’m trying to make an arrest, a legal arrest mind you, but oh, yeah, that’s right; this did happen to me once in 2009. I was working for NYPD Transit at the time, on post in full uniform at the 42nd Street Port Authority Subway Station. Suddenly I saw a commotion coming from the Brooklyn bound trains. I ran downstairs to investigate and I saw a man staggering towards me holding his bloodied face, blood pouring from his nose like a faucet, and several passengers pointing to another man who I had just noticed with a red jacket, and a red bandanna covering his face. That man immediately squared up at me and threw a punch that just missed my face. It was on. After a few swings and misses from both of us, I managed to tackle him against the benches on the subway platform. Now, I’m trying to put this guys arms behind his back to arrest him, but he seems as strong as 10 men, he locked his arms up, a classic passive resistance move, and he began kicking the shit out of my shins with his construction Timbs but at that point, backup had arrived and that’s when I saw the cell phones. People taking pictures and recording instead of calling 911. I whacked this guy on his legs with my baton a few times so he could stop kicking me, and two other officers finally pulled his arms together to slap handcuffs on him. People were actually saying to me that we beat the guy up as we led him upstairs and out of the train station into our police car for transportation for arrest processing. Really? I beat him up? It was later determined that he needed to be taken to the hospital because he exhibited signs of being under the influence of drugs..which hospital blood tests revealed to be PCP. Contaminated Marijuana was also recovered and field tested positive from his book bag. That explained his crazy strength and resistance to pain.
Turns out that clips of that video fight were on YouTube for a couple of days, and the majority of the video clips just showed the parts where I’m hitting the guy in the legs with a baton while the other cops are pulling his arms back, so it looks like we’re beating this guy up, or I’m an “abusive fucking pig” as one user commented on the video post, but that’s not the case because you didn’t see what happened before it got to that point. This can be the case for numerous videos involving police incidents. I know what you must be saying while reading this: “He’s a police sympathizer!”, “He’s making up excuses”. Nah. I’m just being real, because video footage also comes in handy when police are actually being abusive or violating civil rights. However, in some footage of police shootings that have made for the divisive times we find ourselves in now in this America, keep in mind that there was unseen footage or unknown events that occurred before footage is captured, not in all of these cases, but for some. I’ll discuss this further in Part Four of this series. Nowadays, with more and more police departments nationwide adopting body cameras, security cameras on every corner and in every store, and just about every one has a cellphone quick to record, everything is captured on video footage today. There is no need for lookouts with 2 way radios or dudes flipping Pigeons on the roof to alert that one-time is coming through anymore. Everyone has a phone, or you can always have a snitch in your crew. Don’t sleep on C.I’s. Confidential Informants come through big time to help clinch cases for police agencies across multiple levels of law enforcement nationwide. Or, in the most ironic way possible, you have those instances when keeping it real goes wrong, as it appears to be this way with the recent arrest and federal drug trafficking indictment of Philly rap & trap star AR-AB and his OBH (Original Block Hustlaz) crew. Dude really went on DJ Vlad’s famous VladTV show and snitched on himself by explaining in detail how he inherited his drug connect when his plug was killed. For those not familiar with the slang, a plug is a drug connect; the person who you get your “work” (drugs) from. So what AR-AB did was basically tell police that he is the connect! If there is ever a facepalm moment for both the streets and law enforcement, this was it. If you think police agencies are not plugged into the world of hip hop and it’s connections to the street game, then I’m here to tell you that I ride a Unicorn to work everyday and I have Big Pun’s new mixtape. This was an alley-oop indictment for the feds. See, cops and robbers is the game of life. There are no rules. Police got smart and now peruse social media for ignorance of epic proportions, it makes for easy warrants and indictments. Just check out Worldstar, Mediatakeout, and YouTube. Dozens of videos of people being jumped, knocked out, or cops chasing or beating on someone, or some gang bragging about shooting, or robbing someone, flashing stacks of cash & jewelry. Streets and cops are watching..all the time.
“Still a nigga like me don’t playa-hate / I just stay awake / This real hip-hop and it don’t stop / ‘Till we get the po-po off the block / It’s bigger than Hip..Hop”
Dead Prez: “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop”
It has never been a worse time than now to be a cop. Who the hell wants to sign up for a profession for twenty plus years to witness the horrors of humanity on a daily basis, and be judged, criticized, vilified and hated for the uniform you wear? You might lose friends, family might look at you funny, and your dog might not cuddle next you anymore. In this America, cops and robbers is broadcast 24-7. I used to want to play when I was younger. It was different back then in the 80’s during the Crack Era. It seemed like cops were cool and drug gangs were bad, except for Tony Montana. He was cool. Nowadays, if you lock up your local Nino Brown, You’re the bad guy. Pardon me, I gotta take a knee.
“The type to start a beef then run to the cops / When I see you in the streets, got one in the drop…..When the streets is watching / Blocks keep clocking / Waiting for you to break, make your first mistake / Can’t ignore it….streets….
Jay-Z: “Streets is Watching”
It is important for me to stress something to all of you: I am not a policing expert, nor do I claim to be one. I am simply someone who over 13 years and counting, has worked in several levels of law enforcement including police, corrections, and private security / bodyguard work for the NYPD, Federal Bureau of Prisons, State of Florida Corrections, and security management for Universal Music Group. Over the course of my employment for these agencies, I have met and worked with a lot of people who I have had interesting experiences with. I am someone who has taken his experience growing up in urban Bronx, NY, and parlayed that mentality into a law enforcement career that hopefully still has not yet peaked. Since I began this series, I have been praised and criticized for my views on how policing and the hip-hop/street lifestyle are intertwined. To everyone out there, these are simply my experiences and opinions. The media has an agenda, therefore it is important for me to “keep it real” by providing a peek behind the blue line, but also giving a street perspective. I welcome any and all criticism, comments, opinions, advice, props…you won’t get this perspective from USA Today. Be well peeps!
******Part Three: 10-13 Officer Down coming soon….follow me for monthly articles from a cutting edge perspective on a variety of topics******