By Javier Calderon
On Gold Street outside the two glass doors of the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn, two pictures lie side by side of Officer Wenjian Liu and Officer Rafael Ramos.
On December 20, 2014, both officers were shot point-blank range and killed in their patrol car by Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Before making his way up to Brooklyn from Baltimore, Brinsley, suggested on social media that he planned to kill police officers in anger over the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
The fatal shooting would be the first of three incidences that have led to the death of four New York City police officers over the past year. On May 2, Officer Brian Moore, who followed in his father’s footsteps to become a police officer, was shot and killed while patrolling a residential neighborhood in Queens. The most recent incident was the death of Officer Randolph Holder, shot in the head and killed on October 21, while chasing a gunman down in Harlem.
Each of these officers under the age of 35 risked their lives to protect their community. However, the tension between the community and law enforcement continues to grow and become more hostile. It leaves the question of whether or not joining the NYPD is the correct career path for young students out of college.
After college, many of the young cadets that graduate from the police academy are put directly out into the field. “It is different for officers who work out in the field,” said Steven Litwen a detective for Brooklyn’s Cold Case Division. For those young cadets, training only last six months and you are dumped into a community that most the time you are unfamiliar with.
The police officer with the 77th precinct in Crown Heights Brooklyn with six and a half years experience on the job, was straight forward about working in unfamiliar neighborhoods and the dangers that come with it. “The job is always going to be dangerous, and most the time you are put into a situation where you have to deal with people who are for the most part disturbed and it’s hard to know how to act in situations like that…it really comes down to the department and the need for more training.”
More police training is not a new topic of discussion. Over the past year, a lot of the talks about police training have become more extensive due to several police brutality cases such as the case of Eric Garner, where a Staten Island police officer put Mr. Garner in a chokehold leading to his death. The incident sparked several protest in New York City and around the nation.
Not only have the police brutality cases sparked protests, but they have also created a divide between the people of the community and police officers, each of them falling on opposite sides of the spectrum. The shaky and unstable conflict between the police and the community has left several students second-guessing a career path with the NYPD.
Stephanie Rodriguez 22, a recent graduate from John Jay College, who wanted nothing more as a kid but to follow her mother’s footsteps in becoming a NYPD police officer, has chosen to depart from her childhood dream and choose a different career path in sports management. This is due to the recent conflicts between the community and law enforcement officials. “It is just not the same anymore…You are under so much pressure as a cop now and even my mother who has over 20 years on the job thinks that joining now would be a mistake for the younger generation because the tension between the community and police officers is only getting worse,” said Ms. Rodriguez.
Not all students feel the same however. Rillind Jonbalaj, a senior at John Jay College, who was asked about officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos affect his decision to join said, “No, death can happen at any moment, it does not matter whether you are a police officer on duty or not, death is a part of life.”
Death is, in fact, a part of life and Evelin Gutierreza, a detective for Brooklyn’s cold case division. He worked 21 years on the job and is afraid the killing of police officers this year is not over. “It is usually around the holiday times when we see another tragic death, and it is a sad time when you have to report that type of incident to an officer’s family…it’s just not right.”
Although relations with the community and the NYPD continue to grow apart and become more dangerous for police officers, on June 22, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced because of a new budget deal, New York City is going to add 1,300 new cops to the city’s payroll.
New York City is already the home of the largest police force in the country. According to the New York City’s website www.nyc.gov, there are approximately 34,500 police officers in the NYPD. With 1,300 more officers on the way, it puts much pressure on to the department to “serve and protect” over 8.4 million people in New York City.
Along with the pressure from the community, much pressure of being a police officer comes with leaving your family every day to worry at home. Detective Jason Palamara states, “My family tends to worry a lot about me and what I do…they know it is a dangerous job, but they understand that…it still doesn’t stop them from feeling worried when I don’t call back.”