Friday, November 2, 2012

Week 5 - The City that Never Sleeps...

...Gotham City...the Big Apple...the Empire City...whatever nickname you prefer, FBINA Session 251 invaded New York City for a whirlwind weekend that was a jam-packed combination of training, sightseeing, and socializing. For those of you who have not been, it is a sight (or collection of sights). The size and intensity of the city can't be described - it has to be experienced. Our trip was hosted by the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the largest police force in the country. The differences between New York City and my home state of South Carolina are numerous. In order to give some perspective, allow me to compare some recent census numbers. Keep in mind that I am comparing a state to a city.

SC >4.5 million  |  NYC >8 million

Number of Businesses
SC 360,000  |  NYC 944,000

Land Area (square miles)
SC 30,000  |  NYC 302

Average Population Per Square Mile
SC 153  |  NYC 27,000

The NYPD has nearly 40,000 police officers. To put this number in perspective, you would have to combine the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th largest police departments in the nation to match that number (Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Houston, respectively). Including NYPD, there are only about 900,000 law enforcement officers in the entire United States - that includes every city police department, county sheriff's office, and state and federal law enforcement agency. If NYPD were a military force, it would be among the largest 75 military forces in the world. Technically, NYPD would have a navy and air force too as they literally have a fleet of boats as well as a fleet of aircraft. To say that the NYPD is a union department would be an understatement. They actually have five unions. There is a police officers union, a detectives union, a sergeants union, a lieutenants union, and a captains union. In many ways the City of New York couldn't be more different than my home state, and in many ways the NYPD is unlike any other police department in the country. I can't imagine having the manpower to literally put an officer on every corner of an area the size of Time Square or to be able to deploy hundreds of officers to a last minute event. I can't imagine being able to deploy a SWAT team and divers on helicopters to a scene within minutes of notification.

NYPD provided demonstrations of several specialized units to include their Aviation Unit.

NYPD provided demonstrations of several specialized units to include their Mounted Patrol. 

We were given a tour of NYPD headquarters, aka One Police Plaza.

Our tour included Comp Stat, the Joint Operations Center, and the Real Time Crime Center.

Throughout the weekend, I had the opportunity to speak with and pick the brains of various NYPD officers. What I found is that while the scale of our departments is different, in many ways policing is not all that different. On Saturday I ate lunch with a twenty year veteran of the department and member of a specialized unit. We spoke at length about the recent line of duty death of a Nassau police officer, the issue of officers wearing body armor, and whether generational differences are correlated with officer safety skills. We discussed police leadership, training and mentoring. On Sunday I spent my breakfast time in another discussion with a sergeant from a patrol precinct. Both pointed out that things are not all that different when you break it down. Taken as a whole, the NYPD is a mammoth department - a standing army. However, if you look at an individual precinct, it is like a small to medium sized police department. A precinct commander is like a chief of his own town or city. A shift in that precinct can be comparably staffed with a supervisor and officers responsible for patrolling an area similar to campus or to a region of a South Carolina city or county agency. While the demographics of communities and the availability of resources or something as trivial as the color of a uniform may differ, the concerns of line level officers are the same. They have the same stressors: making ends meet for their family budget, balancing family time with shift work, and potential danger on every traffic stop. As I have found with my classmates, I continue to find more similarities amongst my brothers in blue than differences further reinforcing the idea that we as a profession are in this together.

One of many NYPD officers I had the opportunity to meet on our trip.

We had the opportunity to see several New York landmarks. Being able to ascend the Empire State building gave me a new appreciation for the size and grandeur of New York City as I looked out over the landscape that is so different from home. Being able to walk through the NYPD Museum allowed me to see first hand the history of my profession. As I walked through various exhibits I was reminded of names and events that I forgot I knew from my history of policing classes in college. Going to the Statue of Liberty, we were reminded of some of the simple freedoms that we often take for granted in our daily lives. As we walked through the 9/11 Memorial and read the names of those lost, we were all able to renew our commitment to being vigilant for the next time evil attacks.

A view of the city skyline from near Ellis Island.

The 9/11 Memorial

A room containing a badge representing every NYPD officer that has died in the line of duty,

Lady Liberty

Another key aspect of the New York trip was the opportunity to simply spend time with my fellow classmates. We have bonded over the past several weeks having studied together in class, having sweat together in PT, and having eaten together in the cafeteria. Opportunities like the New York trip offer time away from the institution. The opportunity to have fun together and to relax. Taking advantage of opportunities like this is what takes a group of colleagues and transforms it into a group of friends. I had the opportunity to get know several people that I don't have classes with and whose dorms are not on my floor. Even now in our fifth week, I am meeting new people and learning new things from them. During the trip to New York and during my entire time here at the NA, I have experienced things and made memories that I will have for the rest of my life, and I am just very grateful for the opportunity.

On the bus with roommate Insp. Montes (CA), and suitemates Lt. Zimney (MI) and Lt. Clites (SD)

During dinner Saturday we had a surprise visit from the NYPD Emerald Society Pipe and Drums

As I type, I am on the eve of our next trip which will be hosted by the Philadelphia Police Department. We are approaching the half way mark of our time here and with the holidays, I am certain that the pace of things will be picking up. I plan to continue to take advantage of every opportunity and encounter. Until next time...

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