Last Updated: 3:38 AM, April 12, 2009
Posted: 3:24 AM, April 12, 2009
Paul Bacon joined the New York City Police Department after 9/ll because he wanted to help people. But as he discovers, the NYPD is no place for dreamers.
Although a washout as a police officer, he sure can write. His memoir "Bad Cop" is a gambol through the innards of what many refer to as The Greatest Police Department in the World. In grotesque and hilarious detail, he depicts the gritty, frightening and thankless world of a New York City police officer.
Bacon shepherds us through the Police Academy, where while memorizing the Patrol Guide and mastering the nuances of such delicious NYPD bon mots as "skel" and "hairbag," he falls for fellow rookie Clarabel Suarez, whom another recruit describes as "that little Spanish girl with the big mouth."
Bacon spends the next three years lusting after her (needless to say, she can't be bothered), while learning the tricks the NYPD trade, the most important of which seems to be writing parking tickets. Bacon hesitates to write them because he sympathizes with the violators.
Next, he is assigned to make "collars," or arrests, for moving violations and becomes expert at quickly running drivers' license plates through his computer to determine whether they have outstanding warrants. Many do, although his sergeant points out that Bacon must have a legitimate reason for running the plate in the first place. Otherwise, it's illegal.
If Bacon is his book's anti-hero, the street-smart, savvy Suarez, who becomes his partner in Harlem's 28th precinct, is its heroine.
Take this exchange from when she and Bacon come upon two men, fighting in the street. Bacon is ready to jump in when Suarez stops him.
" 'Wait,' she said, pulling me back by the arm. 'Don't get too close.' "
"I said, 'But that guy's getting the crap beat out of him.' "
" 'I seen you boxing in gym class. End of story.' "
Undeterred, Bacon says, "Don't we have to separate them at least?"
Suarez's response: "In stupid little fights like this, you just wait for the results. The loser goes to the hospital. The winner goes to jail."
The hapless Bacon finally throws in the towel when, after completing a day tour at the Two-Eight, he is assigned to a midnight counter-terrorism security detail at Police Plaza. A friendly cop gives him the keys to his nearby patrol car so that Bacon can "coup," or nap. That's when Bacon manages to lock himself inside the car and has to call 911 for help -- a fitting end to his three-year misadventure.
Leonard Levitt writes NYPDConfidential.com. His latest book "NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force" will be published this July by St. Martin's Press.