BROOKLYN – The murder of George Floyd, an innocent Black man, by a cop in Minnesota has caused unrest all throughout the country, including right here in Brooklyn. Police, who were supposed to protect protesters, have instead aggressively shoved, hit with batons, pepper-sprayed, and driven into them. Police cars have been lit on fire and Molotov cocktails have been thrown. This afternoon, we spoke to a cop in Brooklyn, a white officer with over a decade on the force. We’re keeping their name out of the story, because they’re worried that by speaking out, they may face consequences. Below is our conversation, lightly edited to remove any identifying information.
“The murder [of George Floyd] was definitely outrageous and unjustified,” they said.
“Should cops be punished?” we asked.
“Yes. I don’t think the skin tone matters. I think that if a cop kills anyone, they should be punished. The protests, they are in large part peaceful and necessary. The majority of the voices need to be heard. There’s only a small percentage of them that are violent. But, the police department as a whole is ramping up resources to kind of shut these down.”
“Did you see the vid…” we began to ask.
“Of the cars? Yes,” they answered without missing a beat.
“It was bad. It was bad for everyone. What happens if someone got ran over and got killed? What happens if the cops got ambushed?” they said speaking of the cops who drove into protestors in Flatbush over the weekend. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there and in that position. It just seems like it was a recipe for disaster either way.”
“Do you believe there’s racism in…” we began to ask. “Absolutely. Absolutely,” an answer again without missing a beat.
Cops are evaluated by their higher-ups on their performances, the officer explained.
“How many tickets did you write? How many people did you arrest? It’s not about how good your rapport is with the public or how intelligent you speak… It’s how much can you produce for me and what can you do to make the commanding officer get promoted? It all goes back to revenue and what you can do.”
When it comes to it, it’s all based on the number of arrests one makes.
“So where I work… you have to stop people of color. If you don’t do it, you’re not going to go anywhere, so your career is basically going to be a dead-end,” they said. “It all comes to a head. And I don’t know if that’s what happened with Mr. Floyd in Minnesota, but the NYPD sets the precedent for a lot of police departments. It’s terrible. It’s a shit system.”
“I’ve been a cop [redacted] years. If you speak up about it, they bury you. If you call Internal Affairs or if you make complaints against the supervisors, they’re going to say no. These guys, they’re problematic. They have a 2,000-page rule book [in which] they can find something and bury you with.”
We asked if it was better for cops to just stay quiet. The answer, without hesitation, was “Of course.”
“It’s all about staying submissive. It’s either ‘shut up and go with the flow,’ or… there’s always something they can [do to] make you look like you’re crazy or you’re unhinged. They could transfer you. They could literally ruin your life because you signed up for a job… So you just suck it up.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been criticized by many people for his response, or lack thereof. According to this cop, the Mayor’s response is poor.
“At what point do you say enough is enough?” they wondered.
“Who’s responsibility is it to make the system better?” we asked.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility. Elected people know what’s wrong with the police department. Cops as a whole know what’s wrong with it. But I don’t think people understand the depth and severity of how bad it is,” they said.
There are a lot of people who believe cops should be retrained. This cop doesn’t agree.
“We’ve been retrained. We got retrained after Eric Garner. We got retrained after Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu,” they said. “The number one thing they should do is change the hiring standards of cops.”
It shouldn’t be about how strong you are, because there’s so much more to being a cop.
“It shouldn’t be about how many pushups you can do. Or how fast you can run,” the officer said. “They say the male brain stops maturing at 25-years-old. Make the minimum age you can become a cop 25 instead of 21. That way you have less aggression and less testosterone. I see these kids who come on and are so young and naive. I have to explain to them you can’t reinvent the wheel because you want to please the lieutenant and get to a new position. There’s so much more into it.”
“You really need a better caliber of a person to become a cop. I don’t know how you would track people who want to do better. I don’t have the answer to that,” they said. “I’m nearing the end of my career and I’m seeing not much has changed.”
There’s a lot of anti-cop sentiment in Brooklyn, but also throughout the entire country. This cop agrees with it.
“I know, personally, they’re not talking to me. They don’t know who I am. They are talking to the uniform. And I have to agree,” they said. “I think the best way to do it is to have educated cops who are articulate and vocal and can explain how things are and why it is what it is.”
Right now though, there needs to be a change in the police department, they said.
“It’s a mafia mentality. It’s a ‘If you speak out against us, you’re not with us’ kind of deal. If the writing on the wall is ‘let’s go arrest people’ and the people happen to be black, [then you have to do it or] you’re not with us. It’s a shit system,” they said. “I hope some positive change comes out of all this. I really do.”