Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be a cop. Growing up in the Bronx, I loved to play “cops and robbers.” We played in and around the tenements, the alleys, the backyards, and we knew all the shortcuts and hiding places.
As an adult, when I returned to my old neighborhood, as a policeman, I was struck by how small it all looked: the hill in the park that seemed so steep to us as children seemed surprisingly small, a shallow slope. The buildings looked much smaller than I remembered them to be.
I graduated from Lehman High School in the Bronx, in the academic program, and I was particularly interested in photography, an interest which my dear dad helped to foster.
Shortly after high school, I went to Bronx Community College, got my Associate’s degree, then went on to work for the John Hancock Insurance Company. I liked working at Hancock. I especially liked taking the various training programs that they offered, and eventually progressed to the “series 6” license, an advanced certification. I also became a Certified Financial Planner. I was promoted from sales to management at a relatively young age and enjoyed training and recruiting new personnel. Still, in my heart, I wanted to be a policeman.
Working at Hancock, often 60-hour weeks, yielded a good paycheck, especially for someone as young as I was. On weekends, my friends and I would often go to a bar that specialized in Golden Oldies music. I like the owner and he liked me, and when he needed temporary help, I agreed. I enjoyed bartending, being rather outgoing myself, and this is where I met a woman who became my wife, as she had come to listen to Golden Oldies with her mom.
Meanwhile, I had taken the civil service test to qualify for the New York Police Department. One day I got called in by the NYPD, along with a large number of other potential candidates who had passed the civil service exam. It turned out there had been a bureaucratic foul-up, however, and a number of us were told we would have to wait and take the exam over again.
I took a second exam set, and passed with high grades again. I waited almost a year, then those of us who had passed were called in for interviews.
They had so many candidates that they were looking for easy ways to disqualify applicants. Initially, my borderline blood pressure problem gave them the excuse they were looking for, and they disqualified me. I appealed. I got a detailed letter from my own doctor and presented it to the appeals board. One of the members of the board said, about my doctor, “I went to school with him.” Apparently, that was all that was necessary. I was accepted for the next step.
The next step: physical exams --- agility, strength, and endurance. I passed them all rather easily. That was followed by the psychological testing. The testing took almost all day; there was a written portion with hundreds of questions, and an oral exam, as well. I remember one of the tasks was for us to draw a picture of ourselves. The examiners then asked why we had included certain details in the picture. They wanted me to explain why I included a watch. I told him that I like to be punctual. They asked what would I do if I were in a movie theater and a fire broke out. I said I certainly wouldn’t shout “fire!” Instead, I would look for the exit and perhaps help shepherd people out.
Those who passed the civil service exam, the physical test, and the psychological test then had to make it through a background check. At this time the investigation was quite rigorous, and absolutely no criminal history of any type would be allowed. [I understand that today, with recruitment levels down, in some cases it is acceptable to have had a misdemeanor conviction.]
Then came waiting, and as you might imagine I was delighted when I got called to attend the Police Academy, the subject of an earlier chapter in this book.
Chapter 3 from The Shield of Gold: A Candid Memoir... by Lenny Golino and Douglas Winslow Cooper published November 2012 by Outskirts Press and available in paperback and ebook formats from OP and amazon.com and elsewhere.
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