Sunday, November 12, 2006

Gary Goes to the Citizens Police Academy - S.10

Session 10 was very valuable in a way I am no so sure the very affable Detective Quinones intended it be. A major point of the Citizens Police Academy, if not the major point, is for the community to have a better idea who those people are that make up the NYPD. Session 10 certainly gave us that.

Throughout session 10 Detective Quinones peppered his description of the terrorists as "knuckleheads" and "nuts."” Though he did have grudging respect for the terrorists, Detective Quinones was clearly more comfortable seeing the terrorists as "not like the rest of us."

We were told right up front that, "Anyone who tells you there are not terrorists here ready to strike, has just pocket your picked." We saw some to the multi-ethnic faces of the terrorist groups. Since terrorists are in every country, we saw only the most highly publicized faces. Though they were characterized as "nuts" we learned about the men, and a single woman, who had formed armies, raised money (in one case over a billion dollars), or had simply acted alone, in order to perform terrrorist acts. Terrorists were very clever in evading detection, but never for long. So, in the end they were not so clever. We learned the terrorists make "idiot" mistakes. We also learned that if you visit certain websites, and downloaded certain material (e.g., an Al-Qaida training manual) you can anticipate the full weight of the government coming down on you. We also learned if you, knowingly, or unknowingly, rent a room to a terrorist you could serve jail time. We learned how terrorist suspects are arrested,"“Never to be heard from again." We also learned that despite the national debate, the United States does not torture terrorists.

Detective Quinones is highly educated. He is on his way to a doctorate in religion, and he is a 20-plus year veteran of the police force. So I was more than a little surprised by his very black and white perspective regarding terrorists. I do not recall any of the other officers/instructors exhibiting what came off as a very strong "us" versus "them" mentality. I saw a lot of respect and concern for the public from most of the other officers/instructors. Still, I should have not been surprised by Detective Quinones's attitude.

Detective Quinones in his position with the Joint Terrorist Task Force views himself as being an integral part of the war effort. His job, in large part, is to help us forget the United States is at war. When you are at war, your job is to kill the enemy. Compassion and understanding are potentially lethal hinderances to that job. Also, in considering Detective Quinones's session I thought back to the 3rd session where Detective Fox, with the Child Abuse Unit, told us he copes with his job by moving on mentally, when he finishes each case. I thought how the "us" versus "“them"” mentality allows Detective Quinones to do his job, and since Detective Quinones has limited contact with the general public, his "us" versus "“them"” mentality is able to remain a very private face of the NYPD.

Unlike most police officers whose job is, according to our reading for session 3, to "make every effort to perform your duties professionally, thoroughly, and with compassion and respect for the citizens of this city;" Detective Quinones's job is to protect all of us from them (i.e., the terrorists). Those that have declared war on all of us. As a citizen I think it valuable to know there is this "us" versus "“them"” face to the Police Department, as we look at a police department which in large part shows "“respect for the citizens of this city."

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