Super Bowl Sunday

After last week’s visit to Chicago, it was back to the normal routine of life in NYC this week (if indeed life in NYC can ever be called routine – it’s still amazing and I am certainly still appreciating it!).

I really enjoyed another of my research interviews this week. As is always the case with qualitative research, the value of the interview depends on many factors: the willingness of the participant to engage in the conversation, their interest in the subject matter, the mood of the researcher, the amount of time that both have to give to the conversation and focus on making it worthwhile. Everything came together this week with a really useful 90 minutes spent at NYPD HQ, throwing round loads of interesting ideas about how the organisation has modernised in recent times, the difficulties experienced in doing so and the reforms that are still to be made. Lots of really good data for my research.

For reasons I’m not entirely clear on, I am obliged to secure a social security number whilst I am here. So I had the delightful experience of a couple of hours spent in the job centre on Monday afternoon. I tried to hide in the corner and not look too conspicuous, I failed dismally. Having waited patiently for what seemed like forever, you can imagine my delight when I got to the desk and was told I was at the wrong building. Having enquired where I should be instead and politely asked why the website had advised I present myself at this location I got a death stare and was sent on my way. Twenty five minutes back on the subway to pretty much where I had come from, another hour or so in the queue and I finally got the necessary paperwork completed. Half a day of my life I’ll never get back – but all part of the experience! At least now when I get offered my dream job, with a free apartment overlooking Central Park and a million dollar salary, I’ll be all set up ready to pay my taxes.

The weather has dominated the news this week. No doubt the Polar Vortex (I think it sounds more like a horror film than a weather system) has made the news back home. Clearly we got out of Chicago just in time. The sight of the river and lake being frozen over and the hot cup of water turning into ice as it was launched into the air will live long in the memory. I’ve been trying to work out how to explain just how cold it is when the temperature drops to a ‘feels like’ -30 degrees C… it’s tricky to explain. A bit like if you’re somewhere really hot like Dubai and it gets reeeeaaaly hot, so you have to limit how much time you spend outside, it’s kind of been the same here this week, but at the less fun end of the temperature scale. Exposed skin does start to burn pretty quickly, but with the right clothing on and no time dawdling outside, I would say that whether it’s -10 or -40 it all just feels bloody cold so you need to get from heated apartment, to heated Uber, to heated shop, to heated office, to heated gym and back again as quickly as possible. Holding a cold drink with ungloved hands is certainly not something I will be repeating again in a hurry. It smarted more than a little. As I write this, we’re now back up above freezing point, just, so it’s been nice to get out this afternoon and see the bright lights of the city again, being permanently inside a building for much of the past week has been a little claustrophobic.

I spent an interesting few hours this week with one of the cops who is responsible for the NYPD’s ‘Force Investigation Division’. Their remit is to bring together investigative expertise from across the NYPD to provide a single function for investigating officer involved shootings. Technology has a key role to play in what the team do. They are using image capture and measurement technology from a company called ‘FARO’, to reconstruct scenes of shootings, so that senior officers, district attorneys and others are able to see exactly what the officers witnessed and get a sense of how the incident played out. The work the FID is doing enables senior cops to make press statements in quick time after a shooting has taken place, which seems to be going a long way to build increased trust and confidence in what the NYPD are doing. The video below explains a bit more about the Force Investigation Division:

I dropped in at the old Police Academy building on 20th Street this week. It’s a rather tired building in the extremely affluent Gramercy Neighbourhood, which could clearly fetch quite a tidy sum for the NYPD if it was to be sold. However it’s a hive of activity and I met a couple of cops who had a tidy collection of police ‘coins’ which are a big thing over here. I did some swaps with my ‘New Scotland Yard’ patches, which were very well received. I’m building up quite a collection of these now, they make great souvenirs!

Wednesday lunchtime saw me back at the ‘Olympic Flame Diner’ – next door to John Jay College. This has become something of a routine now on what the American’s call ‘Hump Day’ (half way through the week), with my chums from the Department of Law and Police Science. As always, we tucked into some hearty American food and chewed over what’s been happening over the past week. Brexit and Trump are normally pretty high up the agenda. If we hadn’t sleep walked into such a horrendous political mess back home, I might sit there feeling quite smug – but with the UK democratic process having cooked up just as bad a mess as that being seen in the US, I’m clearly in no position to judge! Much of the narrative here is now about the nominees for the 2020 election. Over the last couple of weeks there has been a flurry of people putting their names forward and with the first of the primaries being now just 12 months away, this looks like it will be dominating the news from now on. I really enjoy these lunchtime natters, it’s nice to feel part of a team and have some relaxed conversation with a bit of banter and mickey-taking thrown in too.

A bit of decent progress on the writing front this week. I was pleased to get the result back from the first of my MBA assignments. The day started with an email advising that “resit submissions are due by April 12th”. Having not had my result at that point, I assumed this was just how you get to find out the bad news that it’s a fail and there’s some more work to be done. After some digging around I fortunately found out this was not the case and that I had got the green light. Phew. I also received the feedback of a peer review on an article I submitted just before Christmas. Academic journals operate by a process of ‘blind peer review’. Meaning that you submit a manuscript to a journal that you would like to publish your paper in, they send it to a couple of people who have expertise in your field (anonymised – they don’t know who has written it) and they provide a critique, including a recommendation to the editor as to whether or not the article should be accepted for publication. The good news is it was accepted, the bad news is there was plenty required in terms of revisions to get it in a fit state to go to print. The peer review process is meant to be a supportive one (it doesn’t always work out that way) and should be seen by the author as an opportunity to improve the manuscript. Even with that in mind, it can be rather deflating when you get a long list of revisions. In this instance, the reviewer had been very fair and all the criticism was constructive. However much I tell myself that, it is still always a pain to have to go back over something you hoped was done with and re-work it. That said, after a couple of long days tapping away, I think it is now in a better state and is now back with the editor for a second look over. Fingers crossed there aren’t too many more revisions when it comes back to me again in a few weeks time!

Final couple of bits this week…

An announcement from the NYPD this week that all frontline cops now have an app on their phone (similar to Skype) which allows instant access to a sign language interpreter, so when they are with victims in the field they can secure proper communications in real-time. I’m not sure if this is something we have back home, but it sounds like a great idea.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the public body that manages all public housing in the city. It has come in for much criticism over many years, due to problems in relation to heating system failures, rat infestations and general maintenance of the buildings. The federal agency that manages housing had been threatening a takeover of NYCHA. Residents were concerned; unclear if a takeover would mean a much needed improvement in standards or the immediate closure of some housing blocks – with the upheaval that would bring. At least with NYCHA in control, it’s a case of better the devil you know. In the end, the Mayor and the federal powers that be have come to an agreement, with appointment of a ‘monitor’ jointly by the White House and City Hall, to give NYCHA the shake up it needs. In reality, the agreement is pretty flimsy. For example, properties where there is still dangerous lead paint adorning the walls will have to be redecorated…. hear this…. within the next TWENTY years! There’s a political fudge if ever I saw one. Nothing like a bit of urgency to get things sorted…!

Finally, Sunday was Super Bowl day. The grand final of the NFL calendar. A friend from Uni, Chris, was kind enough to invite us to watch the game with his family at their home in a city called White Plains, about 25 miles north of NYC. It was nice to get the overground train from 125th street and make the short journey ‘up state’. It was amazing how quickly we were in rural New York State with rolling hills and forests. Chris and his family met us at the station and we headed to the Westchester County Centre. A multi purpose 5,000 seat community venue that was playing host to the Westchester Knicks versus Greensboro Swarm basketball game. These teams play in the second tier competition that acts as a feeder into the NBA. It was a great atmosphere and the perfect warm up to the main event…

We headed back to Chris’s house to watch the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams. The Super Bowl is a big eating day, so we gorged our way through various tasty snacks and a few beers. Including dropping into the neighbours who were just serving up pudding – perfect timing! I wasn’t wholly sure what was happening on the field, but it was good fun nonetheless. It was nice to see what normal family life is like outside the City too.

That’s it for this week. Until next time….

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