New York in the Springtime

The clocks went forward last weekend and whilst losing an hour in bed is never welcome, it seems to have also brought the first signs of spring. We have seen nothing but blue skies and sunshine all week, with Friday hitting a balmy 20 degrees. It was T-shirt and flip-flop weather for the first time since a similarly beautiful day back in early November. In the space of a week we have seen Central Park go from picture-postcard snow-covered perfection to lush green grass and people out jogging in their summer gear. The climate in this city never ceases to amaze!

I get the weekly MTA card for my travel on the Subway and buses around the city. I normally get good use out of my $32. Less so this week, with walking being my preferred method of getting from A to B. If you can count (the Avenues and Streets) it is simply impossible to get lost in New York, so when time is on your side and the weather allows, it always makes sense to walk. Gazing up at the skyline and people watching are two of my favourite pass times – it never gets boring.

There were four high profile crimes in as many days in Harlem at the end of last week, all of which made the news. A number of white victims were subjected to attacks with pepper spray in what was reported as a racially motivated incident; a cop shot a male in an apartment building having been called to a disturbance – this was reported to be a chap having a mental health episode; a guard was assaulted on a Subway train – from the footage shown on the TV he managed to give as good as he got, the attacker was dragged away by police with blood pouring from his mouth; in another incident on the Subway , a commuter was stabbed. I’ve mentioned before that the 24/7 news culture in the US means that there is a running commentary on anything and everything that police respond to, particularly in NYC. This undoubtedly has an impact in terms of the fear of crime (at least where I am concerned) and continues to demonstrate that this part of Manhattan has work to do to become as safe as other parts of the City. That said, I still really enjoy staying here. The mile walk from 125th street station back to our apartment is just about the most fun you can have for free: I did this walk on Friday, in the sunshine, and it seemed that the whole area was just a little crazier than usual. The haze of the cannabis being smoked means that visibility is a little problematic; the mobile phone shop has speakers on the pavement that wouldn’t be out of place at a rock concert at Madison Square Garden; the electric bikes doing something like 40mph, on the wrong the side of the road, but causing the traffic no particular angst at all; the shopkeeper sitting outside his shop that sells everything from mobile phones to cheese, trying to entice you in to find a deal. It really is a place where anything goes and I just love the vibrancy of it. Coming back to the sanctuary of our Brownstone is always very welcome: clean, safe and peaceful. In the sunshine on Friday we were even able to sit on the stoop and have a cold beer. Delightful.

I had another phone call this week with a senior officer from a police department in Ohio. We’ve been working together since we met at a conference in Chicago in January, looking at what methods we use in London for performance management and selection of offers for promotion. I have been able to share lots of ideas which I hope will be of use to them in their work to modernise and reform existing processes. As mentioned previously, with 18,000 police departments in the US, the ability to set standards and ensure consistent approaches is virtually impossible, so it is down to each individual department to work out how they want to do things and implement policies and procedures accordingly.

Something like 13% of New Yorkers claim Irish ancestry, so it is no surprise that St Patrick’s Day is something of a big event in the city. After a colleague back in London kindly made some introductions via email a couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be invited to the NYPD Emerald Society’s annual bash. It was held on ‘Pier 90’, on the west side of Manhattan, adjacent to the Hudson River. Hundreds of cops were enjoying the bottomless booze – most from New York, but many from Ireland’s Garda Síochana as well. They had made the journey across the Atlantic and were enjoying the hospitality in their full dress uniform, with the bagpipes playing, plenty of singing and a great Irish-American band too. We had a very enjoyable afternoon.

Finally this week, some easy (ish) listening if you have the time. I took part in a Podcast which can be accessed via this link:

https://thecommandpost.org/direct-entry-policing-with-dr-richard-smith/

Under the title of ‘The Command Post’ Dr Renee Kosor is doing some really good work, advocating for greater recognition of the importance of mental and physical wellbeing for first responders – particularly cops. We had a great conversation, talking about values based leadership, new pathways into policing, talent management and professional development within the police service. Renee and I have some plans for some research over the next few months, I’m looking forward to getting started.

I’ll leave you with a story from Staten Island – the execution of the boss of a crime family….the kind of thing that Hollywood would normally create for us; only here – it’s real.

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