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Experience with police on both sides

Written by Daniel Otero

My memories of cops here and there


By: Daniel Otero


My mind often wonders back to yesteryear, to my stomping grounds of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.  A tough-Jewish neighborhood, where you often feared the cops more than the street-corner gangsters!


It wasn’t that all cops were bad, but some would ‘crack’ (hit) one across the mouth with their nightstick if you got ‘fresh’ (disrespectful) with them.  Popular places of choice to get hit were the upper back or lower legs.  Get my meaning.


Running down those mean streets, I soon lost all respect for the police.  Anytime I’d stood innocently at the corner and saw them, it was a warning sign to disperse or else…


And don’t get me wrong, Brooklyn today has changed for the better.  Plus, certain police officers have become better with the public.


But I still can’t get out of my mind a shootout I once saw between the cops and local gangsters as a boy.  Or times when things got unnecessarily out of hand, because the police didn’t want to literally ‘lose face’.  Therefore, I was even frightened to ask the simple-daily questions to them.


Even going back for visits, I was once approached by a police officer with a street-boxing stance which left me with little desire to ask him anything.


Then, as I began to travel and live around the world, I saw how things were done differently.  While living in the U.K. for example, I noticed how the cops/constables (also called bobbies) didn’t carry guns, and needed their street-smarts to deal with the public: not everything depended on their taser, pepper spray or nightstick.


When I later came to China, it was for me a different notion.  Because, there are many people who call China unsafe. I saw that things were safer, even with the cops.


Now, dealing with cops for me when I first arrived in this country was standoffish. Afraid I’d get a tongue-lash for saying the wrong thing.  Actually, I found myself building relationships in the community with some members of Law Enforcement.


I found if I asked them nicely, they’d patiently and respectfully sought the answers to my curiosity.


There was even one in Beijing, who once saw me ‘dazed and confused’ and he politely approached me and asked me if I was okay.  This was for me a turning point, because I was lost and his kindness helped me to find my way.


I still hold relationships with cops here, even now.  As the years have passed, I don’t feel the fear I once felt and it’s not that there isn’t dirt-bag police officers in China. But my experience for the most part has been very positive and full of courtesy.


And maybe other cops around the world can take a couple of lessons from them… Take notes guys!  From learning Kung-Fu to deal with the bad guys (to depend less on the use of weapons) to smart-glasses which they wear to identify ‘perps’ (perpetrators) through a computerized system.


They honestly make me feel safer, even the cute ones (ha, ha).  Sorry, I’m only a man and in the meantime, I always do my best to treat them respect.  Their job isn’t easy.  But with a smile and being nice, things have gone a long way in my relationship with Law Enforcement.  It has flourished, leaving behind those acrid memories of my childhood!

About the author

Daniel Otero

A New Yorker who has been living in China for the past 10 years. He's a freelance writer/journalist and ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher.

A former member of the military with extensive travel to 50 countries and has lived in six.

Lover of life, good food, travel, writing and dealing with social issues.