In New York City the police are everywhere. We stroll past them standing outside the corner bodega. They quietly cruise down the street as we wait for the light. But when their lights come on, when their batons come out, when their hand lands firmly on their holster, that which is alien and removed becomes focused and alive. No one wishes to be the nucleus of this energy but many are drawn to its intensity. Like a weary moth to a light, I approach — the bystander.


In New York City the police are everywhere. Roughly 36,000 of them. Peering off the rooftops of Baruch houses. Perched behind tinted glass in a skywatch tower on Newkirk. Slouching in an office chair on the other side of that door just past the turnstiles at Throop. Waiting. Watching.


In New York City the police are everywhere. In the North Shore hop off the bus at Bay Street, cross though the park and enter the deli. Ask for a loosie and you may get one. Though not passed through the fingers of Eric Garner, whose famous last breaths were sipped from the gum-speckled sidewalk out front. He was not alone. In the 15 years before his death there had been 179 fatalities involving on-duty NYPD cops. Of those, only three cases led to indictments — and just a single conviction.


In New York City the police are everywhere. Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos are no longer amongst them. While someone stood at the counter in Mike’s Pizza working the bottle of mustard for its last drop, outside the officers were shot dead in their patrol car. Also missing are the 23 officers taken down with the Towers and the 241 who have passed since from illnesses related to that day.


In New York City the police are everywhere. The police are everywhere and so are we. The criminal, the victim, the profiled, the privileged. The bystander.

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