Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Different Kind of Air Mail

Our first day (or more precisely, night) on the streets of the South Bronx was almost surreal. There were 30 rookies that needed posting, so there were 30 posts defined for us. Roll Call was at 1735 hrs (535 PM for the civvies reading this) and it was as chaotic as you might expect.

Names were called out, posts were assigned, poorly copied maps of the precinct and a post list were issued, meal times were given and precinct conditions were addressed. We were to hit the streets and make our presence known to those that had ill intent. Or some such nonsense. Better advice would to have been "know where your cover is and watch your backs".

I pulled a lucky post. It was actually adjacent to the station house As I left for post, others were still trying to find theirs on the maps. Some where a mile or more to the north. A long walk or bus ride was in store for most.

My beat that night was e161 Street, basically from the station house's block to the border we shared with the 44 precinct to our west. It was cold and lit only by the occasional streetlight or livery cab driving by. The first bottle lobbed in my direction occurred about 30 minutes after I hit my post.

I didn't see it coming. Heck, I didn't even know it was thrown until it landed a good 15 to 20' from me, exploding in a small shattering of glass. Looking around, I couldn't figure out who threw it. The street near me was devoid of people. It was a scary mystery that got the hairs on my neck standing up.

Shortly thereafter, the radio on my gun belt went crazy with activity. Rookies on a foot post in one of the housing projects reported a small porcelain sink crashed on the sidewalk near them as they walked by. Another had batteries thrown at them. Someone else got clipped by a shard from a shattering ceiling tile that was tossed at them from above. No one bothered putting bottles thrown at them on the radio. I learned a new police slang term that night: "Air Mail". There was a lot of air mail that night.

We learned not to walk too close to a building line, to look up and around more often then you looked at what was before you. We learned that there was an element that knew we were newly minted. They wanted to set the tone, they wanted to intimidate us. Heck, they wanted to hurt us.

Our sergeant spent the rest of that night matching up adjoining posts. Safety in numbers. Solo posts were over and done that night with very few exceptions. I was one of the exceptions, as he forgot I was out there until I returned to the house at the end of the tour.

At least none of the other three bottles got as close as the first one.

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