Just to set things right and proper, I need to give some background of myself. I'm a born and raised New Yorker, a product of 12 years in the NYC Public School System and 8 1/2 years of attending the City University of New York (8 1/2 years to get my BA - never said I was a fast learner). My father was a union member before retiring and always stressed a union job for me. This lead me to taking numerous civil service exams. The list that finally hired me was the New York City Police Department, hereafter referred to as the NYPD.
I'll come back to my hiring and training process later. Suffice to say, they are stories unto themselves. Instead, we'll start the story near the end of my academy training. We were given "dream sheets" earlier in training, sheets in which we were told to indicate our preferred commands for assignment upon graduation. They were referred to as "dream sheets", because you must-a been dreaming if you thought you were getting anything you remotely hoped for.
I received my assignment and like many others, headed to the wall sized map outside the Police academy cafeteria. It was a map of New York City's five boroughs, broken down by Police Precinct (some cities might call them Districts). I had no idea were my assigned precinct was, I just knew it wasn't in Queens or Manhattan, my preferred destinations. Once I saw where it was, my heart went a mile a minute. Not from joy either, trust me.
I rode the train home that day in early March, dreading the sight of my mother. As much as my assignment upset me, I feared her response more. My instincts were correct.
She was cooking dinner when I arrived and at any other time I would have remarked on how good it smelled. Not this time. Not this afternoon.
"Did you get your precinct assignment?" she asked immediately upon seeing me enter the kitchen. She knew today was the day. Mom hadn't been all that keen about me becoming a cop in the first place - she was about half a step from being dead set against it. Still, she was my mother and was extremely supportive every step of the way.
"Yep" was my response. I really didn't need, or want, to say more.
One look at my face gave it away. I really sucked at keeping thoughts off my face back then.
"You didn't get Queens?" I just shook my head.
"Manhattan neither?" Again, just my head moved, slightly.
"Brooklyn?!?" Her voice rose at the end of Brooklyn. I can still hear it in my head as if it were yesterday. I think at this point, she already knew the answer, but we both had to go through the motions.
"Transit? Not Housing I hope - no? They can't send you to Staten Island unless you request it, right?" I just stood there.
"The Bronx!?!" There, she said it, but we both knew there was more to it then just The Bronx. The Bronx is a big borough, and even in the mid 90's there were pockets that weren't all that bad. This was that bad.
"The SOUTH Bronx." She said it. Yes, "south" was all in capital letters. You could have heard a pin drop over the next few seconds, even with the water on the stove at a rapid boil.
She turned away then, back to preparing dinner. I actually saw a tear on her face, but when I went to comfort her she blamed the onions and would have none of it. Her son was going to be a cop in The South Bronx, the borough that was burning during the 70s and 80s. The fires had stopped for the most part, but it was still The South Bronx