Letter from the author

Dear Brave Hearts reader:

I would like to fill you in on why I have such close relationship with law enforcement and the unusual events that prompted me to spend close to four years writing Brave Hearts.

In the late 1970s, I accepted a part-time job working on an early community project with the Boston Police Department. At that time, the relationship between the Department and the people of Boston was tense. A federal court had ruled that Boston schools were unconstitutionally segregated and ordered students bused outside their neighborhoods to correct the situation. Anger, particularly, in the white neighborhoods, resulted in near-riots and numerous incidents of violence.

My job was in a busy police station in one of the most crime-ridden areas of the city. At that time there were very few women or minorities on the force. Most of the two hundred officers assigned to the station where I worked were very outspoken about their conservative views on everything from the Vietnam War to women’s rights to homosexuality. One officer told me he didn’t think “girls” should have driver’s licenses. It was quite a culture shock for a liberal-minded young woman who came of age in the 1960s to find herself plopped down in the middle of this strange world.

I worked there for three years, organizing and facilitating meetings between residents and the officers who patrolled the district’s neighborhoods. During that time I saw firsthand the officers’ constant dealings with armed assailants, drug dealers, drunks, rapists, gangs, the homeless, the mentally ill, and a whole range of garden-variety crooks. I was continually amazed at the restraint, humor, and humanity they showed as they went about their difficult task of keeping us safe.

I also witnessed extraordinary acts of human kindness and compassion. I will never forget the time I came back to the station and found an older officer sobbing—the kind where your whole body heaves. He had just returned from a call where he had found a three-month-old baby dead in a bathtub. The day of Christmas Eve the first year I worked there, I saw one officer take home a particularly violent eleven-year-old boy so he wouldn’t have to spend Christmas Eve alone in a cell. The boy was black. The officer, who had six children of his own, was white. Then there was the policeman who was reading the book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Susan Brownmiller’s seminal history of the crime of rape, after he responded to a brutal sexual assault of an older woman near a church. When I asked him about it, he seemed a little embarrassed. He told me, “I’m just trying to figure out why it would happen. My daughter told me to read this book.”

After those three years in that station, I knew I wanted to do something that would help the law enforcement profession. Several years later, when I founded American Police Beat, my goal was to create a publication for law enforcement officers around the country to communicate with one another about the most pressing issues affecting their personal and professional lives. Today, American Police Beat is the leading police magazine in the United States, with over 250,000 readers every month.

Brave Hearts is the story of fifteen men and women who have worked for the New York City Police Department. Whether they are shutting down international narcotics operations, making arrest for brutal homicides, settling marital disputes, getting illegal weapons off the streets, finding serial killers, or preventing another terrorist attack, they routinely face injury and death to serve and protect people, many of whom they don’t know and will probably never meet.

The officers profiled in
Brave Hearts work for the New York City Police Department, but their stories could come from any law enforcement agency in any community in the United States. Their personalities are as varied as their assignments. But they all share a passion for their work and a conviction that they are doing something important with their lives. Despite the constant exposure to America’s dark side, they all view their work as a privilege and a job they are lucky to have.

These real-life heroes are also moms and dads. They get sick, suffer moments of weakness, and don’t always emerge victorious. But no matter the circumstances, they are right back to work for their next shifts, trying to do their jobs a little bit better than the day before. They are ordinary people, no different than you or me, except when it’s time to risk their lives to save a stranger or get a criminal off the street. Then these individuals display qualities we rarely see.

The years have only strengthened my admiration and respect for the dangerous, stressful, and unpleasant work law enforcement officers do. I know that some people have negative perceptions of police officers. It is my hope that after reading about the extraordinary efforts these brave men and women make to protect us from evil and violence, those folks will begin to see them in a new way.

 —Cynthia Brown, September 2010








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