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The Cops Issue

What Do You Think It's Like To Be A Cop In New York?

I wouldn’t want to be a cop in America. In a big city like New York it can be very dangerous. I saw a documentary on TV about what they do everyday and it was just like what you see in the movies.
VICE Staff
Κείμενο VICE Staff

Photos by Mathieu Berenholc, Tom Littlewood, Mick Johan, Elin Unnes

Anna, 40, Stockholm, Sweden

I think it’s more dangerous and more money. Definitively a better salary. I’ve never even seen a New York cop in real life, only in the movies, and there they seem to be better off than us, but in reality I’m guessing they’re probably not. But there are more of them than there are of us, and their insurances are better. We keep those same flashy lights in our plain cars that they have, but we don’t use number combinations the way they do. Like “This is a 411” or something. We don’t do that.


Dieter 55, Berlin, Germany

I wouldn’t want to be a cop in America. In a big city like New York it can be very dangerous. I saw a documentary on TV about what they do everyday and it was just like what you see in the movies. They were driving around finding drugs and arresting gangs in the street. I like being a cop in Germany. Here people respect your authority and don’t give you any trouble. I like being able to help people and not feel threatened or in danger all the time.

Sanne, 32, Amsterdam, Netherlands

To be honest I think America is exaggerated and that they’re all hysterical people. I couldn’t imagine being a cop in New York. I wouldn’t like it at all. The biggest problem I have here is the youth in the streets, and people not taking me seriously. And the fact that all of a sudden I can’t be naive anymore.

Ben, 30, Paris, France

Cops in New York seem to get more respect than we do in Paris. There are so many policemen walking around Parisian streets that people see us as a part of the landscape. There needs to be at least two of us to enter a shop during any routine control and Parisians don’t even respect priority to our cars. First, I was a bit jealous of the New York uniforms, but our new ones are great, they look good and they’re really comfy.

My favourite NYC cop TV show is The Shield because I can relate to it. Paris is smaller than New York so we can come back to the office for lunch. We drink a lot of coffee too, but we don’t have donuts, instead we bring Tupperwares with all kinds of pastas, or eat triangle sandwiches from the machines.


Catrine, 32, Stockholm, Sweden

I’ve never met a New York police officer, I haven’t even watched COPS. Not the real documentary show at least. But I imagine that it’s more divided there, between different kinds of cops. I’d much rather work as a police in Sweden, it’s a lot safer.

I think the New York police are exposed to more violence. I think their criminals are more heavily armed than ours, and that they are more violent. I did meet two LA cops once. We were there visiting and some guy started threatening the people on the book bus, he held his hand behind his back and pretended he had a gun, but I highly doubt that he did. So we called the cops. They were nice, but they weren’t particularly hot. Not that I can remember at least.

Dagny, 35, Reykjavik, Iceland

Well, you see a lot of movies about cops in New York, right? You know what I don’t like about those movies? Their guns. In Iceland we like to solve things in other ways, and we definitively don’t like the guns. But other than that they seem to be well off. Though I think all cops are well off no matter where they are. It’s like a family, we all have a very tight bond. Probably even more so in New York, because of everything they go through. Their criminals are worse than ours, more violent. I think there’s more death. But their uniforms totally beat ours. We’re getting new ones in about a year, and they look more like the New York uniforms. Right now we have the same kind of hats that the Swedes have, but the new ones look American.


Totti, 38, Helsinki, Finland

The possibilities for a cop in New York are so much greater than in Helsinki. Me for example, I would like to work as a full time hostage negotiator, which is already what I’m doing part time. That’s something I could do in New York. A negotiator is a person you bring in if there’s a difficult communication situation, not just for hostages. It can be telling people their spouse has died, suicide prevention, embarked suspect. Negotiation is about endurance, patience and empathy. It’s about making the person feel you’re the only OK guy in the group. I’ve never actually had the feeling like I’m the only OK guy in the group. I’m a tactical part of the group, just like everyone else.

Pieter, 40, Amsterdam, Netherlands

I don’t agree with the way things work in the US. Like the death penalty, the legislation and such. Here, I get paid €1900, I really like helping people, and I like the variation. One of the worst things is realizing what people are capable of doing to each other, and the fights on Rembrandt Square. Another problem here is the circulation of new cops, it’s non-existent because the education takes too long. But we have good food here, there’s one place on the Zeedijk that I like, I don’t know the name of it, but we call the guy Grandpa. He’s good.

Franz, 27, Berlin, Germany

I think it must be more exciting than being a policeman in Germany. Even though we’re in the capital it’s still very dull. We just have to stand around all day and help out tourists with directions. In America everything seems a lot more dangerous. It’s because they are so powerful. They have way more terrorists and you read things in the news everyday. I’ve only ever seen American police in films but it looks so much more exciting. They are always using their guns and chasing criminals. I wish we got to do things like that.


Linda, 32, Stockholm, Sweden

I was in New York right before I started my education. There was a cop on every street corner, and that felt really safe. But as a police officer? Jesus, that’s dull! That’s like being a security guard or something. That’s why I’m at this office, it’s the worst in all of Sweden. Here’s where the shit happens. Last week a guy robbed a monetary transport vehicle, escaped by boat and shot at the police helicopter.

I really want to work as a cop in New York, but I’d never be at a street corner, I’d want to be in the cars, on turnouts. I love New York, I’m going there again soon to run a marathon in central park, and I’ll be visiting the NYPD stations. Since we have our Swedish police IDs there’s no problem getting in anywhere.

Mark, 27, Amsterdam, Netherlands

I think the crime rate is higher there—it’s easier to get a permit for a gun and there are simply a lot more guns around. They also shoot cops with greater ease. You don’t see that happening here.

It’s just more dangerous. Personally I’d not be into being a cop in New York. But I like never knowing exactly what’s going to happen too. An older colleague told me that once he told someone his fog lamp was on and the guy shot at him with a Glock. The suspect missed and my colleague fired back. He didn’t kill the suspect, but he shot him in the leg. The worst part of the job is the paper work. What I do to relax? I have sex.

Hilmir, 30, Reykjavik, Iceland

I don’t really have any experience from New York cops. But I spent a month with the LAPD to do advanced handgun training, and that was great. They have helicopters, which we don’t, and the weather is always good. In Iceland only eight people, in the whole country on every shift, carry a gun. A few months ago we saw a guy walking down the street carrying a high power hunting rifle. We followed him for a while, but when he discovered us he put down his gun and stepped away from it. Turns out he was only emphasizing his will to commit suicide. When we saw him I immediately started thinking about my LA training, but of course I didn’t have a gun with me. But guns aren’t a high priority amongst Icelandic criminals. If I said we have one killing a year I would be pushing it.