"If somebody gets in your face and calls you a cocksucker, I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won't walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can't walk him, one of the others will help you, and you'll both be nice.
"I want you to remember that it's a job. It's nothing personal."
This is the advice Patrick Swayze's character Dalton gives to his fellow bouncers in the 1989 cult classic Road House. In the movie, Double Deuce is a smoky bar where brawls and black eyes are common, and Swayze's underlings are sick and tired of getting their asses handed to them by what Swayze calls "40-year-old adolescents, felons, power drinkers, and trustees of modern chemistry."
Swayze's tired too. So he riddles off the "three simple rules" of bar management: Never underestimate your drunken customer, always take it outside, and, most importantly, "Be nice."According to the New York Post, cops in New York City are being told to do the same thing.
The tabloid reported Tuesday that this scene from Road House is being shown to all 22,000 cops who are participating in the New York Police Department's mandatory retraining program.
During the three-day course at a new academy in Queens, cops must attend lectures that encourage deescalation rather than aggression and learn how to evade violence—presumably so another chokehold doesn't end up on YouTube. The program is one of Mayor Bill de Blasio's initiatives to reform the NYPD in a post-Eric-Garner world.
(The NYPD has been reached for comment regarding the use of Patrick Swayze as a viable training tactic, and we are anxiously waiting to hear back.)
So New York City is apparently just a bigger, slightly more diverse version of this fictional dive bar. And, just like the bouncers in the movie, cops hate being told to play nice.
Over the past few days, at least one source has been steadily leaking out details of the new training regimen to the Post. So far, we've heard that officers are being told to take a deep breath and close their eyes when dealing with an unruly citizen, and that 80 percent of the cops believe the lessons in integrity are a "waste of time." Some are even reportedly using the retraining as a good time to catch up on sleep.
"The NYPD is trying to get people's attention," Eugene O'Donnell, a retired Brooklyn cop and professor at the CUNY John Jay School of Criminal Justice, told me. "Good training is hard to come by. In a perfect world, they'd have high-tech modules and videos, but they're making do with what they have.
"But a heroic cop, who read about cops being taught to close their eyes and breathe, told me earlier today, 'Of course that makes sense.' It's a little of, 'Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten,'" O'Donnell added. "Basic human empathy is the most used skill."
Still, if the Post is to believed, the heavy dose of Swayze is not playing well at all.
"It's crazy," one source told the Post. "They're showing us something from a movie and they want us to act like that in real life. It's not realistic—it's Hollywood."
At a press conference on Tuesday, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton disputed the Post reports, referencing an internal poll that says 84 percent of officers who have gone through the program think the training efforts are "relevant to their job." He argued that the tabloid was spreading "incredible misinformation" from a pissed-off cop. "Let's face it: the Post doesn't like the mayor," Bratton added. (There's plenty of evidence that the cops don't like the mayor either.)
Also on Tuesday, and on a decidedly more serious note, Bratton told a crowd at an event for Black History Month that yes, as FBI Director James Comey recently conceded, cops have an inherent racial bias.
"Many of the worst parts of black history would have been impossible without police, too," he said.
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