Raucous recollections from a career as a New York City cop, from a veteran of The Moth storytelling series.
Osborne retired in 2003 as the commander of the Manhattan Gang Squad after 20 years of service, yet he seems more aligned with the street cop’s earthy brotherhood than with the authority of command: “It’s a good feeling knowing that you belong to a family [and] also the biggest and baddest gang in the city.” Although his narrative approach is generalized rather than focused on concrete case histories, the author portrays a rough arc of the transformation of New York City from the decay and constant crime of the early 1980s to the historic crime reductions followed by the greater horror of 9/11 (at which he was present). In explaining his post-retirement interest in storytelling, he writes, for “twenty years my family and friends really didn’t understand what I did for a living.” The son of a tough cop himself, Osborne seemingly never considered any other life. Tonally, he comes off as an avuncular, world-weary tough guy, embodying the “cops know best” attitude that many find alienating. Yet he elevates his perspective by displaying empathy for the civilians, victims and even criminals he has encountered, drawing complex lines between the “lost souls” and “evil motherfuckers” of the underworld. The book has a light, episodic structure, with most chapters built around a less-understood aspect of policing (the weird dynamics of midnight tours or elite anti-crime units) or a dramatic street scene (a near riot in Washington Square Park). Osborne is often humorous, although some readers may find him frank to the point of cynicism: “People like to think cops are racists and only lock up minorities….After being a cop for a few years, you learn to dislike people equally.”
Despite their anecdotal nature, these punchy policing tales seem provocatively true to life.