As early as 2012, any rookie officer recently graduated from the New York Police Department (NYPD) police academy would be assigned to the most challenged precincts in the city, placed in the most challenged neighborhoods, and expected to perform his or her duties with a minimum of assistance or support.
Things have changed.
As part of the Academy’s recent overhaul of training, and the NYPD’s new focus on “neighborhood policing,” which seeks to bridge the divide between police and the communities they patrol by emphasizing communication and de-escalation, recruits at the academy now go through a field training program that provides an early glimpse of their profession’s challenges.
The field training assigns recruits to a precinct during the fifth month of their six-month training. Guided by a veteran officer, each recruit is taken on patrol, taught to engage with the community, and learns the daily routine of policing.
Field training is intended to give them an early test of the responsibilities and duties that they would otherwise only learn about through classroom lectures or improvised scenario-based training.
The Crime Report, as part of its ongoing series on the academy’s new training initiative, was given the opportunity to speak with Daniel Bavuso on his field training experience just before he graduated from the Academy last month. In a conversation with TCR staffer Isidoro Rodriguez, he described how the public reacted to him, and what the new, less-confrontational style of policing taught by the NYPD academy feels like to a young officer at the start of his career.
The Crime Report: What were your first impressions of the field-training experience?
Daniel Bavuso: It was really cool. Everybody was really, really helpful. (At first) you walk into precincts and you feel like you belong everywhere but there. It’s weird.
TCR: What did the training involve?
DB: We worked with a different [officer] most every day, in different parts of the precinct. One day we worked in domestic violence; [on another] it was in crime analysis; and on another, it was with the detective squad. It was all different people just to see how everything works and flows behind the scenes. That’s only for the three weeks we’re out on field training. Once we graduate officially, then we’ll be assigned to a steady Field Training Officer.
TCR: How was patrol?
DB: We went out on patrol a bunch of times. My precinct was the 10th [in Lower Manhattan], so they’re talking about neighborhood policing. You’re supposed go out and meet people, and they really, really encourage you to do that. Go out and talk to people—and get their names. They want you to be friendly and not like you’re just there to work. Let’s go talk to the shop owner, talk to the kid going by.
TCR: In going around and interacting with people, having conversations, what type of reception did you receive?
DB: For example, we went to a job fair at a halfway house. The kids, from ages 16-21, obviously had a hard life. We talked to them essentially about their goals and how they can reach them with steps in the right direction. We sat down with these kids and it was one-on-one. I sat down with a girl who told me she wanted to be a nurse; another wanted to go to culinary school. There is a big divide between the people and the police department, but this is such a great way to bridge the gap.
At first it’s scary (for them)—people see you and your uniform, your badge, and a gun.. Once they see that you’re a person, with a face—-that you’re more than just the uniform, [things change]; it’s really positive.
TCR: How big was the area you had to patrol?
DB: It’s broken down into three sectors: Adam, Boy and Charlie. Some days you would be assigned a different sector. It’s a pretty decent size, but with neighborhood policing, that’s what you do. You aren’t responding to as many [calls]; you’re focusing on meeting the people. The sectors are this size so you’re not sitting on a street corner, you’re going to different areas. They don’t really want you to park on a street corner and sit there or just drive around, you’re supposed to get out and walk.
TCR: Because you are not a police officer, but training in the field, what happens if a situation occurs?
DB: We have the power of arrest, but [when I did the training) I still had a month to go in the academy. If I was to arrest somebody, they’d have to pull me out of the academy to go to court. So, if something happened we’d help out, but we don’t take responsibility for the arrest. There was a kid I was with, he put the cuffs on but it wasn’t his arrest.
TCR: What was it like to see an arrest from this new perspective?
DB: What I thought was the coolest thing, it’s the stuff you don’t know. Behind the scenes. This guy was arrested and he’s in the holding cell waiting to get transported to central booking. And he was sick. The officer went out and bought him a drink, a sandwich, and a bag of chips. While he was in the holding cell, the cop went out and bought him food. It was cool how they treated people the right way, and you’d never see that otherwise.
TCR: One of the aspects of the scenario training at the academy was the emphasis placed on bystanders and video recording. How true-to-life were the simulations with regards to how people reacted to your presence and to seeing an arrest?
DB: A ton. I worked in Manhattan and everywhere you go people are recording you. Even when we weren’t talking to someone, or making an arrest, even when we were just walking down the street, people would stop and take pictures and record us. Just walking down the street, not even interacting with anyone. But, it’s the NYPD. Sometimes they just like the department, sometimes they’re trying to get us doing something,
It’s not a big deal. That’s your right, you’re allowed to record, you’re allowed to stand and watch. Go for it.
TCR: What did you gain from the three weeks of field training?
DB: The academy itself is great. If you’re a lawyer, you could read the penal law for your whole life, but once you’re in the courtroom and you have to persuade a jury to get on your side, it’s gonna be hard. You have to be a people person. [It’s the same difference with cops.] You can’t just yell, “Sir! Stop doing what you’re doing! Put your hands behind your back!”
You have to talk to people, be human, and it’s real easy to get lost in that kind of attitude when you’re reading these penal laws and procedures. You want to be a person, you don’t want to be a robot, so doing field training and learning how to deal with every kind of situation is really beneficial.
Isidoro Rodriguez is a staff intern with The Crime Report and a graduate student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This is the third in his continuing series examining NYPD training. Readers’comments are welcome.