Sexual Frustration at the NYPD Police Academy

by

06/27/2021

Neighborhood: Co-op City

Most people see the “Police Academy” movies and laugh. I went through the real Police Academy, and felt nothing but pain.

In May, 1975, CETA, a long-defunct government jobs program, announced that it was hiring people who had some college education. 

It was the middle of a recession, and I remember standing on a long, long line that went around the block in my Bronx Co-Op City neighborhood. People from every phase of my life were there: elementary school, junior high, high school, college. Even Janet Rosen, tall, dark-haired and beautiful, whom I was “in love with” in the sixth grade, was there. I said hello to her, but she showed no more interest in me than she had back then.

Eventually, I reached the job counselor, a young Hispanic guy not much older than myself. For whatever reason, he referred me to a CETA-funded job at the NYPD as an Administrative Assistant, a civilian position in a police station that involved office work. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted for my long-term future, but it would be a good summer job before I went back to grad school in September to study journalism.

Before we started work, I and the other CETA workers who were assigned to the NYPD had to take a two-week orientation class at the Police Academy.  There were about 100 people there—we were mostly young, middle-class kids in our twenties, although there were exceptions. There was an older guy in his thirties from Bay Ridge, who kept talking loudly to an even older couple from Staten Island who had used to live in Brooklyn. “I’ll show you the real Brooklyn!”  he exclaimed before rattling off the names of a half-dozen Italian restaurants. This guy bragged about how much of a practicing Catholic he was and often made disparaging statements about Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, although he assured me, “You’re cool!” 

There was also a middle-aged black couple from suburban Queens, who when seeing an ad in the Daily News for the Drifters, who were playing a revival show, joked, “Why don’t we get them for our school prom!” But mainly the training course was us kids.

The first day of class, we had to submit to a medical exam and fill out some forms. For one question I wasn’t sure whether I should tell the truth. “Have you ever gone to a psychiatrist?” I had been sent to a psychiatrist as a child and had continued seeing him, although less frequently, through high school. If I had followed my better instincts, I would have just said “no.” But my mother had drummed it into me so many times that if I lied on an official questionnaire, “THEY’LL FIND OUT!!!” that I checked off “yes.” I wrote in that I had gone to him only as a child and added, “Don’t have any serious problems.” Still, the fact that I checked “yes” was to have negative repercussions.

Our instructor was a police captain, originally from Boston, who explained the types of tasks we would do in the police station or at the department’s administrative offices. He especially emphasized how not to step on the police officers’ toes. He was very intelligent, but punctuated whatever information he gave us with risqué jokes that I got tired of after awhile.

Most of the Police Administrative Assistants-to-be were young, college-educated kids, and there were lots of young women as well as guys. As a matter of fact, I hadn’t been around so many females since I had graduated SUNY Binghamton the previous year. 

In my 23 years, I had probably asked more than 100 women out. At least half of them either said “no” flat out or else ignored me entirely. Of the other half, many of them displayed some enthusiasm or interest at the beginning, but then suddenly became turned off to me for no reason that I could discern. 

I would have one or two dates, but then things would fizzle, maybe because I had a hard time trying to think of things to say. That left me with only two real relationships, one of which lasted six months and the other two months, and two semi-relationships that had lasted longer but were largely unsatisfactory.  

Maybe now would be my golden opportunity.

Well, it seemed like most of the guys who were in the Police Administrative Assistant training class had the same idea I had. My first targets were two recent college grads from Long Island. Both were Jewish, confident, well-dressed and well-spoken, and had fabulous figures. 

Every day, it seemed another pair of guys was trying to speak to them or trying to meet them from lunch. My chances seemed impossible, so I quickly crossed them off my list.

Next, I tried to woo Ellen Persky, a heavy-set, olive-skinned girl with long dark hair who lived near me in Co-op City. She wore long skirts and handmade jewelry and seemed mysterious. Ellen was older than me, maybe about 28. I talked to her a few times, but then when I asked her if we could get together, she said, “Well, I’m not sure if I’m ready to deal with people like you at this time.” I froze. People like me? Did she mean people who lived with their parents? Hell, she lived at home with her parents! Did she mean people who were nervous and anxious, as I secretly knew myself to be? Did she mean people who weren’t ultra-hippies like her and hadn’t hitchhiked across the country at 16 and bummed through Europe at 18? I stewed inside, but said nothing. A year later, I saw her at a Co-op City Express Bus stop. She told me she was moving to Puerto Rico. “What will you do there?” I asked. “Either I’ll find a job, or I’ll find a rich man to take care of me!”

Back at the Police Academy, I next approached an exotic, pale-skinned, blue-eyed blonde who was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia. I sat next to her in the cafeteria. “Can I talk to you?” I asked. Her answer was short and not sweet: “No!”

Well, by now the class was well into its second and final week. In desperation, I thought of what I had learned in the singles lecture that I had taken at the 92nd Street Y: That there’s nothing wrong with approaching a woman in a public place and trying to talk to her. I went out to a pizza place at lunch, and saw a girl in a business suit who was wearing glasses at a table. Summoning up all my courage, I timidly approached her and asked if I could sit there. She nodded. I nervously started talking about the CETA program, the Police Administrative Assistant position, and the training class. When I asked her a couple of questions, she answered in one-syllable answers and had a sour expression on her face. I got the message and excused myself.

The day before the training class ended, the loud talking guy from Bay Ridge came up to me. “You know, Fern really likes you! Why don’t you ask for her phone number?” he said. Like Ellen, Fern was older than me. She had messy, dandruffy hair, wore nondescript, worn-out sweaters, and had pimply skin. She talked in a small, hesitant voice, and when you asked her something, she was always apologetic. On top of it all, she didn’t appear to be very intelligent. She once asked me how to spell “Francis Lewis,” the name of the high school where she had spent three years. I was angry. Was this what the Bay Ridge loud mouth thought of me? That I couldn’t even hope to find a woman who might like me other than someone like Fern? I passed on his suggestion.

On the last day, our work assignments were handed out. Most of my classmates got “plum” assignments. A young guy from Texas, whom everyone called “the Texas cowboy,” got assigned to the mounted unit. Many people got positions at either One Police Plaza, the borough command offices, Midtown North, or Midtown South. One guy who had been a science major got assigned to the Police Lab. 

I, on the other hand, got assigned to the 25th Precinct in East Harlem, which at that time was one of the most high-crime precincts in the city. I was outraged and sure it was because I had checked off “yes” to the question about whether I had ever seen a psychiatrist. I could imagine the higher-ups talking: “Well, he’s unstable, so there’s always a chance that if we send him to a good assignment, he’ll screw it up and it’ll backfire on us. We’ll send him to the 25th. No one gives a damn what happens there anyway.”

I was sure that many of the police officers who worked at the 25tth were also “problems”—cops who had too many write-ups or had been on probation—thus increasing the chance that I would run into problems with them. My hunch would later turned out to be right, but that’s another story.

***

Raanan Geberer is a semi-retired community journalist who lives in Manhattan with his wife and cat. He grew up in the Bronx

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§ 3 Responses to “Sexual Frustration at the NYPD Police Academy”

  • Tsb says:

    Ellen Persky. For some reason this name amused me, as did the piece. But it’s a horror story, too. A Bronx horror story. Write the next installment about the 25th precinct, please.

  • SKTrynoskySr. says:

    Both you and I were lucky to come up when we did, Today, being rejected twice as often as even getting a dance at a mixer (which do not even exist anymore) would have sent us screaming to a Psychiatrist to find out what ism we had!

  • Thanks for the reminder that telling the Police ANYTHING, during any era, is on a strict “need to know” basis.

    But hey, this promises to be an epic tale, maybe even a TV series… “Barney Miller, In Reverse!” I’d binge it!

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