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"An Inconvenient Cop"| Reviewed by Bill Schwab

Edwin Raymond, a former high-ranking Black officer in the New York Metropolitan Police Department, details his relentless battle with the department’s insidious racism and illicit quota system in this gripping memoir.

Raymond describes his childhood in the East Flatbush area of Brooklyn. He and his brother were left to mostly take care of themselves after their mother died when Edwin was 2. He recalls how their father‘s struggle with chronic depression and unemployment made him, mostly, an absent parent. The children were watched over by a couple of Haitian immigrants.

Raymond recounts his teenage years when, as a Black minor, he felt targeted by “aggressive policing.” This led him to believe “the NYPD must hire a lot of bigots.” Despite this distrust of law enforcement, he was drawn to enter the field himself when he saw a Haitian immigrant in uniform. “Respect hovering over him... reframed for me what being a policeman could mean.”

So, at age 22, Raymond joined the New York Police Department hoping to become an “antidote to racially motivated policing.” But once on the inside, he was disillusioned by a policing philosophy that rewarded meeting arrest quotas and discouraged officers from interacting with the community. The author explains how the NYPD's training in the use of “broken window policing” and CompStat technologies enforced the primacy of arrest quotas and exacerbated racism in day-to-day interactions.

In 2016, Raymond became the chief plaintiff in a civil suit filed on behalf of minority officers in the NYPD. He explains to readers that he filed the suit because, despite a 2010 ban on the use of quota-based policing, the New York force continued the practice. Not only was this practice illegal but it was demoralizing to the minority officers in the department. Due to this whistle-blowing action, Raymond was isolated from contact with the Chief of Police and the White officers and was also passed over many times for advancements he qualified for based on his record.

That same year when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem at the start of NFL games in protest of police brutality and racial inequality in the US, Raymond spoke out defending the player’s right to protest. His coworkers further ostracized and snubbed him for supporting Kaepernick.

After 14 years of working on the inside of the law enforcement agency trying to correct systemic flaws, Raymond decided, with regret, to leave policing and work for reform from outside the institution.

Raymond's integrity and courage are inspiring. The memoir’s anecdotes reveal the tension in which the author worked and carried home with him. The police stories are both shocking and exciting to read. Raymond's exposé helps to explain the troubled state of policing in New York City as well as within many other law enforcement departments in the United States.

Raymond concludes his memoir by emphasizing that reform means more than eliminating an occasional violent police officer. He maintains, “When you toss out bad apples, you're not changing a damn thing.” Instead, he calls for citizens and politicians to demand systemic change, a methodical approach to policing that requires officers to interact in neighborhoods to develop trusting relationships. He envisions a time when a police officer’s main duty is not to achieving an arrest quota but to helping and protecting the people he/she serves.

“An Inconvenient Cop” is a well-researched account of this hot-button issue, a stirring story of perseverance and an edifying look at what it takes for a police force to reach its potential in today’s diverse society. It is an important addition to the canon of books and articles currently being written about policing in the U.S. and an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the complex realities of modern-day law enforcement.

About the Authors: Edwin Raymond is one of the nation's leading voices on criminal justice reform. He has received numerous awards including a Commanding Officers Award for Exceptional Duty, an NAACP Courage and Leadership Award, and an International Documentary Association’s Courage Under Fire Award.

John Sternfeld is a ghostwriter and coauthor whose work includes several New York Times bestsellers including “Unprepared America: in the Time of Coronavirus.”

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