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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Suggested Reading: "Cop!" by L.H. Whittemore (1970)

    Cop!Cop! by L.H. Whittemore

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Take an exciting and dangerous trip back in time to 1968/1969 with author L.H. Whittemore as he tags along with policemen from three of the most crime-riddled and violent cities in the United States at the time: Patrolman Joseph Minelli in New York City, Detective Ernie Cox in Chicago, and Patrolmen Colin Barker and his partner Gary Cummings in San Francisco.

    It was a time of protest, social reorganization, population shift, rising urban crime rates, "White Flight," and "Black Power." It was a time that seemed like almost anything could...and would...and did...happen. And it was a dangerous time time to be a Cop in the big cities of America. Law enforcement had always been a dangerous career choice, but now the police in American cities were seen by a large segment of the younger generation not as a protective force but instead as an occupying force. They were seen as "The Pigs," enforcing the imposement of unjust laws enacted by "The Man" upon those who sought greater personal and social freedoms and liberties.

    Cop! is the story of four vry different policemen in three very different cities and how each officer was doing the best job that he could do at the time to keep the peace and uphold the law, often amid circumstances that bordered on insanity and/or near-anarchy. Come along as the officers go on patrol out on the crumbling city streets, sit on long stake-outs, investigate various criminal activies, make arrests, and try to keep the streets from exploding in violence...all while trying to make it home alive at the end of the day.

    Part one of the book, the first 109 pages, are given to police stories that can only come from the streets of New York City. A summer heat-wave, high youth unemployment and simmering racial tensions threaten to make the streets erupt with action and violence at any time, day or night. An in-home burglary and a shaken eldery victim. A domestic situation. Rowdy kids on the streets opening fire-hydrants to cool off, not realizing that the fire department needs the water pressure to douse the fires of the burning tenement buildings up the street. Small, unattended children aimlessly wandering the streets at all hours amid the junkies and pimps and whores who shot up, conducted business and settled scores on the same streets. Part one of this book educates you to the fact that there is not a dull moment in the life of a New York City cop.

    In part two, follow the twists and turns of a routine-turned-complex investigation of a late-night Chicago street fight in a seedy section of the city that led to one man's death. Or did it? Did the victim's boxing match under the El really lead to his death or were there other unknown circumstances? Sometimes it seems this story will just keep going on forever with a cast of interesting street characters who each have their own motivation to be less than completely truthful with the police investigating the crime. BUt through persistent investigative work, the story finally becomes clear and justic is eventually served.

    Then, come along in part three, as a pair of San Francisco cops navigate their way through the post-Summer of Love wreckage of Haight-Ashbury populating the streets in the summer of '68 or '69: hungry, poor, drugged-out runaways from all over America who came expecting to live out the hippie dream but had arrived too late and now clogged the streets of the Haight, peddling drugs and begging for spare change, making life a miserable and sometimes dangerous daily obsticle course for many of those who called the area home. To make things even more interesting, the young Patrolmen, Barker and Cummings, have several personal and idealogical differences; one being much more liberal in his politics than the other. This in turn would lead to many interesting and sometimes heated discussions between the partners concerning the application of law and race relations and how justice and policing seemed to be applied differently to people of color.

    Cop! is a real page-turner of a book that takes you back to a time when the future of city dwelling in America was in question as violence, unemployment, poverty and drug use spiraled out of control and as the winds of great social change whirled throughout this country, altering forever, among other things, the way policing of the populations of big cities in the United States was to change during the coming, troubled decade of the 1970's.

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Suggested Reading: "Cop!" by L.H. Whittemore (1970)

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