Officer Man Yam was reading the news on the subway on Tuesday, perhaps like you. The article was about a confused runner who'd been missing since Sunday's marathon. Officer Yam looked up, and there was the runner.
"I was just doing what any person, man or woman, whether in my department or not, would do," Yam said about helping the distressed and dehydrated man.
One hopes that anyone would do what Yam did, but what's important is that the officer helped deliver this man to a group from Italy that was searching for him. Good Samaritan work like this is, indeed, the hallmark of good policing.
And now the NYPD is looking for the kind of cop who wants to be a Good Samaritan above all else. Early next year, the NYPD will unveil a new campaign to attract service-oriented and empathetic recruits, emphasizing "compassion, courage, and character," according to Deputy Commissioner of Training Michael Julian. Being a cop is not necessarily about carrying a gun or flying a helicopter. First, it's about serving the public, Julian said. We agree.
Most cop-civilian interactions are between officers and non-criminals. Tolerant cops are more accepted by the communities they work in, and therefore more effective.
Police work will always include danger. Prospective cops will always be bold, "guardian" types, as Commissioner Bill Bratton recently said in eulogizing slain Det. Randolph Holder.
But a police department devoted to service and interpersonal skills will be one that better serves communities across the city.
The new recruitment strategies were first discussed during the department's retraining program earlier this year, meant to emphasize smart policing and proper use of force in the wake of incidents that shook the trust of some communities. The new strategies -- combined with diversity outreach to find women, Asian- and African-Americans and others underrepresented in the department -- are good moves for the NYPD.
They're also good for New York.