I had worked the four-by-twelve tour the night before. Early afternoon on October 21, 1971, I awake in my apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, alone and hung-over. The four-to-midnight tour always extends till 4 a.m., the last four hours spent in Cal’s Bar on East Fifth Street, next door to the 9th Precinct (The Nine, as we say) where I’m assigned as a Patrolman. I punch on the TV for the news and there is my Police Academy classmate, my buddy, Eddie Droge. He’s in the witness stand testifying before the Knapp Commission, which has been investigating corruption in the New York City Police Department for the past year. I’m transfixed. Eddie still has that youthful appearance, he’s in his mid-20’s. The only addition to the baby-face is a pencil-thin mustache above his lip.
There were four other companies, their complements of recruits also assigned by their Boroughs of residence. We were all young, nobody older than 30 and most younger. I was probably typical, at age 26. Eddie Droge was atypical at age 20. In fact, while we entered the Academy together, he was not sworn in till he reached the minimum age of 21, three days after we’d all taken the oath. Many of us had served in the military before joining the Department. It was 1967, Vietnam in full swing. Becoming a cop pretty much guaranteed you a waiver from the Draft. Eddie had not been in the Service, had a wife and three children, and had come straight from a job with Bell Telephone.
The Police Academy curriculum and intensive drill in the use of the ‘Baton’ (the Nightstick) and the Use of Deadly Force (the Gun) was supposed to last six months. It didn’t. On June 15, after four weeks of training, we all went to field commands throughout the City, having been hastily “qualified” with the Service Revolver—the City anticipated a “hot summer” (riots), a thing it anticipated with regularity in those days.
These were my thoughts as I watched Eddie testifying before the Knapp Commission. I learned later that he had been caught red-handed taking a $300 bribe to deep-six the case of a drug dealer he’d arrested earlier that year on the streets of Crown Heights. Unbeknownst to Eddie that day, in the Men’s Room at the Brooklyn Criminal Courts on Schermerhorn Street, their conversation was being recorded. Knapp investigators had persuaded the dealer to wear a wire. Eddie was allowed to resign from the NYPD without criminal prosecution in return for his depiction of the systemic, from-the-bottom-up corruption within the ranks of the NYPD. By Eddie’s account, his partners in the 80th Precinct spent a lot of their time chasing down gamblers and dealers to shake them down for protection money (known as “putting them on the pad”).
Happy ending, though. Eddie became a teacher, got his PhD from Harvard, published his autobiography, “Patrolman: A Cop’s Story.” Lives in Massachusetts now.
Maybe I’ll give him a shout, talk about the Good Times.