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Ride-along is an eye opener for BTR reporter

Last week I turned in my high-heeled shoes for a bulletproof vest. While it’s not exactly the expected turn of events for an average reporter – for me it was a window into reality.

On Thursday, July 10, 49th Precinct Officer Chris Traumer greeted me with a smile. While I had no idea what the evening held in store for me, I instantly knew it wouldn’t be glamorous.

After briefly posing for a photo near the famed, or depending on whom you ask, deeply dreaded cop-mobile, I climbed in and took the ride of my life on a ride-a-long with New York’s finest.

Chris was a true wealth of knowledge, a pillar of everything NYPD officers claim to be – intelligent, honest and deeply devoted to their job. After years serving as a patrol cop, arresting any and all of the city’s less-than-law-abiding citizens, he discovered his true passion – helping youth.

Now as a youth officer, Chris patrols the precinct, hoping that despite all odds, he can have a positive affect on the sadly increasing number of the borough’s misguided youngsters.

After creating a sense of harmony, false as it may have been, between two feuding neighbors, Chris’s true mission began when he pulled alongside an over 20-year-old man perched a top a corner mailbox. Smile in tow, he jumped down and approached the car, greeting each of us with a handshake.

Though he couldn’t remember his name, Chris said he’d never forget the boy’s face, an ex-gang member working to turn his life around. It’d been years since the pair made contact; however, it was obvious that choice encounter made the day a litter brighter for both men.

Our journey continued to one of the borough’s housing projects, a necessary stop, Chris said, to ensure the safety of the area youth. Laughter illuminated the basketball court as we approached a group of playful, yet highly competitive, aspiring athletes. Though their spirits soared that warm evening, a chill of disapproving nature generated from across the yard.

Chris pointed out how the distant group was quick to walk away as we walked closer, a telltale sign of trouble in the midst. Unbeknownst to me until that very moment, I was among Bloods – one of the most infamous gangs in the country’s history.

Traditionally recognized by their red clothes and beadwork, Chris said, as expected, they avoided authority, especially the kind with side arms.

To my surprise, the young teens, most of who are still in high school, didn’t all shy away from our gentle approach. Rather, with a small group of recent high school graduates, we shared our interests – pleasantly and maturely. They aren’t bad kids, I truly believe, unfortunately many of them were dealt an unlucky hand, a handicap in the game of life.

Nearing 11 p.m. we persisted on our path, greet ing one teen after another. Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, I learned their colors and symbols, one shocking marker stained wall at a time.

The  reality of it all didn’t come from seeing the countless written threats about their gang rivals, or even the fact that they’d harm innocent bystanders for a mere cell phone. Instead, my heart began to ache when I realized that though this country suffered through the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement, people continue to hate and harm their brothers based on the differences that make them unique and special.

While I understand that life will never be a chocolate sundae with a cherry on top, I only pray that through the continued and highly motivated efforts of the NYPD and people like Chris, that as decades and centuries come to pass, people will learn to understand that it is only through unity that they will succeed.

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