Nicky LaRusso's* mother said her son was innocent. It didn't quite matter what the charge was – this tiny woman (who came from the same part of Naples as my mom) always had the same answer, "He's innocent."
"The police pick on him. He's a good boy," she would say.
She was an honest woman who couldn't bring herself to believe her little boy was, from the age of 10, a walking time bomb.
Mrs. LaRusso worked in a sweatshop a few blocks away from my house, where she sewed dolls' clothes for a lot less than the pitiful minimum wage of that time. Every few months she would pass in front of the house and stop to tell my mom and grandmother her latest spin on her son's problems with the law.
Nicky was my age and was in my class at PS 95 from kindergarten to the sixth grade.
He was as close to being a Neanderthal as anyone I've ever known.
In the sixth grade I remember our teacher, Mrs. Rossman, telling each student their scores from an IQ test. (It wasn't exactly an era of great sensitivity towards students' feelings.)
When she got to Nicky she said, "Nicholas, your IQ score is 87." I remember that Nicky broke into a big smile and proudly said, "That's the first time I ever got an 80 in any subject."
Eighty-seven IQ and all, Nicky was always an innocent in the eyes of his mother.
Nicky was "innocent" when he broke into a grocery store at the age of 12 and got caught red-handed by the police.
Nicky was "innocent" when he and some other punks looted a boat that was docked in Sheepshead Bay.
Nicky was "innocent" when he got involved with a gang that beat up drivers and hijacked their trucks.
Despite his IQ triumph, Nicky dropped out of school when he reached 16.
The next time I heard about him was on the pages of The Daily News. Nicky and two accomplices had been interrupted by two detectives while they were holding up a tobacco distributor in the Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn. Nicky pretended to surrender. Then he pulled out a gun and shot both detectives to death. I believe one of the detectives left three children under the age of 10.
Nicky's mother still came around and told anyone who would listen that her son was "innocent." The police were "picking" on him again.
With stop-and-frisk, these days I'm reading about the police "picking" on a lot of "innocent" people, just like Nicky.
I'm watching the finest police force in the country being decimated by disgusting politicians who are as dangerous as Nicky, and who unfortunately are not as innocent as Nicky's mother.
I'm saddened to see those people who suffer the most from punks armed with guns, our black and Latino citizens, listening to those in their community who want to put an end to stop-and-frisk.
Whether you realize it or not, dear reader, New York City is in trouble.
Just read the newspapers.
A 16-year-old African-American boy pulls a gun and an innocent little five-year-old African-American girl falls down dead with a bullet to her tiny head.
And with the drugs and the violence in our society comes a certain type of perpetrator, one who is not afraid to pull the trigger and kill or maim a police officer who is trying to stop him.
The criminals have their lawyers and their lawsuits and their soft juries and a bumbling justice system on their side.
The police have no one. No one except you and me.
And this is the time for us to stand up and be counted. The time to come to the aid of our police is not when we're attending a funeral of an officer who died in the line of duty. The time is now.
This is the time for people to come forward and express their respect and support for the men and women who make up some of the finest police departments in the country, whether it's in New York City or East Hampton.
This is the time for our civic groups and leading citizens and merchants to add their voices in support of our police.
This is the time for those people who obey the law to show that they are in the overwhelming majority and renounce the professional cop-haters who are attacking the force and the system.
This is the time for the good people to help defeat a pandering politician like Christine Quinn before she destroys the city. Ms. Quinn wants to put the New York City police force under her chubby thumb. If she succeeds in doing this, the city will undergo a period of lawlessness that will turn New York City into Chicago. They don't have stop-and-frisk in Chicago. They have murder and mayhem.
This is the time.
In this day and age, it may not be the politically correct thing to do.
But quite simply, it's the right thing to do.
*Nicky LaRusso is not his real name. He died in prison in the 1970s. I changed the name to protect his family, who are innocent and have suffered enough.
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