In the 1971 film Billy Jack, actor Tom Laughlin knocks around the bullies who prey on innocent victims.
In real life, it’s the cops who are supposed to protect you from harm — even though these days, we prefer that they use handcuffs rather than beat people to a pulp.
But after a crime is committed, isn’t it their job to make sure we don’t get victimized again? Well, after what happened to me recently, I’m not so sure.
On the morning of August 4, as I was walking to work from the Astor Place 6-train stop toward the Voice offices on Cooper Square, a man (description: black, between 5’5 and 5’8, with shoulder-length dreads, and wearing light-blue jeans and a blue windbreaker) punched me on the side of the head.
For a couple of a seconds, I wasn’t aware of what exactly had happened until I heard men yelling back at the man who had hit me. I turned around to look at him as the pain and shock started to kick in. I reached in my bag for my phone and made sure I stayed close to the coffee vendor who witnessed it. He said he sees that man in the area all the time. As I was making the call, I noticed that my assailant was just hanging around near an adjacent building.
The police arrived not too long after that, but the man had left by then. I told the police officers what had happened, as did the coffee vendor. They asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, and, because I wasn’t bleeding, I said no.
They offered to take me around the area to see if we could find the man, and I got to ride around in the back of a cop car. But they mentioned that even if they did find him, and even if he confessed to hitting me, there was nothing they could do about it. They couldn’t arrest him — and that just didn’t make any sense to me.
I didn’t understand why a man who is obviously disturbed and needs psychiatric help, who perhaps has done this before and can easily do it again, can freely roam the area.
The police told me to call if I saw the man again. Sure enough, that same day I spotted him sitting in the bench area near the Chase bank at the corner. I called the police, and when they finally arrived, I had to tell the entire story again.
The man even walked near us, as I pointed him out. “That’s him!” Not wanting to be near the guy, I walked away across the street. The officers never got out of their car.
At this point, the injury to my head really began to hurt, badly. I couldn’t really move my mouth because the pain was so bad, which lasted at least a week.
A couple of days later, I followed up at the Ninth Precinct. I wanted to get to the bottom of why nothing could be done, why I had to take the long way to work to avoid the creep who had slugged me (I saw him every day since that incident happened), and why, ultimately, this was harassment or not assault.
Upon entering the reception area, I began talking to the woman there, where a bunch of police officers were hanging around listening to me. One of them looked at my report and said what the others had said before them: It’s not assault. You weren’t bleeding. You didn’t go to the hospital.
Having read Graham Rayman’s stories about how the NYPD systematically downgrades crimes in an effort to manipulate statistics, I wondered if I was seeing that in action.
After my encounter with the police, I wondered if I’d have to do what other women in New York do, and carry some sort of protection like pepper spray. But I am not carrying a knife or knuckle rings like someone suggested. Also if anyone strikes you in any way, make sure you go to the hospital, even if you’re not bleeding. It seems like that’s the only way cops take you seriously.