In his new book, ‘NYPD – Behind the scenes with the men and women of the New York City Police Department’ Mark Condren captures human experience writes Eamon Honan
I rish involvement in the NYPD is about as old as the department itself and is celebrated in a new book from Mark Condren called NYPD. Condren’s earlier book, The Guards, a photo record of two months he spent with members up and down the country, brought him to the attention of Commissioner James O’Neill of the NYPD. O’Neill, a descendent of Irish immigrants, saw the garda book and said, “We have to have something like that for the NYPD.”
Mark Condren spent months in New York with a driver and a radio, rushing from call to call.
I asked him, having spent so much time with the gardaí, being the son of a member and being married to one, if there was much difference between the two organisations. He said, “…in a lot of ways, it’s part two of the garda book. It’s not like the movies, they are a police force just like our own.” He spoke about the community commitment of the gardaí and said, “The NYPD are very community policing focused – [there’s a] very strong feeling for the NYPD in New York. There isn’t much of a difference. There are more gun calls and they are a city’s police rather than a country’s police – but it was a lot like Pearse Street. The calls never ended. You’re just dealing with people.”
The book itself is a weighty hardback, printed in rich full colour. Condren possesses a good eye and his pictures are always well composed, but where he really shines is capturing the decisive moment of human experience – from the anxiety written in the faces of a class of new recruits to the determination of tactical officers about to execute a ‘no knock’ warrant. The professionalism and the camaraderie of the NYPD officers is much in evidence, but also the humour and fear that are the day to day experience of policing a city of eight million people.
I think my favourite image is of members of the NYPD who are part of the New Jersey Fugitive Task Force. The three men are relaxing in an Irish bar after having conducted a successful dawn raid on the home of a serious target. What struck me about it was how well the photographer had captured that intimate moment; three workmates tucking into a fried breakfast after a job well done. But also how the picture itself was a microcosm of the NYPD. Three very different officers in tactical gear, share a meal surrounded by prints of Ireland. The three officers were Sergeant Cornelius Joseph Douglas, born in NY, whose parents were from Croom, Limerick; Detective Robert Barclay, born Westchester, whose parents were from Doolin, Clare and Detective Louis Correa born in the Bronx, but whose parents were from Puerto Rico.
So, even in the 21st century, there are Irish cops working in New York City. In the background you can see a framed photo of a patrolman from the 1920s talking to a child. His uniform is a long patrol coat with shiny buttons. He carries no radio and unlike the men eating breakfast, wears no body amour. A hundred tumultuous years separate the patrol man from the Task Force members; the uniforms and the tools of the job have changed, they are all still police officers. The job may change, the people who do it have not.
Mark Condren has captured that reality with real skill and I would recommend his latest book, NYPD, to anyone with an interest in policing or New York City.
NYPD is available from markcondren.com and is priced at €34.99.
Garda Eamon Honan is attached to Mountjoy Garda Station
For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.