By turns caustic, funny, and matter-of-fact, Burke describes what it was like for a young woman to be surrounded by often hostile male officers and the uphill battle she fought to prove herself and earn their respect. But earn it she did. From her beginnings as an undercover cop making drug buys on New York's most dangerous streets to posing as Mrs. Patz to capture extortionists in the Etan Patz case to investigating the Mafia, Burke worked in some of the NYPD's most elite units on its most high-profile cases, eventually rising to the rank of detective first grade, the very highest in the detective bureau.
Burke vividly portrays every aspect of a cop's experience, taking readers from the discos where she flirted with drug dealers to the halls of Congress, where she testified about drugs and corruption with a paper bag over her head (to protect her undercover persona), to a deserted street in Queens where a tragic shooting would forever change her career and her life. Burke is brutally honest in her criticism of NYPD leadership and corruption within the department, in her accounts of the physical and emotional toll taken by the job that she loved, and in her descriptions of the sacrifices -- sometimes even the greatest sacrifice of all -- that cops must make.
Detective is a revelatory and inspirational story of life lived without apology, of stubborn courage, and of a woman who triumphed over doubts, recrimination, and personal tragedy to truly become "one of New York's Finest."
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Kathy Burke, who received New York City's highest commendation for heroism, the Medal of Honor, retired from the NYPD in 1991. Today she is actively involved with the Police Self-Support Group, counseling cops who have suffered emotional or physical trauma on or off the job.
Neal Hirschfeld was a prize-winning reporter and editor for the Daily News. He has also written for O, The Oprah Magazine; Reader's Digest; The New York Times; and other publications.
Read an Excerpt
DetectiveThe Inspirational Story of the Trailblazing Woman Cop Who Wouldn't Quit
By Kathy Burke
ScribnerCopyright © 2006 Kathy Burke
All right reserved.
The day I nearly got my head blown off started like any other.
It was August of 1971. And I was worried that I wasn't generating enough drug buys.
Then, out of the blue, a case fell into my lap. It started when a field team from Bronx Narcotics requested a female undercover to make drug buys in the 41st Precinct, or the Four-One as we cops lovingly know it.
Now, most of the field-team cops I had worked with were stand-up guys. Tough, experienced veterans who would go to the ends of the earth to protect your butt. Disguising themselves as plumbers, electrical contractors, city sanitation workers, street sweepers, and, in one elaborate ruse, a watercolor landscape painter in Central Park -- complete with beret, easel, canvas, and folding chair -- they would blend into the background and keep an ever-watchful eye on you while you made your drug purchases...just in case.
But this team in the Four-One was new to me. I had never worked with them before. So I had no idea what to expect.
Just before I was due to join them, I got a strange call from a Bronx detective who was an old pal of mine. "These are not your kind of people, Kathy," my friend told me. "You could get hurt."
This detective felt so negatively about the Four-One field team that he threatened to "burn" me on the street -- that is,expose me to the drug dealers and the drug users as an undercover cop -- just to keep me from going out with the Four-One field team. He said he'd rather blow my cover than risk letting me get hurt.
But I didn't want to get a reputation as a prima donna or a shirker. That kinda stink could ruin your career, all the more so since I was the rare female in an overwhelmingly male police department. Plus, business had been slow and I was eager to line up as many drug collars as I could before Labor Day. So I tried to smooth-talk my detective friend out of it. "If things don't feel right," I assured him, "I'll shit-can the operation myself. I promise."
My friend was still uneasy about me hooking up with this new crew. But he finally agreed to back off on his threat to burn me. "Just take care of yourself, Kathy."
Lieutenant Ballner, my crotchety curmudgeon of a boss in the Undercover Unit, gave me similar advice. "Just be sure you feel okay about this new team," he told me. "I don't want you futzin' around up there" -- futzin' being the lieutenant's favorite expression for any sort of behavior that wasn't strictly by-the-book or on the up-and-up.
The day of the buy operation was positively oppressive, with temperatures soaring into the upper nineties. Ten minutes into the drive up to the South Bronx, my clothes were sopping with sweat. The air conditioner in my car went on the fritz. Adding to the misery, my brakes burned out en route. I had to stop along the way and have new fluid put in them. Good omens, these were not.
On my drive through the South Bronx, I got the full measure of the 41st Precinct, and it was not a pretty sight -- a 2.5-square-mile moonscape of run-down tenements and burned-out buildings, graffiti-spattered walls and garbage-strewn lots. Developers had tried to pump some new life into the area by erecting prefab housing, but just as quickly as these structures went up, the junkies and squatters would descend on them like hungry piranhas on raw flesh, cannibalizing the contents, sneaking in at night to steal the copper pipes and wiring and fixtures and sell them for quick drug money. Statistically speaking, this precinct had the distinction of being the most violent, the most murderous, and the most drug-infested in the whole city, if not the entire nation. Cops who worked the 41st Precinct likened the place to the Wild West. Taking a cue from their frontier forebears, the cops dubbed the 41st Precinct "Fort Apache" and took to wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with images of a beleaguered Alamo-style fortress flying a tattered flag and embedded with feather-tipped arrows.
No doubt about it, Fort Apache was a no-man's-land.
I met the three field-team guys on the street. And right off the bat, I got a hinky feeling about them. Drake, the guy with the curly blond hair and the flushed, Irish bartender's face, had a nasty attitude toward women. Pisko, who had close-cropped hair, pointy features, and skin so shiny it looked as if it had been spray-painted on his skull, was a scammer, always looking to cut corners and work whatever angle would put money in his pockets, whether it was catching a meal on the arm or saving a few pennies on the tag prices of his shirts and underwear. In his short chino pants, white socks, and penny loafers, he looked like a moldy leftover from the 1950s Public Morals Division. Kenner, who was dark-haired and didn't say much, was pretty ordinary-looking, but smelled god-awful. Most of my other field teams had complemented each other, in experience, in looks, and in personality. But somehow, these three were different. Too different. They seemed all wrong with each other, out of sync -- clashing like stripes and polka dots.
A year earlier, Mayor John Lindsay had established the Knapp Commission to begin a far-ranging inquiry into police corruption and official laxity in dealing with it. Eventually, the commission would uncover widespread graft and abuses among plainclothesmen like the ones I now found myself working with, and prosecutors would follow up with indictments, trials, and convictions.
But, at this point, still fairly early into the commission's inquiries, a lot of the rotten apples were still hanging up there in the trees, not yet shaken loose from the branches.
While the three cops in my backup team gave me the creeps, I didn't exactly fall in love with the informant, either.
His name was Billy, and he was a young white kid with long blond hair cut in the style of Prince Valiant. In a place like the 41st Precinct, which was 99.9 percent black and Hispanic, he stood out like horns on a duck. On the street, my undercover alter ego, Marie Martin -- that was the name I used when I made my drug buys -- was accustomed to hanging out with jive-talking, wisecracking blacks and Hispanics, not polite, clean-cut, white-bread types who looked like surfers from Malibu.
This kid was all wrong. A real three-dollar bill.
I pulled Pisko aside and told him I didn't like Billy, and I didn't think the operation would work. He begged me to go out with the team just this once. They were in a bind. They needed to make arrests. They were desperate to get on "the sheet" for the month.
Still feeling uneasy, I gave in.
Billy and I hit the street later that morning. First, he took me to meet a young Puerto Rican guy who was selling $2 bags of heroin. While I was making my buy -- six bags -- I looked over and saw Billy shaking like a leaf. At first, I wasn't sure if he was shaking because he was nervous or because he needed a fix himself. Either way, I didn't like it. I had already told him there would be no "copping" (buying of drugs by the informant) while we were working the operation. Whatever the reason for his shakes, my misgivings about this kid were only getting worse. He was supposed to be my informant, my connection, my link to the streets. But he didn't seem to know his ass from his elbow up here. He was a foul ball. Jittery. Clumsy. Dangerous.
When we hooked up again with the field team, I handed them the dope from our buy. We placed it in an evidence envelope, and I signed my name to the outside, in accord with established department procedures for vouchering undercover buys. From here, the drugs would go downtown to the police lab for testing.
I pulled Pisko aside again. "This kid's a lox," I told him.
"He's gonna get me burned, I just know it."
"Look, let's not pull the plug just yet. He's got a bundles connection set up for two o'clock."
Now bundles were sizable amounts of heroin, costing $55 apiece. For a field team to pull off a bundles bust was like hitting a grand-slam home run. A way to get noticed big-time by the higher-ups.
Pisko kept trying to reassure me. "We'll be right behind you, every step of the way," he promised.
I had about $110 with me, enough to purchase two bundles. I still didn't like the looks of Billy, but I sure as hell didn't want to be the one that screwed up the field team's chances to get on the sheet for a bundles bust. Once again, I let myself be talked into going along with the plan.
I drove with Billy to Hoe Avenue. Now, Hoe Avenue really does exist. It's an honest-to-goodness New York City street name, not some jive for a broad who turns tricks. As we got out of the car and started walking toward one of the buildings, I got a quick handle on the street. Lots of people were milling about, trying to find some relief from the suffocating summer heat. Women with babies. Kids playing hoops or stickball. Men sitting on stoops, swilling bottles of Colt .45 malt liquor and listening to their boom-box radios.
Steam was rising in vaporous puffs off the hot tar. The fire hydrants, opened for the kids, were gushing water into the gutters. The pungent aromas of Latin and Caribbean cooking wafted from the windows of the surrounding apartments. Crushed mango pits littered the curbside. Near one of the buildings, Billy introduced me to his connection, a skeevy black guy named Elton Green. I knew Elton from the streets, and he knew me as Marie. In my hand, I was holding $55. Enough for one bundle.
I was hoping to cop quick, then get the hell out of there. But just as we began to talk turkey, two powerful hands came up under my arms, snapped them upright, and locked my elbows in place so rigidly that my arms were permanently cemented into a raised position, like those of a surgeon who's just scrubbed up for an operation. Suddenly, I felt myself being yanked off the sidewalk and lifted straight up into the air. Then, I felt myself being carted toward a narrow opening between two of the tenement buildings. I tried to struggle free by swinging my feet from one side to the other, but it was no use. My arms were pinned to my sides and I had no footing, no leverage whatsoever. I struggled and struggled, but I couldn't get a grip on anything. In the next instant, I realized that I was being carried away from the street, away from all those people, and down into a darkened alley.
"Oh, shit!" I thought to myself. This was it. The moment I had always been warned about by my first mentor in the Undercover Unit, a detective named Dennis Roberts. I was about to get robbed...and maybe worse.
And then I remembered the rest of Dennis's words. "Just remember, kid, you're always alone out there. And you could very easily die."
Another of Dennis's phrases began to swirl around inside my head...HE CAN HURT ME NOW.
I kept saying it to myself, over and over and over...HE CAN HURT ME NOW.... HE CAN HURT ME NOW.... HE CAN HURT ME NOW....
I kept saying it not only because I was worried about my survival. It was a mnemonic device that Dennis had made me memorize as a way to picture the bad guys so you could identify them later...
HE -- Height/Eyes.
CAN -- Complexion/Age/Nose. Long, pug, broken, flat, wide?
HURT -- Hair/Unarmed or Armed/Right or Left-handed/Tattoos, Scars, Marks.
ME -- Mouth/Eyeglasses.
NOW -- Nationality/Outfit/Weight.
...HE CAN HURT ME NOW.
In the alley, I felt myself being lifted even higher, then hurled through the air like some rag doll. I went head over heels, crashing into some garbage cans. The man who had heaved me, the same man who had sneaked up behind me on the street, turned out to be a 285-pound drug dealer named Stanley Brown. And now, as I lay stunned and sprawled among the piss-splattered garbage cans, the rotting fish heads, the used condoms, and the greasy chicken bones, I realized that he was holding a .22-caliber handgun just under my chin.
"Give it," he said.
I handed over the $55.
"Where's the rest?" he demanded.
"That's all I've got," I said.
His eyes narrowed. "Don't fuck with me, bitch. Gimme the rest."
"I swear to God, that's all I've got."
With that, he smacked me sharply across the face. My head snapped to the side and spittle came flying out. I could feel the warm blood beginning to trickle from my lip. With his free hand, Brown reached across my chest and ripped my shirt open, right down the middle, popping all my buttons. Then he plunged his hand down, inside my bra, looking for the rest of my cash.
But there was none.
Which thoroughly enraged Brown. He shoved his gun into my cheek, and I was certain he was about to pull the trigger. With my right arm, I quickly reached behind me, into my waistband, and pulled out my concealed .25-caliber automatic. Raising the gun toward Brown, I took aim.
But just as I was about to fire, four more hands began to paw at me from behind. One set of hands grabbed for my gun and yanked my right arm back over my shoulder, twisting my wrist into an awkward and painful position and nearly snapping my fingers off. The other set pummeled me in the back and the head, then locked onto my other arm.
I felt something sharp plunge through my flesh. The pointed tip of a knife blade. Sinking into the top of my left shoulder. Then the blood, oozing...
Elton Green had stabbed me with the knife. A third guy, Ray Vender, had grabbed my gun, twisted my arm and wrist backward, and prevented me from shooting Brown.
Shit! Now I was really in trouble! They had my gun!
And Stanley Brown, the enraged 285-pound giant, was even angrier than before because I had attempted to use my gun on him. Quaking with fury, he placed the barrel of his own gun against my left temple.
"I'm gonna kill you, you motherfucker. Now gimme the damned money!"
I thought to myself, "Oh, God, don't let me die here, in all this dog shit and cat piss and stinking garbage. Please, God. Nobody will ever find my body."
I closed my eyes.
Brown squeezed the trigger.
He squeezed it again.
His gun had malfunctioned.
Livid, Brown grabbed my .25-caliber automatic from Vender and placed it to my head.
Then he tried to shoot me with my own gun.
Brown didn't know how to operate the automatic. He'd neglected to release the safety catch.
As I tried to regain control of my rampaging heart, the three men kicked me in my legs, knocking me to the pavement. One of them kicked me in the ribs. Another used a knife to slash open the pockets on my blue jeans, from which the rest of my cash tumbled out. At that point, I heard one of the others -- Vender, I think it was -- shout, "Hey, man, we got the money. Fuck this bitch! Let's go, man!"
The other two started for the street. But Brown hesitated. He still looked as if he wanted to beat the shit out of me. Suddenly, he bent over me and yanked me up off the ground by my collar. Weighing ninety-five pounds soaking wet, I was little more than a throw pillow in his huge hands. Then, using those huge hands, he drew my face close to his. So close that I could see the gold fillings in his teeth. So close that I could smell the cheap wine and garlic on his breath. So close that I could see the beads of sweat trickling down his upper lip. So close that we were practically kissing. For a moment, he just stared into my eyes, saying nothing. Just staring.
He tilted his head sideways. Smiled. Hawked up a mouthful of phlegm. And spat it right in my face.
"Bitch!" he hissed.
With that, he hurled me back into the trash cans, headfirst. Then he loped down the alley, rejoining his two compadres. All three of them ran toward the street.
For a few moments, I lay on the ground, too stunned to do anything other than try to figure out if I could still breathe. Finally, I wobbled to my feet and tried to dust myself off. My head was sore and bruised, my ankle was swollen, my shoulder was bleeding from the knife wound, and the fingers and elbow on my twisted arm throbbed with pain.
But all I could think of was that these shitweasels had gotten my gun.
If the department got wind of it, I'd be up to my eyeballs in trouble. If I did not get that gun back, I would have to report the loss of it to Lieutenant Ballner, who would probably have a cow. I would be suspended. I was up for a promotion at the end of the year, but with the loss of my gun, that promotion would go right down the crapper. As would the rest of my career. Worst of all, my gun could be used to kill someone. An innocent civilian. A child. Maybe even another cop. Dennis Roberts's cautionary words echoed again and again in my brain: "No matter what happens to you out there, no matter how bad things get, there is one thing you must never, ever let happen. And that is to lose your gun."
I ran toward the street like a woman whose hair was on fire.
The moment I got there, Billy, the informant, stepped into my path and grabbed me around the waist, trying to restrain me. I stepped down hard on Billy's instep with one foot -- hell, I would have broken it, if I could -- and punched him hard in the stomach. Then I snarled at him, "Get the hell outta my way, you useless piece of shit! You almost got me killed!"
As soon as Billy went down, I raced to my car, jumped in the driver's seat, slammed the gearshift into reverse, and put the pedal to the metal. Around the corner, on Westchester Avenue, I was expecting to find my field team staked out, protecting my back and ready to spring into action if need be. If anyone would know what to do, it would be these guys -- they'd bail me out.
But when I turned the corner, there was no sign of them. I looked one way, then the other. Nothing. They were gone. In the wind -- those fucking bastards.
"Sonofabitch!" I could hear myself mutter. "Where the hell are they?"
I peeled out and began to look for the robbers. Suddenly, I spotted a black uniformed cop on foot patrol. I pulled my car over, identified myself as a cop, and told him I needed help. He jumped in beside me.
As we cruised the neighborhood, I told him the whole ugly story. I was supposed to check in with the Narcotics Division every two hours to let them know I was okay. Since I had checked in just a little while earlier, I knew I had exactly one hour -- one hour -- to find my missing gun.
I also knew I needed to get more help, and fast. Stopping in front of a bodega, I ran inside and phoned Detective Ray Sanchez, a former undercover cop who was now working Bronx Robbery. I knew Ray and trusted him. When I told him about my missing gun, he realized the seriousness of my plight. He immediately arranged a rendezvous with me. Then Ray and his partner hit the street running.
Back outside the bodega, the black uniformed cop stood waiting. He was a great big bear of a man -- nearing sixty, I would have guessed -- trying to just do his time on the job, not make any waves, put in his retirement papers, and get out without any hassles.
"We got some talking to do, Officer," he told me.
"Whaddya mean?" I said.
"Where's your backup?"
"I don't have a fucking clue."
"Alright, then. You got a decision to make. And you better make it now, Officer. You gotta call in soon. What are you gonna tell 'em when they ask you what happened? And you know damned well that's the first thing they're gonna want to know."
"What are you getting at?" I asked.
He eyed me up and down, chagrined to see how ridiculously young I looked, not to mention small, slight, fragile, and helpless. "You don't have much time on the job, do you?"
"Yeah, that's what I figured. So let me explain the facts of life to you about the Police Department, little lady. You go back there and you tell them your partners weren't around when you got ripped off, the bosses'll cut their balls off, pure and simple. They'll probably get thrown off the job because they left you hangin'. But for the next seventeen years, nobody will remember that your partners didn't do their job and that you almost died. What they will remember is that some female cop gave them up. That some broad dropped a dime on them. Ratted them out. So you better make a decision real fast about what you're gonna say when the bosses pop the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question."
This cop had been around. He knew the ropes; I didn't. I thought carefully about what he was telling me.
For the next twenty minutes, we rode around together in my car, looking for the three animals who had ripped me off. We didn't find them, but eventually we came across my missing field team. Cruising around merrily like Keystone Kops on a scavenger hunt, as if they didn't have a care in the world. When I told them what had happened to me, they offered no explanation about where they had been. Nor did they offer an apology. They simply asked for a description of my attackers and feebly promised to join the manhunt. I didn't feel particularly optimistic, especially since Drake was badly slurring his words.
Time was running out. In another few minutes, I would have to make my telltale phone call to the Narcotics Division and fess up about the theft of my gun. And watch my budding police career go straight down the toilet.
With the black uniformed cop still at my side, I drove my car to the intersection where I had arranged to rendezvous with my friend Detective Ray Sanchez and his partner. Once I got there, I parked, turned off the ignition, and tried to sort things out in my mind.
Suddenly, Detective Sanchez and his partner pulled up in their car. Behind them was the car with the three field-team cops, Pisko, Drake, and Kenner. They got out of their car and swaggered toward me, as if they had not a care in the world. But my gaze was quickly drawn back to Ray Sanchez and his partner. I don't know how they had managed to do it, but somehow Ray and his partner had tracked down giant Stanley Brown and arrested him. They had him handcuffed in the back of their car.
Unfortunately, Pisko, Drake, and Kenner had gotten to Brown, too. They had administered what some cops call a tune-up, while others refer to it as a tattoo job, behavior modification, a number, or an attitude adjustment. In short, they had beaten the living shit out of him.
"You want a shot at him, too, Kathy?" Drake belched as I stepped from my car. I had to turn my face away from him. He smelled as if he had spent the rest of his afternoon in some gin mill, sampling the wares.
"No," I said. "Leave him alone already, willya? I just want my gun back."
Drake grunted. He and Pisko shuffled back to their own vehicle.
Meanwhile, Detective Sanchez got into the back of his car along with his partner. Together, the two of them spoke quietly with Stanley Brown for several minutes, explaining to him that he had just unwittingly ripped off an undercover cop, an extremely foolhardy act that would bring him a world of misery -- and worse, if he chose not to cooperate. A moment later, Ray stepped back out again.
"Wait for us here, Kathy," Ray told me. "Don't budge."
Detective Sanchez and his partner drove off with Brown still in the back of their car. Within a matter of minutes, they were back again. This time, Detective Sanchez got out of his car and walked back over to me.
"Open your hand," he told me. I did.
With that, he handed me back my missing gun. It had been in Brown's mailbox.
Later, when I called my office and told Lieutenant Ballner what had happened, the first words out of his mouth were "You okay?" followed by "I'm comin' up there."
Ballner put me on the phone with Chief Patton, the commanding officer of the Narcotics Division. And then came the question I had been bracing for. And dreading. "Where the hell was your backup team, Officer?"
I thought a moment, remembering the black uniformed cop's advice to me, and what my answer could mean to my career. It was sound advice, I knew, and intended to protect me. So when I answered the chief, I lied, "We got separated briefly, but subsequent to the rip-off they assisted in the apprehension."
"I see," said the chief.
Apparently, my response was sufficiently ambiguous to allay any suspicion about the less-than-stellar field team of Drake, Pisko, and Kenner. I had covered for them, gotten them off the hook. And, in so doing, I had made my first politically savvy decision about how to get along in the Police Department. But I sure as hell didn't feel good about it.
Not only had the field team escaped getting nailed for disappearing in the middle of a buy operation and nearly getting me killed. These three cheeseballs would actually end up getting the credit for the arrest of Stanley Brown.
And, on top of everything else, they would get a commendation for heroism.
That night, after my wounds were treated at the hospital and I went back home to Queens, I slept fitfully, tossing and turning and reliving the whole nightmarish event in my dreams. It was nothing short of a miracle that both guns had failed to fire and I had come through it alive.
Early the next morning, I was awakened by my mom, who said that Chief Patton was on the phone.
"Yeah, Chief," I said, after my mom handed me the receiver.
"We need you to be down at the Undercover Unit by ten a.m.," Chief Patton said.
"We'll explain it when you get here." Then, somewhat mysteriously, he added, "Wear a nice dress, Kathy. And bring a wig and dark glasses."
"Sure thing, Chief," I said, wondering why the need for all these elaborate stage props.
Trying to get dressed that morning was agony. Because I had been wearing a brand-new shirt with superstiff fabric, the knife wound to my shoulder had done minimal damage. But my head and neck hurt like a son of a bitch. My ribs ached. My ankle looked like a swollen grapefruit. My elbow throbbed. The fingers on one hand were sore as hell. And so many black-and-blue marks had cropped up on my thighs, legs, and arms that I looked like a dalmatian.
At the Undercover Unit, Chief Patton, a tall man with a Torquemada-like reputation for crucifying cops for the slightest malfeasance, was waiting for me. He asked me to step into his private office. Once I did, he closed the door so that the two of us were alone.
"Let me see your wound," he demanded.
"Unzip the back of my dress," I said. Once he did, he was able to see the bandage that covered my sliced-up shoulder, along with the ugly mosaic of black-and-blue bruises.
Just as he began to zip my dress back up again, the door opened. Unaware that the two of us were inside, one of the other undercover guys popped his head in.
"Whoops!" he said upon catching sight of my half-opened dress and the startled chief with my unlatched zipper in his hand. "Sorry to interrupt." He did a quick U-turn and closed the door again.
For a second, the chief and I just looked at each other. Then we both burst into laughter. "Caught in the act," the chief joked.
Shortly after, we drove several blocks across lower Manhattan to Police Headquarters. Inside the commissioner's office, I walked past all the big oak desks and the heavy wood moldings into a high-ceilinged conference room. Inside the room were Chief of Detectives Al Seedman, Chief Inspector Mike Codd, Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Robert Daley, and a bunch of other department muckety-mucks.
Also in the room were Pisko, Drake, and Kenner, my less-than-illustrious backup team. The Three Stooges of the Four-One, grinning like chimpanzees.
Then, another door opened, and a dapper, white-haired gentleman entered the room. He walked over to me and shook my hand. "Good work, Kathy," said Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy. Fair, balding, and round-faced, the commissioner was known around headquarters as Mr. Perdue because of the uncanny resemblance he bore to Frank Perdue, the chicken magnate.
Deputy Commissioner Daley told me to put on my sunglasses and my brown wig. Then I was handed a gauzy, pale blue veil, which I draped mummylike around my face and right over the top of my sunglasses. With all my props in place, I looked like Claude Rains in The Invisible Man.
We all took seats along the side of the conference table. The reporters and photographers were ushered inside. Commissioner Murphy explained to the press that I was wearing this disguise because I was an undercover cop and he did not want to expose my face to the public.
He went on to describe the drug-buy operation that had taken me to that grim, trash-filled alley in the South Bronx. I sketched in the details of how I was assaulted, robbed, and nearly killed by the three drug dealers. My backup team was introduced to the press. "Heroes," one and all. Not a word was uttered about their shameful and highly suspect disappearing act. Nor about my stolen gun.
One of the reporters asked me how I felt when Stanley Brown placed the two guns to my head and pulled the triggers.
"Terrified," I answered.
Someone else wondered how I felt about being a policewoman.
"Greatest job in the world," I replied.
Mayor Lindsay had appointed Commissioner Murphy nearly a year earlier, in October of 1970, and given him a broad mandate to clean up the Police Department. With tales of police graft and corruption flowing out of the Knapp Commission and into the city's newspapers almost daily and the stench of negative publicity spreading throughout the entire department, the commissioner had been searching hungrily, desperately, for something that would cast the department in a positive light. The heroic actions of a female undercover cop who had survived a near-fatal assault by three hardened drug dealers provided the perfect opportunity.
The commissioner said he had an announcement to make. With that, he pulled out a gold shield and pinned it to my dress.
"Congratulations, Detective," the commissioner said.
Later that day, back in the offices of the Undercover Unit, Lieutenant Ballner brought me back down to earth.
In typically gruff, brusque Ballnerese, he grunted, "Awright, so now you're a detective. Big deal. Now get back to work. And don't be futzin' around."
Copyright 2006 by Kathy Burke and Neal Hirschfeld
Excerpted from Detective by Kathy Burke Copyright © 2006 by Kathy Burke. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.