Years ago, as a small-town newspaper editor, I spent a night riding along with an officer on patrol. The shift began with a potential car dealership break-in and ended with an encounter with a drunk stumbling along the side of a lonely road. That night―as memorable as it was―pales in comparison to the drama that Steve Osborne shares with readers in The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop.
Now retired, Osborne spent 20 years as a NYPD street cop, and afterward began recounting his experiences on “The Moth” radio show to much acclaim. This collection of 14 essays is a nonstop ride-along with a guy who always wanted to be a police officer, and who was told upon entering the police academy, "Kid, you just bought yourself a front row seat to the greatest show on earth."
Indeed, that seems to be the case. Not only was Osborne an excellent policeman (he retired as a lieutenant and the commanding officer of the Manhattan Gang Squad), he's a fabulous storyteller, crafting his memories into well-honed tales filled with drama, humor and heart.
In “Think Fast,” he remembers being a rookie in his squad car in Washington Square Park and witnessing a man whip out a knife, ready to stab another man. With no time to shout a warning or fire a shot, in a split-second reaction, Osborne "hit on the gas pedal and nailed him with the car." With this seemingly bizarre act, not only did he save the victim's life, he prevented a crime that would have sent the aggressor to prison.
Bystanders, however, having no idea what had transpired, suddenly turned into an angry mob and began throwing bottles at Osborne's brand new squad car. In these days of widespread public scrutiny of police actions making regular headlines, it's useful to hear from an officer like Osborne, who reminds us that things aren't always what they first appear to be.
Osborne shares a variety of compelling tales of fumbles, fun, triumphs and tragedies. “Big Day” recalls the excitement he felt as he was about to close a major narcotics investigation, and the incredulity he felt as everyone's priorities abruptly changed that horrible day of September 11, 2001.
“End of Tour” describes Osborne's last night on the streets before retirement, which he hoped would be peaceful. Instead, two brothers refused to stop fighting and one punched him, sending him to the ER. "God never wanted me to be an astronaut, or a doctor, or a lawyer," Osborne writes. "He put me on this earth to be a cop. And from the first day to the last, I did my job."
Luckily for his readers, Osborne survived to tell his many wonderful tales.