Throwback Thursday - Behind the Scenes (NYPD ESU)

Readers of my books know that I reference a lot of different places and agencies. So today I am continuing the theme of Throwback Thursday, the 2nd in the on-going series, by introducing you to what I consider the preeminent unit within the NYPD; the Emergency Service Unit. In my second book, Queen’s Gambit, ESU plays a pivotal role in the hunt for terrorists threatening NYC.

The saying goes in New York City: ‘When a civilian needs help they call 911, but when a cop needs help they call ESU.’

 In 1964, the Philadelphia Police Department established what became known as the first official Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team in the United States. Three years later, the Los Angeles Police Department launched their SWAT team. These were the first units dedicated to specifically addressing escalating violence in urban areas. Without taking anything away from these two premier agencies, in my opinion they were about four decades late to the party.

In 2015, after five years of research, I wrote: Uncommon Valor, a history of the insignia of ESU. It was my goal to record not only the insignia of this acclaimed unit, but also the rich history. I was deeply honored when Police Commissioner William Bratton called me to say that he was having this book included at the NYPD Police Academy library.

The origins of the modern ESU date back to 1925, when NYPD Police Commissioner Richard Enright, created the Police Emergency Automobile Squad. This unit arose out of the need to address changes in the growing urban landscape in New York City.  A steadily growing population, coupled with increases in urban construction and a diversifying system of transportation, began to present new issues that the regular patrol officers simply could not begin to handle effectively. Officers were now being forced to contend with a myriad of issues, such as gas leaks, pedestrians being run over by vehicles or falling from elevated train lines, and horses that would fall into open construction sites. It soon became obvious that there was a need to have a specialized unit, which would be available to respond to the new type of emergency situations that New York City was beginning to face. 

On November 3rd, 1926, the officers of Emergency Service engaged in their first major gun battle when NYC mobster, Herman ‘Hyman’ Amberg, who was in jail for the murder of a local jeweler, attempted to escape from the old ‘Tombs’ jail on Centre Street, along with two other prisoners. Pistols had been previously smuggled into the jail for the three men. They faked illnesses so that they would be brought to the jail doctor. Once inside the doctor's office, they pulled their guns and attempted to escape. Newly assigned Warden, Peter Mallon, heard the commotion and came running to stop the escape. He was shot and killed as he entered the office. The three inmates then fled into the prison courtyard, near the Lafayette Street gate, where they exchanged shots with Keeper (the former title for Corrections Officer) Jeremiah Murphy and his partner, Daniel O’Connor. Keeper Murphy was killed and his partner was wounded.

Emergency Service responded and engaged the inmates from nearby buildings, raking the jail from all sides with heavy machine gun fire and gas bombs.  The gun battle at the Tombs went on for thirty minutes, with hundreds of rounds being fired. Amberg and the other two inmates hunkered down behind a pile of coal in the yard, before making their way to the safety of a guardhouse. They occasionally returned fire, wounding a police officer and a businessman in the Conklin Building across the street. At some point, two of the inmates were shot and wounded. With no escape possible, all three committed suicide. 

Over the decades, the role of the Emergency Service Unit has continually evolved. While they still respond to all major disasters, they have become the tip of the spear in the response to terrorism. On September 11th, 2001, of the twenty-three members of the NYPD killed on that day, fourteen were members of ESU. Sadly, in the years since, a number of members have succumbed to 9/11 related illnesses from the toxins they ingested during the rescue & recovery efforts.

In addition to its traditional role, ESU also provides Counter Assault (CAT) / Counter Sniper (CS) Team’s for major events and dignitary protection details. Like the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, ESU works hand in hand with their counterparts in the United States Secret Service and is part of the protection details for presidential motorcades and venues.

The motto of the NYPD ESU has always been: ‘Anytime, Anywhere, Any Place’.

If you have ever watched a newscast, concerning any major event in NYC, it is almost certain that you will see the familiar vehicles of the ESU. Contained within these trucks is a variety of equipment to handle any type of incident. When confronted with a situation they have never encountered before, they will find a way to perform the impossible.

The men & women of ESU are the epitome of the title: NY’s Finest.

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Photo courtesy of Tom O’Connor (NYPD ESU - Retired)

Photo courtesy of Tom O’Connor (NYPD ESU - Retired)

April 19th, 2019

As I sit here writing this, I cannot help but reflect on the significance of this day.

In Christianity, today marks Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay for our collective sins. In doing the research for my book, Where Was God?, I delved deeper into this horrific event. It is truly a very humbling experience when you realize just how much pain and suffering was endured for us. As much as I thought I knew the story, I came away with not only a deeper appreciation of what Christ did for us, but also a deeper understanding of the history behind it.  I think this is something that most people do not truly understand. Sometimes I feel that we treat Him as a mystical figure, instead of a historical one.

Sadly, most do not understand that there is history to the story of Christ. Among New Testament scholars, there is little doubt that Jesus Christ lived. While the most detailed story of Jesus’ life is contained in the four Gospels, they are not our only source. First-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus referenced Jesus twice in his twenty volume history of the Jewish people. Additionally, Tacitus, the first-century Roman senator and historian, referred to Him in his history of Rome.  There are other anecdotal references to Jesus from a wide variety of non-biased sources. Even beyond Christianity, members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths also acknowledge the existence of Jesus.

If you are interested in learning more, I would highly recommend taking a look at, Where Was God?

Today also marks two very significant events in American History.

On April 19th, 1775, British troops, who had been sent to seize colonial weapons, fired the first shots of the American Revolutionary War, when they confronted about eighty militia members at Lexington, Massachusetts.  Eight militiamen were killed in the initial confrontation at Lexington, but upon arriving in Concord the English were met with a much larger force of around four hundred. These two battles would set the stage for the war that would ultimately secure American independence.

On April 19th, 1995, America was shaken to its core by the terror attack at the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This attack left nearly seven hundred injured and one hundred and sixty-eight dead, including four members of the United States Secret Service. At the time I was a member of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division and was sitting inside a USSS Suburban, on a protection detail, when the call came over the radio about the attack. There are no words to describe the feelings you get, as you are processing the fact that your country is under attack, and wondering if you are next. It was an unfortunate experience I would face again on September 11th.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." – George Santayana (Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense)

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Bragging Rights

The other day I received an email from fellow author, John B. Jamison, (That’s his book: Disruption on the middle shelf) who snapped this photo over at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Springfield, Illinois. So I thought I would share it with all of you.

There is a tremendous amount of pride I feel when I see my books on a shelf. It brings me back to my younger days, when I would regularly visit local book shops in and around Richmond Hill, N.Y. to find the latest novels that would whisk me away to new worlds. Now I get to stand back and appreciate the fact that I am the story teller and my books are the literary vehicles that someone else will use to visit new worlds. It’s an awesome feeling, but very humbling at the same time.

My word of advice: Chase your passions – Create your legacy !!

If you happen to be in the Springfield, Illinois area, you can always stop by and pick up a copy. I took the liberty to sign a few bookies during my last visit.

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Challenges for Writers: Social Media

Social Media – It seems as if we are glued to it; both night and day.

Many authors, both legacy published and indie, immediately take to the social media scene and use it as a platform that consists of posts which amount to nothing more than: Buy Me, Buy Me, Buy Me.

Seriously - I’ve been on Twitter and Facebook now for well over a half dozen years and it has all blurred into the same thing. Now, I will be the first one to admit that I have previously used these platforms in the same way. Hey, we all make mistakes, but I can tell you, based on my experiences, these are really bad vehicles for promoting your book.

The problem is you are trying to read the tea-leaves and hype your book to a completely random audience. For example, even if you have an amazingly diverse number of followers, the reader who might be interested in your book has to be at their computer at the very same moment you post. What do you think those odds are?  There are over two hundred million Facebook users and nearly seventy million Twitter users in the United States alone. Something tells me you’re going to experience some type of scheduling conflict as you try to connect.

And it’s not just a matter of connecting; you also have to find them when they are in the mood and we all know how hard that can be……

The truth is, more likely than not, they are there looking for cute animal pics, inspirational quotes or to find out what they need to be offended by today. In fact, looking at sales trends on my books, I can’t recall any instance where anything appeared to be social media driven. Even when offering free or discounted deals, I didn’t observe any major uptick that coincided with social media posting.

That being said, do I think you should forego social media as a whole? No, not at all, you should make it part of your platform, but make it a well-rounded part. Don’t just use it for YOUR books, throw in the occasional cute animal photo and remember to promote your fellow authors as well. No one really likes that person who only pats themselves on the back and this is a bigger problem than you might think. If you have 5k posts on Twitter and 4.9k consist of ‘buy my book,’ you are going to want to re-think things. That strategy might work, if your James Patterson, but the average indie author is probably going to turn-off a lot more potential readers than they entice.

My social media platform consists of my website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. I also made sure to utilize the author pages available to me at Amazon, GoodReads and BookBub

Both Amazon and GoodReads are especially useful if you have a website / blog because you can also link those pages to show your most recent posts. Another nice feature of Twitter is that you can also ‘pin’ a post to the top of your page. I have a link to my books and this allows those who want to tweet me the opportunity to share it, without having to search through a ton of unrelated posts. I use this method when re-tweeting my fellow authors and let me tell you it is a blessing. If I have to scroll through dozens of tweets without finding one of your books, I simply give up. If you don’t care, I don’t care.

While I am on the topic of Twitter, let me provide some advice here. If you are an author, please, please, please: Reconsider whether you want to tweet that inflammatory political comment. Too often, many do not exercise caution or even good judgment when it comes to this topic. Mind you, I am not talking about re-tweeting things that are intellectually critical about a politician or a potential issue, but the ones that are downright mean-spirited. The reason for this is that there is a very strong possibility you will most likely alienate a potential reader.

I screen every new follower, to see what they post, when I am thinking about following them back. Often I see completely discredited commentary or inflammatory rhetoric. Not only am I not going to follow you, but I am certainly not going to buy your books. That’s not to say that I demand everyone to be like me, or to refrain completely from discussing issues, but I draw the line when it comes to crudely bashing someone simply because you disagree with them.  We need to return the word civil back to civil discourse. The literary world is tough enough that you don’t need to chase away any potential readers. 

Up next: Publicity - Fake it, Till You Make it.

This isn’t intended to be a complete list, but some suggestions as to what has and hasn’t worked for me.

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Interview: INFOWIND News - 9/11 VCF & Congressional Malfeasance

Had the chance to sit down with Joe Charter over at INFOWIND News to discuss the problems the heroes and victims of the September 11th terror attacks are facing.

Sadly, Congress has failed to provide adequate funding for the Victims Compensation Fund, so the compensation so many were depending on has been slashed by 50% for old claims and 70% for new claims. Many are unable to work, due to severe illness from the toxins ingested at Ground Zero, and are in jeopardy of losing their homes.

The Government lied to us when they said the air was safe, and then they lied again when they said they would #NeverForget.

It’s time to #Renew911VCF

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