And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche
For those of us over fifty that did not grow up in places like Chicago, Los Angeles or New York City we were likely introduced to organized street gangs after becoming a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO). I personally grew up in New Orleans in the 60’s and 70’s and was mildly aware of the Mafia, Neighborhood Street Gangs (Wards) and some OMG’s. Today New Orleans is saturated with Traditional, Non-Traditional, Latino, Asian gangs and good old Mobsters. So much for progress. I was not familiar with gangs like Crips, Bloods and Gangster Disciples until around 1993 while assigned as a School Resource Officer (SRO) at a Middle School that represented every poor neighborhood that the local government could surgically fit. The zone looked like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle but that is a topic for another article.
Earlier I used the term Familiar which is an important term as it is usually the first step in becoming a Gang Cop, Expert, Aficionado or any of a variety of titles. Familiarization with Gangs can occur gradually or expeditiously as in a crime. To the uninitiated this step is very important. Becoming familiar with the gang is as important as becoming familiar with your gangster as the two are one.
- Is the gang racist?
- Is the gang sexist?
- Is the gang Traditional
Familiarization is a major step in understanding gang life and the reasons for their behaviors and reasons for their crimes.
In order to truly begin to familiarize yourself with a gang you must learn how to associate with them. Association is another big step in dealing with gangs as they are xenophobic by nature. Just like a new gang member how you start with the gang is indicative as to where you will rank with the gang. This association is nothing more than a gauge of trust that will determine how far you will be able to infiltrate the gang and their world.
Infiltration can be conducted on several levels. Many of us assume that infiltration only operates in an Undercover (UC) capacity and for many of my good friends this has been their legacy. Infiltration is merely the art of making one or many believe you are a kindred spirit to some degree and because of that you have their back in one way or another. This is a necessity to anyone dealing with gangs in a UC position or not. Here in lies the danger. For in order to infiltrate one must be willing to sacrifice some part of their soul to maintain that level of intimacy with the gang. Like Dr. Doolittle we want to walk with the animals, talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals. Whether it is casting a blind eye to a behavior that disgust you or the act of bonding with a member your actions and demeanor will be judged by someone in the gang. Some of them you will never trust and some of them will never trust you. The longer you make the sacrifice to understand this enigma the higher the likelihood you will develop some form of compassion for it. Clothing, attire and speech can become second nature or “second you”.
Although you may hate the game doesn’t mean you hate the players. I myself have become fond of some of the Ballers I’ve known but this doesn’t mean I would cross a busy street to piss on them if they were on fire.
Compassion is a dangerous act. It has led many a good man to a prison or an altar. Although the two are not far apart. It is hard not to be compassionate on some level as you have invested so much time in this relationship. Compassion is also a stone’s throw from Infatuation and that my friends is the most deadly of all. Infatuation can pull you down faster than a fat kid drowning at a YMCA Summer Camp. It doesn’t matter if you are a law enforcement professional, mental health provider, consultant or a writer, infatuation with a gang can lead you down a blind road that you cannot return.
So the next time you find yourself gazing into the abyss and you begin to feel that spatial disorientation of falling pay attention to that hypnic jerk that snatches you back to reality before you fall in.
Are you the Monster or something else? Remember your place in the universe and choose wisely.