As a kid growing up on Long Island, I struggled with an unknown psychological need to wear a uniform and a strong desire to be a part of an organization. My search would take me through Little League, Cub Scouts, and various fraternal organizations. This desire would only be fulfilled after joining the NYPD in February of 1984. Somewhere during my twenty-year career, I was transformed from that kid into a veteran New York City police detective. This is my evolution from a middle-class suburban kid with simple values who naively thought the “projects” were a homework assignment into a veteran detective working in some of the most unforgiving neighborhoods of New York City. With this transformation comes the ability to separate the daily exposure to the dark side of human nature from your own life-sustaining core beliefs. Many will fail to acquire this ability and fall victim to drugs, alcohol, divorce, crime, and even suicide. This is a process which I have come to call Turning Blue. This is my story of how I dealt with life-changing experiences at home while my gun belt and uniform hung safely in my locker. In my twenty years of experience as a police officer, I can honestly say that I have been scared and feared for my life. Could you go back to work after crying yourself to sleep, reliving your partner’s screams as he lay bleeding to death in the backseat of your unmarked car, and the only thing keeping your heart in your chest was your department-issued bulletproof vest?
Book Review by Diane Donovan:
Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield
Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield provides the autobiography of an author who longed to wear a uniform and be part of an organization: a desire that would lead him from ball games and Scouts to joining the NYPD force in 1984, there to become a veteran police detective.
In contrast to many police stories which recount crime encounters and department politics, Turning Blue offers a satisfyingly different approach in documenting not only street encounters and detective work, but how this work is absorbed into an officer’s psyche, belief system, and everyday life outside of the force. Turning Blue is at its strongest when depicting this process, which takes stories of detective work and juxtaposes them with personal insights on how challenges to psychological and physical survival are reconciled with life-altering events and tragedies.
There are stories of struggle and strife; but these are contrasted with touching moments of kindness which serve to emphasize that an officer’s work is not all about conflict and confrontation.
From Columbian drug dealers to team operations, descriptions are precise and sometimes include a surprising touch of humor: “Generally, these things never go as scheduled. Most criminals have no concept of time, and it annoys the shit out of me. Is it too much to ask that you sell me my illegal guns and controlled substances at the agreed upon time? As narcotics cops, we are completely regulated by time.”
These insights blend with Hoffman’s family life and personal perspectives to provide a well-rounded coverage highly recommended for anyone who enjoys police protocol and true-crime accounts, adding a healthy dose of psychological depth that many police stories lack, making for a highly recommended, engrossing read.