View Full Version : A Taste for Destruction

08-27-06, 08:10 AM
A Taste for Destruction
August 26th, 2006
Bob Weir

Eddie Kelly was one of those seasoned cops who had learned policing from his father, who had also been “on the job.” He was about 48 when I first met him, working as his partner one night during a 4pm to midnight shift.

For many years, Eddie had worked a steady sector that covered JFK airport as well as a portion of southern Queens, New York. His regular partner had recently retired, so he was working with different guys each night.

I was about 26 and fresh from 5 years in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, one of the most crime-ridden areas of the city. Figuring I could always learn something from the “old-timers,” I was eager to work patrol with this rugged-looking vet. After the usual handshake greeting and small talk, he took the wheel and we were on our way.

We handled a couple of assignments given to us at the station house and then Eddie made a beeline to his favorite watering hole, a place bordering the airport, called the Du Drop Inn. “I’m gonna wet my whistle, Bob,” he said. “Put the roof light on if we get a job.” That was not what I expected, but I figured he knew what he was doing. It wasn’t long before the dispatcher had an assignment for us, so I wrote it down and flipped the switch that illuminated the bubble gum machine on top of the blue and white. Eddie came out of the bar, cigarette dangling from his lips and laughing as he waved to someone inside and slid onto the driver’s seat. To my surprise, he was holding a glass filled with ice and amber liquid. He placed it atop the dashboard and put the car in gear.

“Whatta we got, Bob?” he said, pulling away and reaching for the glass again. He reeked of Scotch and cigarette smoke.

“Er, we have a violent family dispute on Bellerose Avenue,” I said, watching him drain the last of the Johnny Walker Black in a couple of large gulps.

When we pulled up to the ramshackle house we could hear glass breaking and people screaming. I ran toward the slightly ajar door and pushed it wide open. A man was pulling a woman around the room by her hair trying to keep from being slashed by the broken bottle she was swinging at him.

I managed to get the two of them apart without any blood loss and without any help from Eddie. He had not yet reached the door and his gait was slow and staggering. The couple calmed down after deciding they didn’t want to go for a ride to the station house and didn’t want to make out a complaint.

When we got back in the car, I asked him if he was feeling okay. “I’m fine; I just need a refill,” he laughed, holding up the empty glass. “Yunno, Bob, you handled that very well,” he said, beginning to slur his words. “I need a guy like you for my steady partner because, as you can see, I’m not always very steady.”

A few minutes later, we were back at the Du Drop Inn. I soon learned that this was the way it would be as long as I worked with Eddie. Yet, there was something about the guy that made me feel needed. He was closing in on 50, but, because of the alcohol and smoking, he looked a lot older. In his younger days, he had earned several commendations for excellent police work and was highly thought of by other officers.

I had already learned that the job had many pitfalls and alcohol was high on the list of dangers. You see, generally, cops didn’t pay for drinks, making it seem that much more attractive. To Eddie, it was ravishingly beautiful.

Another thing I had learned is that the NYPD took care of its drunks. You could get away with almost anything if you were known as an “oiler.” Undoubtedly, there were a lot of boozers in the higher ranks because rules could be broken and incidents could be covered up if you could show you were “looped” at the time.

However, I decided to work with Eddie on the condition that he didn’t drive while under the influence, either on or off the job. I made sure he began drinking coffee the second half of our shift and very little the first half. Soon, I had him doing all his drinking at home.

With only 6 months to go before his retirement, I felt he, and the public, needed someone to watch over him. Eddie died about 6 months after he retired. You guessed it, cirrhosis of the liver. Ultimately, the free booze turned out to be very costly indeed.