(Michael Schulman’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 7/2.)

Like a lot of New Yorkers, Terry Greiss watched the video of Eric Garner being choked to death by police officers on Staten Island, in 2014, and felt a call to action. But, instead of marching on Union Square, Greiss, the executive director of the Irondale Ensemble Project, a Brooklyn-based theatre company, wrote a letter to Police Commissioner William Bratton. “I said, in a hubristic overstatement, ‘You need what we do. As actors, we train ourselves to really look, to really listen,’ “ he recalled recently. “Within the week, I got a call from 1 Police Plaza, saying, ‘When can you come in and talk about a pilot project?’ I was bowled over.”

Greiss, who has a rumpled white beard and resembles George Carlin, was sitting in the balcony of Irondale’s space, at a church in Fort Greene. The program he developed with the N.Y.P.D., “To Protect, Serve, and Understand,” pairs seven officers and seven civilians for improvisational theatre games. The goal, he said, is to “develop empathy” between the two groups. (It’s unrelated, except in good will, to an initiative to sharpen cops’ visual perception by taking them to art museums.) A few months ago, Greiss put up flyers around the neighborhood and received some thirty applicants, though some of the cops didn’t quite know what they were getting into. “One of our sergeants said that she needed volunteers—I thought it was training,” Jaime Ramirez, an officer in the 73rd precinct, said. He turned to Guy Randel, his partner on the force since 2007. “I was, like, ‘Yo, Guy! Go talk to Sergeant So-and-So and get yourself signed up for training!’ 

(Read more)


Visit Irondale: http://irondale.org/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *