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An Ernest Hemingway quote that celebrates the “hunting of man” is plastered on the wall of a Brooklyn police precinct house, according to a photo obtained by Gothamist — and the NYPD is dismissing calls by local officials and advocates to remove it.
The passage, which police have used in years past to similar outcry, opens Hemingway’s 1936 short story “On The Blue Water.” It’s currently inscribed on the wall of the 71st precinct in Crown Heights and reads, “There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.”
The NYPD is defending the quote as literary inspiration that captures the “exhilarating” nature of hunting dangerous criminals. But a local Council member and criminal justice advocates say the quote glorifies violence against their community.
Its existence emerges as Mayor Eric Adams this week redeploys teams of anti-gun units within the NYPD — a reincarnation of similar units that were disbanded in the wake of the George Floyd protests after earning a reputation for police abuse and violence.
“The history of policing started as an intentional attempt to violently ‘hunt’ Black people while quelling opposition and rebellion,” said Councilmember Crystal Hudson, who represents the predominantly Black neighborhood where the precinct is located, in a statement sent to Gothamist. “We cannot in good conscience divorce this history from the policing we see in our communities today.”
Deputy Commissioner John Miller, who currently heads the NYPD’s communications office, told Gothamist that criticism of the quote was a disservice both to the dangerous work of police officers and the famed American author.
“To insinuate any meaning to the Hemingway quote other than the fact that tracking and arresting violent, armed criminals can be exhilarating, rewarding, and often dangerous is a disservice to the meaning of the Hemingway quote and to the officers who do this work,” Miller wrote in an email.
The quote has been on the wall since February of 1998, Miller added. It does not appear to violate any department policies.
It’s not the first time the Hemingway line has stirred controversy for city police. In the 1990s, members of the NYPD’s Street Crimes Unit were known to wear t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase.
The quote also made headlines in 2013, when it was spotted on the back of an on-duty member of the NYPD Warrant Squad, in apparent violation of department’s uniform policy.
The department has also faced questions about a fundraising “challenge coin” that references Brooklyn’s 67th precinct and featured the quote alongside an image of officers chasing a dark-skinned man with dreadlocks. A police spokesperson has denied that the coin, which appeared online alongside an official NYPD coin, had any link to the department.
Loyda Colon, the executive director of the advocacy group Justice Committee, said the Hemingway passage was “on brand” for the NYPD, likening its popularity to the Punisher, a violent vigilante comic book character whose skull logo has been embraced by both police and far-right groups nationally.
“It accurately describes the longstanding culture of violence within the NYPD and the terror it inflicts on low-income Black, Latinx and other communities of color in our City,” Colon said.
Colon also highlighted the quote in the context of the return of a plainclothes anti-crime unit, which was disbanded in 2020 by former Commissioner Dermot Shea in the wake of the George Floyd protests. A similar group was revamped by Adams this week with a new name and new protocols designed to protect against abuse; its rollout has raised fears among criminal justice advocates.
“We must prepare for the NYPD’s hunting of our people to increase exponentially,” Colon said.
Adams’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
A 2020 study from the Public Safety Lab at New York University found that precincts with higher percentages of Black residents experienced a disproportionately high number of misconduct complaints against officers.
Advocates noted that the relationship between the 71st precinct and the community it polices has been particularly strained in recent years. Officers from the precinct were involved in the killing of two Black men – Saheed Vessel in 2018 and Eudes Pierre last year – both of whom were believed to be undergoing mental health episodes when they were shot.
But Miller, the NYPD deputy commissioner, maintained that the Hemingway quote should not be seen as threatening, but as a tribute to the fearlessness of local officers.
“The Hemingway quote is one of his best known,” Miller wrote. “The NYPD officers who have worked out of that room, over that near quarter-century [since the quote was inscribed], have shared the responsibility of tracking down and arresting violent felons whose victims are members of that community.”
This content was originally published here.