Harold T. — “That’s Just How It Bends” by Tom Collings


“How these guys can run like the world’s fastest human, while handcuffed behind their backs and shoeless is beyond me”

tom-collings-150pxHAROLD was recently out of recruit class, so the boss told me to take him on his first hits. “Collings, do not let him get hurt or screw up,” ordered the chief. “Yes, sir, no problem,” I said. Hits are parole officer talk for grabbing a bunch of fugitive arrest warrants, getting a few POs together, then meeting at 5 am to track down some parole violators.

Convicts often jump parole when they are afraid we will do a drug test, or because they assume we know they are out there committing new crimes. Most of the time, we don’t know, but they assume we do. So, they stop showing up to their scheduled reports to us, and often move to another town or another state. When they cheat on their girlfriend, rip off a drug customer, or piss off their mama — I often get tipped off where they are hiding out.

The first hit of the day was at a Brownsville Housing Project, the rough Brooklyn neighborhood that produced brawlers like Mike Tyson. As we get to a fourth floor apartment, I could see Harold was nervous, partly because of the danger, but also because this was his chance to show the chief he could handle the job. He was impressed with how I sweet-talked my way right into the apartment, and how quickly we located our fugitive and cuffed him up — before he could hide, start fighting, or grab a weapon. It was all going smooth as silk as I grabbed some shoes for the guy, when the family suddenly went ballistic.

Now brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, were coming at us from all sides. To them, we were not duly sworn officers of the law executing a legal arrest warrant, we were intruders who invaded their home, and were messing with their boy! When things are going smoothly, four officers seems like overkill. But, when the shit hits the fan, you wished you had ten more with you! I pushed Harold and our handcuffed prisoner down the hallway, and out the front door of the apartment. Then I ran back in to help the other guys fight their way out of there. When we got out, I looked around but there was no Harold, and no prisoner?

I ran down the hall to a window, just in time to see the backside of our prisoner running across the courtyard four floors below — no shirt, no shoes, and handcuffed behind his back. Zooming at full speed, with a fifty-yard lead on Harold! How these guys can run like the world’s fastest human, while handcuffed behind their backs and shoeless is beyond me.

When we got down to the street, Harold was a block away, and our ex-prisoner was just a speck in the distance, two blocks away. “Keep after him Harold!” I yelled, as I ran and got NYPD Central Dispatch on my radio:

“Parole 0714 requesting 10-85, assistance forthwith!.”
“What is your condition 0714?”
“In pursuit of male black wearing blue jeans,
  and running east on Linden Blvd.,
73 Precinct” … (I now prepared for the humiliation)…
  “no shirt — no shoes and cuffed behind his back.”
  …She tried to muffle it, but I heard somebody
  cracking up in the background.
“0714, you had one under and lost him?” (Great lady, rub
  it in — she was loving it)
“Affirmative Central.”…….. “OK, units on route 0714.”

As I ran, I yelled to Harold “I’m going to kill you, Harold,” but unfortunately he was too far away to hear me. Closing the distance, I fantasized about doing terrible things to Harold.

Eventually, all the broken glass and pot holes on Brownsville streets took their toll on our fugitive’s feet, slowing him down a bit. As we tackled him in a big garbage-filled vacant lot, three squad cars roared up, sirens and lights blazing. I hoped they assumed we had just made the arrest, but the big grins on their faces told me they heard the radio call. “Any more that got away, guys?” This crack was followed by several more jokes, before a merciful sergeant yelled over the laughter; “Forget about it, we all got two or three stories like this.” The sergeant’s comment didn’t help, I glared at Harold with great violence in my eyes. “You are doing all the paperwork on this! I will never let you forget this one, Harold!”

I never did let him forget it, cruel bastard that I am. Not 5 years later when he became my supervisor, and not 10 years later when he became a bureau chief. It became a kind of joke with us, I would bring it up whenever he reminded me of paperwork that was overdue. Unfortunately, the distraction rarely worked, and he always stayed on point. But, it is great fun to have something like that over a boss.

Harold was born and raised in a tough minority neighborhood of New York City, so it is not surprising that bad guys have attempted to rob him. Just like certain styles of dress and music, neighborhoods also have their own manner of speech. In Harold’s neighborhood the style of speaking was very slow, like old style jazz talk. Harold does not take drugs, but you would swear he was stoned if you were not used to his distinctive sloooowwww…Brooklyn-ese. But the day a bad guy pulled a gun on him, his slow talking proved very valuable.

There is a martial arts wrist-twisting technique called kotegaeshi. I have been studying it, and trying to perfect it for about four decades. It takes most students a few years before they can execute the technique well. So, Harold is confronted at gunpoint, and the guy is demanding money, screaming “What you got? Give it up! Now! Now!” But, Harold responds sooo slooowwllyyyy — wellll….I….doonnn’t….reeeaally…haavve…thaaat… The guy is in a big hurry to get something and run! He cannot handle how slow this thing is going! Out of desperation he makes a major error — he moves closer and sticks the gun right in Harold’s face. Harold then just reaches up and twists it out of the guy’s hand. Stunned, in shock, and humiliated; the bad guy runs off, possibly considering another line of work.

“Show me what move you did, Harold,” I ask.
“That is kotegaeshi, where did you learn that?”
“Which art do you study?”
“That is no art. I don’t know any martial artsy stuff,”
  he responds.
“So, where did you learn kotegaeshi?”
“Coat-a-guy what? I just turned his wrist like this.
  That’s just how it bends.”

A perfectly executed kotegaeshi technique, with no martial arts classes. Harold was obviously ignorant of the fact that it takes years to learn this technique. But, he did not perform a “technique.” He just turned the guy’s wrist “how it bends.” You can’t make this stuff up.


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  1. Bottom line, whatever you’ve been told about extending rather than grabbing, if it’s a gun in your face, grab it. I didn’t and also failed to get the gun. Long story, but that’s the short of it.

  2. HA! Great story! Also, we see another great example of Kotegaeshi used to good purpose- as a disarm.

  3. Pascal Verhille says:

    Delicious and very instructive as always. Great thanks Mr. Collings.

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