I had the opportunity to speak with Detective Rick Lee while demonstrators amassed in front of the Manhattan DA’s office on Tuesday afternoon. He’s the preppy-dressed cop who has been widely photographed during the Occupy Wall Street protests and given a catchy title that almost guaranteed meme-ification, as the word “hipster” proceeding any noun is wont to do.
The first thing I asked him about was his new nickname. He told me, with a deeper voice than I expected, “if it helps to defuse the situation it’s a good thing.”
He was of course referring to the frequent clashes between the NYPD and protesters. Lee went on to tell me that unlike other demonstrations, where the arrests are “staged” and there are discussions beforehand about who is going to be arrested when, the Occupy Wall Street crowd refuses to play by those rules and therefore causes chaos for both sides.
Several hours later, I saw him again in front of Skylight Soho (the same night Naomi Wolf was arrested). “Don’t ever talk to a lesbian protester,” he tells me. “They hate men.” Although I chuckled, a female legal observer with the National Lawyer’s Guild didn’t find it appropriate and told him so, a sentiment which he ignored.
It then occurred to me that he probably wasn’t gay, as many have speculated, and despite the cardigan sweater, is by all accounts a cop’s cop. He wasn’t afraid to make inappropriate jokes or throw the “out of town” card around to describe the protesters. But unlike most police officers I’ve spoken to, Lee encourages dialogue.
Later that night, the New York Times published a profile piece on him and now there’s an interview with GQ, leading me to believe that the NYPD has a very specific strategy in mind when it comes to the newfound internet celebrity, since they’re not the kind of organization that’s known to offer up one of their own to the media for questioning. But what exactly are they vying for? Do the police want Detective Rick Lee to be your friend? Perhaps they think it’s good for their image, which has been tarnished on quite a few occasions or more likely, is it a way to extract information?
Either way, it occurred to me, that whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with discussing whether Rick Lee is a “hipster” or not. (Photos: ANIMALNewYork)