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Cops Are Also People

By Thomas Thursday

Fact Feature Series
5. Tender Toughs

ALTHOUGH police officials of all ranks are as tender and sentimental as other humans, they too often pay dearly for misplaced sympathy. It is normal and just to give your fellows a break in the harsh game of life; you feel that, as John Wesley said many years ago, "There, but for the grace of God, go I!"

The chief objection to giving breaks to criminals, especially major, is that too many of them give you a break right back, with a bullet or a knife. The seasoned cop will take no chances; he has but one life to give and, if he has to give it, he prefers to do so the hard way. The Honor Board in every police headquarters is dotted with gold stars beside the names of cops who gave breaks to maggot-minded murderers.

Even judges have discovered, after much experience, that many under-worlders, like leopards, never change their spots—or their bloody ways. Consider the case of one of the great criminal attorneys of the country, Samuel Liebowitz, now a judge in New York City. For more than twenty years, prior to his judgeship, Liebowitz practiced criminal law almost exclusively, during which time he defended nearly 150 birds of all criminal feathers. Early in his legal career he learned never to have too much faith in his clients.

Time was, however, when Liebowitz wore his heart on his sleeve and often felt pangs of pity for some of the toughs. For instance, there was the case of one Tony Tichon, which came to Liebowitz' attention when he became a judge. Tony had had many bouts with the cops and was finally wounded when he tried to escape via running head-on through a plate-glass window. Asked to surrender by the pursuing officers, Tony muttered something that sounded like, "Go to hell," and got winged for his pains.

At his trial, Tony came into the courtroom lying on a stretcher. Most everybody felt sorry for poor Tony; the gunshot had paralyzed him and he could talk only in a whisper. He beckoned with his right hand for Judge Liebowitz to come down off the bench and bend over him.

"Judge," whispered Tony, "I've been a damned fool. If the kids in my neighborhood could only see me now they would not think I was so smart. They think I am a very tough guy. I ain't. I now know that I was just dumb; I know now that crime don't pay."

Judge Liebowitz was touched. He told Tony that he believed he was sincere and wanted to reform. "I would like to help you," said the judge, "and I want to show you clemency. And I shall do my best to see that you get fine medical care when you go to Sing Sing."

The district attorney was also touched. "I think it would be only fair to grant clemency to Tony," he said.

So Tony Tichon got a break. His sentence was for only two years. He was so grateful, apparently, that tears streamed from his eyes. He was sent to Sing Sing and, while there, a major miracle happened. He became a well man in a shor...

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