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Best Things About Being a Cop 

Sgt. Manuel Curry, 79, has been a New Orleans police officer since 1946. With more than 57 years on the job, he is the longest-serving active law-enforcement officer in the nation, according to NOPD. When Curry joined the force, Harry S. Truman was president and the desegregation of New Orleans streetcars and buses was still more than 10 years away. Curry walked the beat during an era when cops called for back up by hitting the pavement three times with their nightsticks.

"Manuel Curry is a living treasure," says Capt. Anthony Cannatella, commander of the Sixth District.

"I've been shot at, stabbed and bitten," Curry says, during a recent tour of the city's tough Sixth Police District. He's made "thousands" of arrests, from public drunkenness to murder. Today, he works as an NOPD quality of life officer. Here are a few of the "Bests" he's learned during his career:

Q: Best thing about being a cop in New Orleans?

A: The best thing is helping the citizens when they are in trouble. It's like a relief to me. About a week ago, a lady had a problem with a neighbor in the Irish Channel. And I got them to shake hands.

Q: Best way to attack the drug problem?

A: You need good undercover officers, and you need good informants that you can trust. I still have a couple of informants, but they are too old.

Q: Best way to keep kids out of crime?

A: Get the child going to church and social events, like school plays and dances instead of out in the barroom or the streets where people are looking to turn them into tricks. Get the kid in at a respectable hour. It all starts in the home, not with the schools or the police department.

Q: Best way to keep cops from leaving NOPD?

A: Better pay, relaxing the residency requirement for city employees, and police take-home cars are all good incentives. I think we have enough people in New Orleans alone -- black and white -- to recruit good.

Q: Best way for cops to handle the public?

A: Some people are very excited when a crime happens or even when they misplace their own automobile. Try to calm him down. Once he's calmed down, he's going to tell you the facts. If he's excited, then he's going to ramble on and get it all confused, especially on major crime scenes.

I've been cursed, but I never deliberately go out and curse somebody. All cursing does is provoke a person, and then maybe you're going to have a fight on your hands. Always treat the person like you would want to be treated.

Q: Best way for cops to stay healthy?

A: It's hard, especially when you're going to one call after another. I used to smoke five packs a day but quit about 25 years ago.

Q: Best NOPD chief who's no longer living?

A: Henry Morris. He was a policeman's man. He was another chief who would go out on the street.

Q: Best NOPD sergeant who's no longer living?

A: I would say Perry White. He was one of the first black sergeants on the department. He took his job seriously. He made sergeant at the same time I did -- March 5, 1965. And we were both sent to the Third District. When I first went down there, the platoon really had to be shaped up. But once I shaped it up with Perry, it was the best platoon in the city.

Black and white policemen respected Perry on the job. He started walking the beat on Dryades Street same as I did. On Rampart Street, people called me "Perry White" and they called Perry "Sgt. Curry." They got us confused.

He always smoked a cigar, always had a cigar in his car. I was lead sergeant at his funeral. I walked ahead of the procession until we got to Louisiana Avenue. Then I stopped and saluted him, then went with the rest of the officers to the cemetery.

Q: Best movie about New Orleans police?

A: New Orleans After Dark. It showed what the New Orleans police were really about.

Q: Best way for cops to endure Mardi Gras?

A: An old policeman who rode a white horse once told me: "Stand up on the tips of your toes when your legs get tired from standing, then ease back down. It relaxes your legs." Try it sometime. Those old-timers really had some good ideas.

click to enlarge DONN YOUNG


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