Excerpt: 'All the Centurions'

ByABC News via logo
June 28, 2004, 12:04 PM

June 29, 2004 -- For 20 years Robert Leuci fought crime on the streets of New York. He recalls his experiences in the following book excerpt from All the Centurions.

The Biggest, Baddest Gang in Town

It's the fall of 1961. I'm twenty-one years old and part of a phalanx of gray-uniformed recruits marching into an out-of-date building on Hubert Street in lower Manhattan, the NYPD's police academy. What I remember most are glimpses of things antiquated and worn and the smells, the pleasant aromas of cinnamon and leather that have lingered for more than a hundred years from the lofts nearby that were used as storehouses for bales of spices brought by nineteenth-century sailing ships. I felt the mix of excitement and unnamed anxiety that comes when you are about to enter an unfamiliar world, knowing full well that you are a long way from belonging there. I was at the start of a journey and willing to go wherever the trip took me. Soon enough, mysteries began to slip away and the trip became more important than the destination.

In the academy, time flowed gently class work, the gym, and the pistol range. Every day we took a certain greedy pleasure in knowing more about the life we were going to live than we had the day before; and after a time the weight of a gun belt felt natural.We recruits got the feeling that there was nothing about police work the instructors didn't know, they were so confident, so sure of their view of the world. I'd ask a question and they would stand smirking at me with a fixed serenity. Though I looked for signs of uncertainty, none were there. I marveled at the number of medals they carried on their chests, and how their eyes shone when they repeated over and over, "Pay attention here and now or you'll pay a price later."

Most of us were in our early twenties, a time for illusions and wild imaginings, when dreams are new, dazzling. I was sure it would last forever; we all were.