Terrorist Cop: The NYPD Jewish Cop Who Traveled the World to Stop Terrorists
by Mordecai Dzikansky and Robert Slater
Published by Barricade Books, Fort Lee, NJ
Copyright 2010/ISBN 978-1-56980-445-2 $24.95 Hardback
I like this book. Very much. Terrorist Cop will be of interest to all Americans and Israelis who remain deeply concerned (as they should) about our continuing vulnerability to Jihadist terror attacks. It will be of even greater interest, moreover, to readers of The Jewish Press. After all, the author, now retired New York City homicide Detective First Grade Mordecai Dzikansky, spent his distinguished 25-year career as an NYPD “Jewish cop.”
In the beginning, Mordecai patrolled Brooklyn streets conspicuously wearing a yarmulke. Later, he went undercover to catch Torah thieves and also to investigate such high-profile cases as the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the slaying of Ari Halberstam. Most significantly, perhaps, after 9/11, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly sent Detective Dzikansky to Israel – to observe suicide bombing sites, and to learn how to best protect his own already-victimized American city from what was certain to become a genuinely worldwide threat.
It is an impressive story, a unique and informed narrative by a dedicated Jewish police detective on his ultimately multi-national journey to gather vital intelligence and to relay key security information back to New York. Indeed, it is altogether likely not an exaggeration to suggest that Detective Dzikansky’s remarkable police skills and obvious heroism have helped to keep us all a little (or a lot) safer.
For four years of monitoring and reporting on suicide bombings in Israel, and also serving on assignment in Egypt, Turkey, Spain and Russia, the author paid a notably heavy personal price. “The horror, the horror,” mumbles the Marlon Brando character in the film “Apocalypse Now.” It is a telling observation that also came to trouble Detective Dzikansky in the real world. In his own words, by 2006, “grisly images grew into sharper focus,” and “my career, my obsessions, my uncertainties had become my entire life.” Beginning to use alcohol “to numb myself,” Dzikansky began to suffer a recognizable form of Post-Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD), hardly a surprise for someone who had already made so many palpable sacrifices, and who had already been compelled to witness so much evident horror.
In a few years, happily, “Time had proved a great healer,” and the author was able to retire from the NYPD and to begin the next chapter of his life. By that time, and to all of our collective benefit, he had accumulated valuable tactical insights and true wisdom regarding the global terror threat. As a police officer, Dzikansky had developed a particular loathing for terror criminality, largely because of its utter indiscriminacy. From his many crime scene experiences, he was able to conclude that good intelligence is necessary to terrorist prevention, but that expanding public awareness is also vital to keeping down any casualties. In this connection, one of the most helpful and important parts of this very fine book is Dzikansky’s Chapter 11, “Lessons Learned.”
Often, in relating these “lessons,” the author displays a very nuanced and subtle kind of intelligence. For example, as a New York cop, he knows the signal importance, in counter-terrorist operations, of maintaining “a constantly high state of alert for suspicious people and objects.” At the same time, he also knows, as an ordinary New York native, that his fellow New Yorkers are generally ready to accept virtually anything out of the ordinary as “normal.” Such acceptance is, in fact, the iconic core of what it means to be a “New Yorker.”
It is a meaningful dilemma that is identified here by Detective Dzikansky, one easily understood by readers of The Jewish Press, “because almost anything goes in New York, and nothing seems out of the ordinary.” Still, as the author maintains correctly, the critical message of citizen alertness, from his having observed a series of twenty-one suicide bombings in Israel, as well as from his visits to four target venues outside of Israel, “had to be taught.”
Detective Dzikansky, retired from the NYPD, now lives in Israel. Knowing himself to be “a true New Yorker to the core,” he remains in Israel because it is “the perfect place for my children.” Together with Meryl, his wife, he believes their three children consider the Jewish state “home,” yet, for himself, says Mordecai, “I will always consider the U.S.A. as my home.” This is a poignant and complex differentiation, one that is by no means limited to the special feelings of a New York Jewish cop who had spent troubling times in Israel, but rather one that is easily understood by many other regular Jewish New Yorkers.
As the author of one of the earliest scholarly books on nuclear terrorism (published back in the late 1970s), I can acknowledge that Detective Dzikansky’s Terrorist Cop is filled with serious, substantial and meaningful operational content. It is not “merely” the personal memoir of a heart-wrenching but rewarding journey; it is also a distinctly thoughtful and lucid examination of a very difficult, timely, and persistently-urgent topic. Today, the author has succeeded in “chasing away the demons,” and he is able to leave us with both a mesmerizing personal account, and with a simple yet sophisticated inventory of plainly indispensable remedies.
I started this review by indicating that “I like this book. Very much.” You will too. It fully deserves a wide and attentive audience.
Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971), is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, and is the author of many major books and articles dealing with terrorism and counter-terrorism. Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He was Chair of Project Daniel in Israel.