NYPD sergeant finds new life as a novelist

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Jordan Castro didn’t always plan on being a cop. 

In fact in 2006, when Castro first took the test to join the New York Police Department, he did so simply to prove a point to his father, who always wanted him to join the force. 

“One day I was like, I’m going to shut this guy up,” Castro said. “I’m going to walk in, take the exam. I must have done really well because I got a call almost right away asking me to come in.”

At that point, all that was left was for the Riverdale resident to ditch his substitute-teaching job and get a driver’s license. By the end of that year, Castro, now an NYPD sergeant, was a rookie in the 48th precinct, covering West Farms. 

In the 11 years since, Castro — whose undergraduate degree is in English — says he’s seen a drastic change in how the police are treated and viewed in the public eye. 

“There was this large anti-police sentiment,” he said. “I felt like it was sweeping across the country. It would be a shame for me to waste this opportunity to write, to rise up as a voice. I wanted to put a human face on policing.”

It was during mass protests and rioting in Baltimore that Castro got his inspiration to go write a novel that would talk about what it means to be a police officer. 

His book, “Smoke and Mirrors: Police Dreams,” follows a rookie cop, Brandon Rose, in a fictional section of the Bronx — loosely based on West Farms, where Castro worked as a rookie — as he tries to solve the case of a quadruple-homicide in his precinct. 

The story takes place over the course of 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. The characters, Castro said, are supposed to reflect the real-life attributes of police officers he has met and worked with over the years — even the bad ones.

“They try their best to show that, sometimes, even with the best intentions, bad things can happen,” Castro said. “It isn’t my experience in the department (to see bad cops). There’s no officer here that’s malicious. Some of them don’t use the best judgment at times.”

The 127-page book also advocates for a community policing model, Castro said, using both his experience growing up in Washington Heights and his time in the NYPD.

“I want to treat somebody the way I would want them to treat my dad … and treat them with dignity,” he said. “That was the best aspect of the job, helping people. It’s not your job to save a place just to give that individual who called 911 everything you can.”

The book was published by Xlibris, a small independent publisher, and released in October. 

Since then, “Smoke and Mirrors: Police Dreams” has sold more than 1,000 copies, Castro said, on Amazon and in bookstores. 

Castro, who is Cuban-American, also managed to put his book on the shelves at every Barnes & Noble location in Manhattan, and at the International Havana Book Fair last February.

“It’s been a lot of grassroots efforts,” he said. “Eventually I am sure a more traditional publisher will pick it up.”

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