While Occupy Wall Street has drawn its share of celebrities, it appears to have produced one as well. The “Hipster Cop” has quietly taken the internet by storm, and more facts about this mysterious figure have slowly begun to emerge this week. He is recognized by the law as Community Affairs Detective Rick Lee of the 1st Precinct. Bridging the gap between protesters and police, Lee has been as much of an Occupy Wall Street staple as the many arrests. Funnily enough, Lee isn’t even a fan of the “Hipster Cop” title. As the fifth week of Occupy Wall Street reaches an end, here’s some more info about the man behind the Ray-Bans.
Despite his youthful appearance, Lee is 45 years old. Though he currently resides in Staten Island, he was born in Brooklyn. Lee has been a cop for nearly 20 years, and prior to becoming one of New York’s finest, he worked as a carpenter. In an exclusive interview with the Gray Lady, Lee claims that he had “shoulder length hair” during his wood-working days. When he was about 25, he joined the NYPD at the suggestion of his father, a retired member of the FDNY.
Zuccotti Park falls within the 1st Precinct, so Lee has been engaging with protesters since the middle of September. As a Community Affairs Officer, it is his responsibility to serve as a liaison between demonstrators and police. Because of his easy-going attitude and appearance, it’s been easy for Lee to interact with protesters. The New York Times noted that while Lee’s look makes him more approachable, protesters are aware that he’s still an officer of the law and some continue to view him as the enemy. Lee recognizes that this animosity towards police is normal, but still wants to protect everyone’s rights. When one protester mentioned pay inequity, Lee told her “39 percent of my paycheck is taken out in taxes, so we have a lot in common.” Even though he’s on the other side of the law, he understands the frustration of the 99 percent.
One of the main reasons that Lee looks so young and amicable is his style. He doesn't look like your stereotypical cop, swimming in a Choppa Suit and ill-fitting, coffee-stained white shirt. Lee says that he’s always been into fashion, and gets his suits tailored by a friend that works for Ralph Lauren. In a recent interview with GQ, he revealed that he’s also into other “traditional English style,” such as Brooks Brothers and Burberry. While he claims that he was christened “Hipster Cop” years ago by someone at the mayor’s office, he told GQ that he would prefer to be called the “Country Gentleman Cop” or the “Gentleman’s Police Officer.” Looks like Jay-Z was right, fame is the worst drug known to man.
Lee went on to trash the style of protesters, saying that he told a photographer they were in the “wrong place” if looking for fashionable people. However, he indicated that when he’s off-duty, he wears skinny jeans, so he probably looks like a hipster on the weekend. In addition, Lee has revealed that he eats organic food and listens to everything from Radiohead to Coldplay and The Killers (is his catholic taste a reflection of changing hipster standards? Or, again, has the label been wrongly applied?). While he rides a bike and supports bike lanes, he doesn’t ride fixed gear. He also has no social media presence, lacking both Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Some may view Detective Lee as the requisite “good cop,” carefully placed in Zuccotti Park to bamboozle protesters. At the same time, others might view him as a good-natured person who generally cares about the safety of protesters in addition to being good at his job. There are also people out there who only acknowledge Lee because of his keen fashion sense, and are eager to test drive a new style. Regardless of your opinion, Lee has become an online phenomenon lately, and it appears that the NYPD is going to try and exploit him for good press. At the very least, he could provide other detectives with some fashion advice. With that said, how many “Gentleman’s Police Officers” do you think we’ll see this Halloween? Better yet, how many people will be mistaken for dressing up as the “Gentleman’s Police Officer”?