Cop Land

Institute History


Garrison, New Jersey, a picturesque town across the river from Manhattan—the ideal of suburban living. Neat split-level houses sit upon manicured plots, a basketball net above each garage door. And on every car, an NYPD Patrolman's Benevolent Association bumper sticker. There is an edge in the eyes of the townspeople, a fear of what lies across the river. It can eat a husband, kill him or just steal his soul. There is a sense—like in the old west—that this is an outpost. Every man packs a gun and knows how to use it. This is the town of commuting NYPD and their families.

Sheriff of Garrison, Freddy Heflin, faces his fortieth birthday. All Freddy ever wanted was to be NYPD. But at nineteen, he pulled Liz Randone, a drowning beauty queen, from a car wreck in the Hudson. Deaf in one ear as a result, Freddy could never pass the Academy physical. Now tired and cynical—a "cupcake cop"—he sits in his cramped office, turning a blind eye to the speeding cops that race through town. In practice Freddy reports to Ray Glynn, a steel-eyed beat cop in his tenth year on the job, and Liz's brother.

A bloody mess on the Manhattan Bridge—two black teens have been shot dead by a drunk off-duty cop (Murray Babitch) on his way home from a bachelor party. Other cops arrive. Babitch offers sketchy details. There is an ashen expression on all the cops' faces. Ray Glynn steps forward, takes Babitch by the sleeve, and pulls him away.

An Internal Affairs detective visits Freddy. He confronts him with evidence of a network of police corruption operating out of Garrison. Freddy denies it, defending the men in blue, but slowly starts to suspect that Babitch is being hidden in his town.

Liz Randone's husband, a young handsome city cop, dies in a freakish accident during a rooftop chase. Freddy tenderly nurses Liz through her grief, bringing her care packages. Then Liz reveals that she suspects that Glynn, her brother, may be behind her husband's death. In love with Liz, Freddy is inspired. Determined to find Babitch, to uncover the corruption, to regain control of his town—to be a good cop.

Freddy's earnest questions are faced with derisive laughter and insults. For the first time it is clear to Freddy how little respect he commands in Garrison. Glynn threatens Freddy, explaining that Freddy got the Sheriff's job only because the cops knew he'd never have the balls to cross them. Humiliated, Freddy goes to battle with Glynn and the stone-faced citizens of Cop Land, despite Liz's fears that he will be the next casualty.

Freddy finds Babitch in an abandoned water tower, chained to his cot. Far from being protected, Babitch is being held hostage—he knows too much about Glynn's network. Glynn and his men try to spring Babitch from Freddy's cell. They grab Freddy and blow out his good ear. An eerie gunfight ensues as things around Freddy explode inexplicably because he can't hear the gunshots. But, like his teenage rescue of Liz Randone, the silence emboldens him, and he recovers Babitch. Then, siren wailing, just like the NYC cop he always dreamt of being, he weaves his small-town squad car through Manhattan to City Hall, Glynn's men in pursuit, where he drops Babitch at the feet of the IA detective.

Hearing recovered, head held high, Freddy Heflin returns to Garrison knowing he can't stay—he has to move on, find a new town. He arrives at Liz's doorstep, hoping she might join him . . .

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