In the Summer of 1992, we held an open house at New York State Police Troop E headquarters in
Canandaigua, New York. As you walked through the building, you opened a door and found yourself looking down the
firing range where the Troopers practice their marksmanship. There were little kids playing there where, on any other
day of the week, tons of hot lead would be crashing through the air at hundreds of miles an hour.
I thought of all that force, what it could mean if I could make children everywhere see it is on your side to protect you; that power is your power.
Only a few weeks later, the children of some neglected neighborhoods in East Buffalo, New York awoke to find hundreds of Troopers, county deputies and city cops sweeping the streets, arresting over a hundred drug dealers who had been turning their neighborhood into a violent and ugly place. The people came out and cheered. Someone had hit a real home run. Something bad had been swatted clear out of their neighborhood. For a long time afterward, there was less violence and fewer drug dealers.
After the Troopers led a similar operation in a similarly troubled neighborhood in Schenectady nearly two years later, Fred LeBrun, a columnist with the Albany Times Union, called it "Constantine's Circus" after Thomas A. Constantine, who was then Superintendent of the New York State Police -- our Top Trooper.
Tom had created a program -- the Community Narcotics Enforcement Teams or CNET -- that made these operations possible. He would send in specially trained teams of undercover investigators who would positively identify the people who were selling drugs and then, one day, in a meticulously planned and well-coordinated operation, he would send in a force of officers drawn from all the local police agencies to arrest as many of them as could be found.
Fred felt that all the arrests were just not enough to to make a real difference. He wanted something more. "Otherwise," he wrote; "in six months, we'll be wondering what Constantine's circus was all about."
I wrote Fred a note -- in fact, a poem:
What could be better for children,
especially those who have a hard life,
than a circus?
Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.
This way, boys and girls;
this way to Constantine's Circus,
the greatest show on earth.
All for you.
And there he is, in center ring,
in the cage with all the tigers --
and all your nightmares.
Fred's column led also to a book and a corporation called Constantine's Circus. Both are an introduction to our police. Both are inspired by some of the remarkable people among the ranks of our police officers. We also have lessons to teach about some of the dangers that children face in this world. Some may be sad or scary. It is not intended to make you feel that way. Like your parents, families, teachers and all the other adults who care for you, we want you to know what you need to know to protect yourselves. We also mean to assure you that you are surrounded by a whole society of men and women who believe that there is nothing in this world more important than you.
Our name refers not only to Mr. Constantine's anti-drug operations, but also the fact that one of the great turning points of history was the time of another Constantine -- the Fourth Century Roman Emperor known to history as Constantine the Great.
Constantine started out from a town way out on the fringes of the civilized world in his time. It was a place in Britain called Eboracum by the Romans. Later its name was changed to York. Even later, York gave its name to a new city and a state across the ocean -- that's right -- New York.
So Emperor Constantine marched out of Eboracum/York with a great mission. He unified a disintegrating empire, stood off invasions, ended the persecution of religious minorities and set in motion the forces that ultimately made the values of the Judaeo-Christian tradition the fundamental values of Western civilization.
Because of religious persecution, prior to the reign of Constantine, the circus was a place where good people were sent to be killed by gladiators and wild animals. After his time, the circus evolved into the wonderful and inspiring spectacle of performing people and animals that we enjoy with our children to this day. Emperor Constantine himself enjoyed the circus so much, that he doubled the size of the most famous circus in his empire -- the Circus Maximus in Rome, which stands to this day. It was famous for the thrilling horse and chariot races that were held there. Yes, Constantine loved a day at the races.
So, as you begin your visit with us, remember that our name expresses our hope that our lifetime marks a turning point just as important as the reign of Consantine the Great in our society's struggle against cruelty and barbarism in their specific modern forms of violence, drug abuse and intolerance.
Questions? E-mail Us!
CONSTANTINE'S CIRCUS, INC.
PO Box 7223
Albany, NY 12224-0223