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NYPD's Color of the Day

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Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). We've invited him to share some of his stories on mental_floss this week. To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

There are roughly 8.25 million residents of New York City. Protecting and serving those millions are about 35,000 to 40,000 police officers, not including traffic enforcement agents, school safety agents, auxiliary police, and others. Of those 35,000 or so officers, most of them wear uniforms to work each day. But some of New York’s Finest dress in civilian attire:  undercover cops, hoping to blend in. If the officer is successful, no one knows he or she is a member of the police department.

No one—including other officers.

As one might deduce, this can cause a problem. What if, during the commission of a violent crime, uniformed police officers attempt to subdue and arrest the group that the undercover officer is with? In the worst case scenario, the uniformed officers could end up firing at the alleged criminals—and, in turn, at their fellow (undercover) officer.

This problem is by no means fiction. On August 22, 1994, as reported by the New York Times, two teenagers were seen entering a subway station, armed with shotguns. An off-duty officer (in plain clothes) named Peter Del-Debbio fired at who he believed to be one of the gunmen, a man named Desmond Robinson. But Robinson, it turned out, was an undercover transit officer in the pickpocket squad, and he, too, was in pursuit of the same two teens Del-Debbio was after. Del-Debbio ended up firing five bullets at Robinson, striking him in the back with at least two of them, and rendering Robinson permanently disabled. (Del-Debbio would later be convicted of second degree assault for using excessive force and sentenced to five years’ probation; Robinson, unable to return to duty, won a $3 million judgment against the City.)

In hopes of avoiding this, the NYPD has had a system in place since the 1970s—one which was unfortunately not followed in the Del-Debbio/Robinson situation—which aimed to signal officers that the “perpetrator” they thought they were trailing was, in fact, an ally. In another article about the subway shootout, the Times reported on that system: the NYPD’s “color of the day.” Each day, the police department would designate a color, and undercover officers were to wear a headband, wristband, or other easily-noticeable article of clothing using that color. (In 1994, the transit police were not part of the NYPD, perhaps explaining why Robinson was not wearing the color of the day.) Although this system is not fool-proof—it can cause false positives and does not truly meet the needs of those officers who must make split-second decisions—it is certainly better than nothing.

The “color of the day” system is generally not well known nor often discussed by the police department’s leadership, for obvious reasons. For all we know, especially with changes in technology over the last two decades, the system may no longer be in effect. But either way, it most likely saved a number of officers’ lives.

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Opening Ceremony
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These $425 Jeans Can Turn Into Jorts
May 19, 2017
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Opening Ceremony

Modular clothing used to consist of something simple, like a reversible jacket. Today, it’s a $425 pair of detachable jeans.

Apparel retailer Opening Ceremony recently debuted a pair of “2 in 1 Y/Project” trousers that look fairly peculiar. The legs are held to the crotch by a pair of loops, creating a disjointed C-3PO effect. Undo the loops and you can now remove the legs entirely, leaving a pair of jean shorts in their wake. The result goes from this:

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Opening Ceremony

To this:

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Opening Ceremony

The company also offers a slightly different cut with button tabs in black for $460. If these aren’t audacious enough for you, the Y/Project line includes jumpsuits with removable legs and garter-equipped jeans.

[h/t Mashable]

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This First-Grade Math Problem Is Stumping the Internet
May 17, 2017
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If you’ve ever fantasized about how much easier life would be if you could go back to elementary school, this math problem may give you second thoughts. The question first appeared on a web forum, Mashable reports, and after recently resurfacing, it’s been perplexing adults across social media.

According to the original poster AlmondShell, the bonus question was given to primary one, or first grade students, in Singapore. It instructs readers to “study the number pattern” and “fill in the missing numbers.” The puzzle, which comprises five numbers and four empty circles waiting to be filled in, comes with no further explanation.

Some forum members commented with their best guesses, while others expressed disbelief that this was a question on a kid’s exam. Commenter karrotguy illustrates one possible answer: Instead of looking for complex math equations, they saw that the figure in the middle circle (three) equals the amount of double-digit numbers in the surrounding quadrants (18, 10, 12). They filled out the puzzle accordingly.

A similar problem can be found on the blog of math enthusiast G.R. Burgin. His solution, which uses simple algebra, gets a little more complicated.

The math tests given to 6- and 7-year-olds in other parts of the world aren’t much easier. If your brain isn’t too worn out after the last one, check out this maddening problem involving trains assigned to students in the UK.

[h/t Mashable]

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