Serpico: 50 Years Ago Today!

It’s hard to believe… but fifty years ago today, detective Frank Serpico sat before the Knapp Commission in NYC to expose systematic corruption in the NYPD. The whistleblower’s experiences became the subject of a terrific 1973 film, “Serpico,” starring Al Pacino.

From a New York Daily News article marking this anniversary, Larry McShane writes:

Serpico remembers the day clearly. He sat before a bank of 11 television cameras inside the jam-packed Great Hall of the New York Chamber of Commerce. He recalls no nervousness, just a deep belief in his message. … Serpico testified about a meeting with a top Lindsay administration official where he provided names, places and the amount of payoffs to crooked cops. “After hearing all I said, he said, ‘Well, what do you want me to do about it?’” he told members of the commission. Those words resonated through the decades given the NYPD corruption cases that exploded over the years: The Mafia Cops, the “Dirty Thirty” precinct, drug-dealing cops in the 75th Precinct, the “Buddy Boys” of the 77th Precinct.

“We must create an atmosphere in which the dishonest officer fears the honest one, and not the other way around,” he said bluntly. “I hope that this investigation and any future ones will deal with corruption at all levels within the department.”

“The #BWS (blue wall of silence) like the KGB is more of a threat to equality, freedom and justice in a society than the Mafia’s Omertà,” read one recent [Serpico] tweet. “Until it is abolished policing will not improve.”

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