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Policing CRJ 201, Section 511 Frank Serpico Francesco Vincent Serpico was born on April 14, 1936 in Brooklyn, NY. At the age of 18 Serpico enlisted in the United States army and spent two years in Korea. In 1959 Frank Serpico graduated form the police academy and was sworn into the New York City Police Department. From the =Beginning of Serpico’s career in the NYPD he was forced with having to defend his integrity to the police department. While a rookie taking part in field officer training, there was a rape in progress call sent out over the radio.

Serpico, wanting to do nothing but help wanted to take the call though it was out of his sector and against his veteran officers advice. Frank later forced to give up his collar despite the fact he apprehended the remaining rape suspects on his own. Being a rookie officer left him susceptible to officers with seniority easily getting over on him. In 1960 Frank became a patrolman in the 81st precinct. He then worked for the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) before he was assigned to being a plain-clothes officer. This is when Frank Serpico’s problems began and he was exposed to department wide police corruption.

Police subculture is defined as; shared values and norms and the established patterns of behavior that tend to characterize policing. During Frank’s time police corruption was definitely apart of police subculture. However it was not apart of Frank Serpico’s police subculture. While stationed at the 93rd precinct Serpico was given $300 as a part of the station pay off. Not knowing what to do with the money, and it being his first experience with corruption Frank took the money to his Sargent who in turn pocketed the money for himself.

Becoming a snitch is something frowned upon then and now among civilians and law enforcement when it comes to one of your own. It is especially difficult to be a snitch in the police department because there is then no one behind you when in need. Blowing the whistle on fellow officers took a lot of guts and courage, especially when knowing that no one is there to stand behind you, and everyone is against you. On April 25, 1970, a New York Times article was published by David Burnham that would shake up the entire New York City Police Department.

With the aid of Frank Serpico and Sargent David Durke, Burnham told the world of the millions of dollars paid to policeman in the New York Police Department by drug dealers, gamblers, and crooked businessmen. Frank also pointed out that despite the obvious corruption both Mayor Lindsay’s’ administration, and the police department ignored and failed to look into corruption cases repeatedly brought to their attention. This very article and the now public knowledge and outrage forced Mayor Lindsay to form the KNAPP Commission; a five-member panel whose purpose was to investigate corruption among the police department.

Once the New York Times article was published, Frank Serpico was officially deemed a snitch. Subjecting himself to the possibility of extreme danger and violence, either at the hands of his own or by criminals when a lack of police back up and support is available. This possibility of danger became reality on February 3, 1971. While working in the vice division out of Brooklyn North, Serpico and 3 others detectives were working a drug sting. Frank was sent into the building and after witnessing the drug buy informed the two other plains clothes officers of were the suspect apartment was located.

Serpico, the only officer that knew how to speak Spanish, was prompted to fake as if he wanted to purchase heroin to gain access into the suspects’ apartment. Once the dealer cracked the door Frank tried to force his way in, only able to wedge some of his body into the suspects’ door. Subsequently Serpico was shot at point blank range in his face with a . 22 caliber handgun. Once collapsed on the floor the remaining two officers stepped over him and proceeded with the drug bust instead of helping, they didn’t even care enough to send out a cop shot call over the radio.

It was a neighbor living on the floor of the shooting that called the ambulance and stayed with Serpico until a squad car arrived to escort him to the hospital. Frank Serpico soon after the shooting began to question the circumstances of the shooting, feeling he was set up to be executed. While in recovery at the hospital Serpico was constantly harassed and faced with wishes of death. Frank recovered, losing hearing in his left ear, and in December of 1971 testified in front of the KNAPP Commission. Ultimately Serpico received what he always wanted, a brass shield and a promotion to detective.

Of course there was no customary ceremony when Frank was awarded detective status, he was called and told to pick his badge up from the office. This was one of the many things that displayed the distain the department and city officials had for Frank Serpico. In 1972 after receiving a gold metal of honor, Serpico retired from the New York City Police Department and moved to Switzerland, where he stayed for almost a decade. In 1980 Serpico back to New York City and now lives a quiet life upstate. Frank Serpico was the first and probably most famous New York police officer to report and go as far as to testify on the department wide corruption.

He never gave up, never gave in, and always stayed true and loyal to the oath he took when graduating from the police academy in 1959. Hearing the story of Frank Serpico makes me grateful because I know there are truly honest and loyal individuals that hold jobs in the public service field. People like him played major roles in molding what the police department is today. However I do not think I would have followed in Frank Serpico’s footsteps to expose the ugly truth of what was going on in the police department at the time. Being apart of the police subculture, all you have is each other.

Once you put on the uniform and strap on that gun and badge no one can protect you from danger but yourself and your fellow officers. Once those other officers distrust you there is no one to have your back when faced with a criminal with intent to harm you. I would remember that when my shift is over I have to go back to my family, I have to live a life outside of my career as a New York City Police Officer. If I could have found a way to not take the payoffs, still do my job to the best of my ability, and not snitch on my fellow officers, that would definitely be the route in which I would take.

Frank Serpico could have easily been killed and I don’t think the police department or anything else is more important then my life and the lives of my family. I do respect everything that Frank Serpico did. His integrity and courageousness was unprecedented. Without him the police department that my friends, loved ones, and I interact with daily could very well be much different and much worst. All Frank Serpico wanted to do was be a good, moral person and an honest police officer.

He nicely summed up some of his feelings while in front of the KNAPP Commission by saying, “Through my appearance here today… I hope that police officers in the future will not experience the same frustration and anxiety that I was subjected to for the past five years at the hands of my superiors because of my attempt to report corruption… We create an atmosphere in which the honest officer fears the dishonest officer, and not the other way around… The problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist in which honest police officers can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers. ”

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