|Francesco Vincent Serpico|
|New York City Police Department (NYPD)|
|BornApril 14, 1936|
|Badge number||19076 (officer)|
|Place of birth||Brooklyn, New York, USA|
|Years of service||September 11, 1959 - June 15, 1972|
|Rank||1960 - Commissioned as a Patrolman|
|Awards||- NYPD Medal of Honor|
|Other work||Lecturer on occasion to students at universities and police academies|
Francesco Vincent Serpico (born April 14, 1936) is a retired American New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer who is most famous for testifying against police corruption in 1971. Most of Serpico's fame came after the release of the 1973 film Serpico, which starred Al Pacino in the title role.
Early years 
Frank Serpico was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest child of Vincenzo and Maria Giovanna Serpico, Italian immigrants from Marigliano, in the province of Naples, Campania. He recounts an experience of his father standing up to corruption in his shop where Serpico shined shoes.
At age 18, he enlisted in the United States Army and was stationed for two years in South Korea. He then worked as a part-time private investigator and as a youth counselor while attending Brooklyn College.
NYPD career 
In September 1959, Serpico joined the New York Police Department as a probationary patrolman. He became a full patrolman on March 5, 1960. He was assigned to the 81st precinct, then worked for the Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) for two years. He was finally assigned to work plainclothes, where he uncovered widespread corruption.
Serpico was a plainclothes police officer working in Brooklyn and the Bronx to expose vice racketeering. In 1967 he reported credible evidence of widespread systematic police corruption. Nothing happened until he met another police officer, David Durk, who helped him. Serpico believed his partners knew about secret meetings with police investigators. Finally, Serpico contributed to an April 25, 1970, New York Times front-page story on widespread corruption in the NYPD. Mayor John V. Lindsay appointed a five-member panel to investigate charges of police corruption. The panel became the Knapp Commission, named after its chairman, Whitman Knapp.
Shooting and public interest 
Serpico was shot during a drug arrest attempt on February 3, 1971, at 778 Driggs Avenue, in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Four officers from Brooklyn North received a tip that a drug deal was about to take place.
Two policemen, Gary Roteman and Arthur Cesare, stayed outside, while the third, Paul Halley, stood in front of the apartment building. Serpico climbed up the fire escape, entered by the fire escape door, went downstairs, listened for the password, then followed two suspects outside.
The police arrested the young suspects, found one had two bags of heroin. Halley stayed with the suspects, and Roteman told Serpico (who spoke Spanish), to make a fake purchase attempt to get the drug dealers to open the door. The police went to the third-floor landing. Serpico knocked on the door, keeping his hand on his 9mm Browning Hi-Power. The door opened a few inches, just far enough to wedge his body in. Serpico called for help, but his fellow officers ignored him.
Serpico was then shot in the face with a .22 LR pistol. The bullet struck just below the eye and lodged at the top of his jaw. He fell to the floor, and began to bleed profusely. His police colleagues refused to make a "10-13", a dispatch to police headquarters indicating that an officer has been shot. An elderly man who lived in the next apartment called the emergency services and reported that a man had been shot. The stranger stayed with Serpico. A police car arrived. Unaware that Serpico was one of them, the officers took him to Greenpoint Hospital.
The bullet had severed an auditory nerve, leaving him deaf in one ear, and he has suffered chronic pain from bullet fragments lodged in his brain. He was visited the day after the shooting by Mayor John V. Lindsay and Police Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy, and the police department harassed him with hourly bed checks. He survived and testified before the Knapp Commission.
The circumstances surrounding Serpico's shooting quickly came into question. Serpico, who was armed during the drug raid, had been shot only after briefly turning away from the suspect when he realized that the two officers who had accompanied him to the scene were not following him into the apartment, raising the question whether Serpico had actually been brought to the apartment by his colleagues to be murdered.
On May 3, 1971, New York Metro Magazine published an article about Serpico titled "Portrait of an Honest Cop". On May 10, 1971, Serpico testified at the departmental trial of an NYPD lieutenant who was accused of taking bribes from gamblers.
Testimony in front of the Knapp Commission 
|This section requires expansion. (November 2007)|
In October, and again in December 1971, Serpico testified before the Knapp Commission:
|“||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. I was made to feel that I had burdened them with an unwanted task. The problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist...in which an honest police officer can act...without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers. Police corruption cannot exist unless it is at least tolerated...at higher levels in the department. Therefore, the most important result that can come from these hearings...is a conviction by police officers that the department will change. In order to ensure this...an independent, permanent investigative body...dealing with police corruption, like this commission, is essential..||”|
Frank Serpico was the first police officer in the history of the New York City Police Department to step forward to report and subsequently testify openly about widespread, systemic corruption payoffs amounting to millions of dollars.
Frank Serpico retired on June 15, 1972, one month after receiving the New York City Police Department's highest honor, the Medal of Honor. (There was no ceremony, it was simply handed to him over the desk "like a pack of cigarettes" in his own words.) He went to Switzerland to recuperate and spent almost a decade living there and on a farm in the Netherlands, as well as travelling and studying. When it was decided to make the movie about his life called Serpico, Al Pacino invited Serpico to stay with him at a house that Pacino had rented in Montauk, New York. When Pacino asked why he had stepped forward, Serpico replied: "Well, Al, I don't know. I guess I would have to say it would be because... if I didn't, who would I be when I listened to a piece of music?"
He returned to New York City quietly in 1980 and now resides in the mountains of Upstate New York, studying and lecturing on occasion to students at universities and police academies and sharing experiences with police officers who are currently in similar situations. While living in upstate New York, Serpico was introduced to Officer Joseph Trimboli by New York Post reporter Mike McAlary. Trimboli was also a police officer who experienced hard times after he witnessed and tried to stop widespread police corruption in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Serpico still speaks out against police corruption and brutality. He continues to speak out against both the weakening of civil liberties and corrupt practices in law enforcement, such as the alleged cover-ups following Abner Louima's torture in 1997 and the Amadou Diallo shooting in 1999.
He provides support for "individuals who seek truth and justice even in the face of great personal risk". He calls them "lamp lighters", a term he prefers to the more common "whistleblowers", which refers to alerting the public to danger, just as Paul Revere was responsible for having lamps lit in the Old North Church to warn the public in Charlestown, Massachusetts, of the British Regulars' movements during the American Revolutionary War.
Personal life 
Serpico has been married four times. In 1957, he married Mary Ann Wheeler, but divorced her in 1962. In 1963, he married Leslie Lane, a fellow college student, and they divorced in 1965. In 1966, he married Laurie Young, but they divorced in 1969. On June 15, 1972, Serpico left the police department to move to Europe. In 1973, he married a woman named Marianne from the Netherlands, who was his final wife; she died from cancer in 1980. He decided to return to the United States afterwards. His only child, son Alexander, was born March 15, 1980.
In books, film and television 
Serpico, a biography by Peter Maas, sold over 3 million copies. It was adapted for the screenplay of the 1973 film titled Serpico, which was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Al Pacino in the title role. In 1976 David Birney starred as Serpico in a TV-movie called Serpico: The Deadly Game (also known as "The Deadly Game"), broadcast on NBC. This led to a short-lived Serpico TV series the following fall on the same network.
- Maas, Peter; Serpico, Frank (2005), Serpico: The Classic Story of the Cop Who Couldn't Be Bought, New York: Perennial, ISBN 978-0-06-073818-1
- A&E Biography "Frank Serpico" (2000) (TV) .... Himself
- American Justice "Cops on Trial" (2000) (TV) .... Himself
See also 
- Peter Maas, Serpico, The cop who defied the system, published by The Viking Press, New York, 1973, pages 49 and 268.
- Clyde Haberman (September 24, 1997). "Serpico Steps Out of the Shadows to Testify". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- "Frank Serpico biography". frankserpico.com. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- "Cops have their say". intergate.com. 2007. Archived from the original on August 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- "Serpico Testifies". New York. 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- Kathleen F. Phalen (January/February 2001). "Frank Serpico: The fate that gnaws at him". Gadfly. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- David Burnham (April 25, 1970). "Graft Paid to Police Here Said to Run Into Millions". The New York Times.
- Kathir Vel (November 6, 2005). "Bringing the lamplighter to the limelight". kathirvel.com. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
- Peg Tyre (September 23, 1997). "Serpico resurrects his decades—old criticism of NYPD". CNN. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
-  article on Whistleblowers risks, Frank Serpico section, The Independent
- Corey Kilgannon (January 22, 2010). "Serpico on Serpico". New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
Further reading 
- Burnham, David (April 25, 1970), "Graft Paid to Police Here Said to Run Into Millions", New York Times
- Arnold, Martin (April 26, 1970), "Mayor's Committee Investigating Police Corruption Here Meets Tomorrow to Determine Procedures", New York Times
- Burnham, David (May 9, 1970), "Panel on Police May Be Replaced", New York Times
- Burnham, David (May 22, 1970), "Lindsey Appoints Corruption Unit", New York Times
- Burnham, David (June 7, 1970), "Knapp Says Laws Spur Police Graft", New York Times
- Burnham, David (February 5, 1971), "The Mayor Visits 'a Very Brave Man'", New York Times
- Burnham, David (May 2, 1971), "15 Police Trials Begin Tomorrow", New York Times
- Arnold, Martin (May 11, 1971), "Crusading Policeman: Francisco Vincent Serpico", New York Times
- Burnham, David (May 15, 1971), "5 Promoted to Detective For Fight on Police Graft", New York Times
- Burnham, David (December 15, 1971), "Serpico Tells of Delay on Police Inquiry", New York Times
- Arnold, Martin (December 15, 1971), "Serpico's Lonely Journey to Knapp Witness Stand", New York Times
- "After the Knapp Hearings", New York Times, December 28, 1971
- "17 Policemen Here to Get High Honor", New York Times, May 18, 1972
- "The Man Who Shot Serpico Is Convicted in Brooklyn", New York Times, June 1, 1972
- Kilgannon, Corey (January 24, 2010), "Serpico on Serpico", New York Times, retrieved May 2, 2010
- McShane, Larry (December 22, 2012), "Despite distance and decades, whistleblower Frank Serpico is never too far from his NYPD past", New York Daily News, retrieved December 30, 2012
- Frank Serpico's blog
- Audio documentary and interview with Frank Serpico
- Frank Serpico Keynote Address (mp3 audio) to Civil Liberties Conference - Protecting Our Civil Liberties - the Core of Democracy - July 25, 2003
- Frank Serpico answers questions (mp3 audio) at Civil Liberties Conference - July 26, 2003