February 28, 1940|
Brooklyn, New York, USA
|Died||October 12, 2015
Saunderstown, Rhode Island, USA
|Department||New York City Police Department (NYPD)|
|Years of service||1961–1981|
|Rank||Detective Second Grade|
|Other work||Writer and College Professor|
Robert Leuci (February 28, 1940 – October 12, 2015) was a detective with the New York City Police (NYPD), US, known for his work exposing corruption in the police department and the criminal justice system. After retiring from the NYPD he wrote novels, short stories, TV episodes and a memoir of his years on the force. He taught and had residencies at over forty universities and law schools, and lectured on morality and ethics erosion at many US police departments and the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia. Leuci knew Frank Serpico, known for being the first officer to expose corruption within the police department ranks. The book (by Robert Daley) and the film Prince of the City are based on a portion of Leuci's police career.
Leuci was born in Brooklyn, New York, on February 28, 1940, to an Italian-American family. He is the son of James Leuci, a union official, and Lucy, a housewife. Right after his birth the family moved to Ozone Park, Queens, where he attended John Adams High School. After high school he attended Baker University in Kansas, and New York University, Fordham University as well as The New School for Social Research in New York City.
At nineteen, Leuci took the test to enter the New York City Police Academy. At twenty-one, he graduated, becoming a member of the NYPD.
As a rookie, he was assigned to the 100th Precinct in Rockaway Beach, Queens. In 1962, he transferred to the Tactical Patrol Force, where he worked the Manhattan North and South Bronx precincts. In TPF, he worked in the city’s highest crime areas. Leuci established relationships with street contacts and became one of the top arresting officers in the division. Leuci was transferred to the Narcotics Bureau for undercover work when he was 24. He created a network of field informants that led him to work numerous important cases; one of his first assignments was as a student who bought drugs at a high school.
It wasn’t long before Leuci entered the Special Investigative Unit of the narcotics bureau, an elite unit formed by top detectives. In SIU, street dealers’ cases no longer represented his team’s objective. Rather, the unit aimed to find the major sources of drug distribution in the country and make cases against South American or other foreign cartel operatives.
The late 1960s were times in which NYPD officers like Frank Serpico and David Durk began battling widespread corruption within the NYPD. In the 1970s, Serpico and Durk came to believe that Leuci was the only honest detective in the New York City Police Department's narcotics bureau, though at the time, he was one of the corrupt.
In 1970, as a result of Serpico and Durk’s revelations, New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay, along with a five-member investigative committee, created the Knapp Commission, named after its Chairman, Judge Whitman Knapp. Soon afterward, the commission began questioning several members of the force, from patrolmen to high-ranking officials. Serpico and Durk both asked Leuci if he would speak to Assistant US Attorney Nick Scoppetta. Leuci and Scoppetta developed a close relationship almost immediately. Leuci pointed out that the Knapp commission was focused only on the police and that was unacceptable; the criminal justice system in New York City was corrupt as well and the police were working within a system that had been in place for fifty years or more. Leuci told Scoppetta he would not be involved in an investigation that focused solely on the police department. However, if Scoppetta was willing, Leuci would do the undercover work of an investigation into the entire system. Scoppetta agreed. Leuci was given a code name: Sonny. Scopetta and his colleague Michael Shaw soon understood Leuci's emotional conflict about what he was being asked to do. They supported him knowing it would be the start of harsh times for law enforcement in the city. From that moment on, Leuci wore a wire whenever he had to meet with any of the subjects the group was after. Future New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was part of the investigation. It was a short time later that Giuliani became the US Attorney for the Southern District.
Leuci's cooperation lasted two years, after which the SIU no longer existed. Detectives and other officers, along with lawyers and many who had tied into the aforementioned corrupt criminal justice system, were tried in court and imprisoned. Some of Leuci's colleagues committed suicide as the pressure mounted throughout the investigation.
The investigation ended in 1972 and ultimately, the Federal Government decided not to prosecute Leuci, noting his efforts and the risks he and his family had taken. His experience inspired former NYPD Deputy Commissioner Robert Daley, who had become a writer since retirement. In 1978, through Leuci’s recount of this story, Daley’s best-selling book “Prince of the City” was published. By that time, Leuci’s work in the Department had taken a toll but he continued working at the Academy as a lecturer, and in the Internal Affairs Division until his retirement in 1981. That same year, director Sidney Lumet and executive producer Jay Presson Allen adapted the book to a critically acclaimed though financially disappointing movie. Award-winning actor Treat Williams portrayed Bob’s role.
After the NYPD
Leuci's desire to write grew after Daley's book was published, and thanks to an afternoon walk with novelist Robert Stone, a new career path began. Leuci wrote seven successful books and continued to lecture at police academies and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Leuci's books have sold in the US, France, Spain, England, Germany and Croatia. He also participated at several writers’ conferences in Europe. In 1999 he received the South County Center for the Arts Literary Prize. He was an Adjunct Professor of English and Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.
Leuci was married to Regina, a German woman of some maternal Italian descent. They had two children, Anthony and Santina, and divorced in 1995. Leuci married Kathy Packard in 2003, after he had moved to Rhode Island to pursue his writing and teaching career. They lived on the Narragansett Bay. Leuci died on October 12, 2015 at the age of 75 after complications from surgery.
- All the Centurions ISBN 0-06-078185-8
- Blaze ISBN 0-380-79629-5
- Captain Butterfly ISBN 1-55921-253-5
- Doyle's Disciples ISBN 0-00-617256-3
- Double Edge ISBN 0-451-17332-5
- Fence Jumpers ISBN 1-55921-348-5
- Odessa Beach ISBN 1-55921-242-X
- The Snitch ISBN 0-312-14739-2
- Renegades ISBN 0-7472-5336-6
- 100 Centre Street (Writer). Episode name: "End of the Month"
- Robert Leuci, All the Centurions published by Harper Collins, New York, 2004
- Daley, Robert (2005). Prince of the City. Abe Books.
- Neumeister, Larry (June 16, 2004). "Whitman Knapp, 95; judge who worked with Serpico". The Boston Globe.
- Wainwright, Loudon (August 4, 1972). For The Love of Cops A Cop Goes Undercover Against His Corrupt Brethren. Life Magazine.
- Corry, John (August 9, 1981). "Prince Of The City Explores A Cop's Anguish". The New York Times.
- "The University of Rhode Island Ocean State Summer Writing Conference". University of Rhode Island. 2009.
- Roberts, Sam (October 13, 2015). "Robert Leuci, 75, Who Exposed Graft Among Fellow Detectives in '70s, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2015.