Yesterday, I watched the movie "Serpico" for the first time, and I was startled at how relevant it still is, given the recent Kelly Thomas police brutality/corruption in my hometown of Fullerton. Serpico is a 1973 film starring Al Pacino about a real-life NYPD officer named Frank Serpico who "blew the whistle" on rampant police corruption. The movie shows how corruption in a police force is not the result of a few "rogue cops" but is something that cannot exist without the consent of leaders of the department.
In Frank Serpico's real-life testimony before the Knapp Commission in 1971, he said: "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 is still alive, and was recently featured in a New York times short about his life and what it meant to be an honest cop in a culture of corruption. Let us hope that there are more officers in Fullerton like Frank Serpico, who place truth and justice over "protecting their own."