Editor’s Note: Read the complete series on New York’s finest Frank Serpico under Special Reports.
On June 2, 2017, the Baltimore Post-Examiner published Frank Serpico: NYPD corruption buster. I suggest that before you read this story, read that one first, as it sets the foundation for what Frank speaks about here.
Everything in italics, unless otherwise noted, in this story are Frank Serpico’s responses to questions I had asked him and other comments made by him.
I have read so many books and articles about him throughout the years. Some were complete distortions of the truth and some were outright lies. I wanted to hear directly from Frank Serpico.
I want to thank him for sharing his thoughts, answering my questions and enlightening me about who he really is. For two months Frank never hesitated once, either during the day or night to talk to me. I know it was not easy for him to talk about some of what we had discussed. Opening old wounds is never easy. There were times when we cried and there were times when we laughed.
With so much dialogue, I could have written a novel, but I settled for a short story.
Thank you, Frank. Hopefully you have set the record straight.
Sundance Selects has acquired the U.S. rights to the 2017 documentary ‘Frank Serpico’ directed by Antonino D’Ambrosio. The film is scheduled for release on November 24.
After having been shot in the face and then retiring from the NYPD in 1972, Frank Serpico could have just faded into obscurity, never to be heard from again. Had he taken that path no one could have faulted him for doing so.
But that is not Frank Serpico.
For over four decades he has been an outspoken voice against police corruption, brutality and misconduct because he deeply and truly still cares about the image of the police profession.
Let me tell you. Getting shot was probably one of the best things that happened in my life because it made me look at the world in a different light.
If we don’t have a functioning system of justice, we have nothing. Listen, if cops are corrupt, where can you go to find justice?
I see kids sometimes, little kids, looking up at cops. In the community I go to, their parents tell them I was a cop. They don’t see too many cops around and their like, “can I see your badge?”
The world today is made up of lies. They used to say, if you tell the truth you never should worry because you just repeat it. If you tell a lie you must tell three more to cover it up. Today, all they do is talk about lies, they believe their own lies. We have all these cover-ups.
Remember the cop that blew away this 14-year-old kid with a toy gun. The first thing he should have done, was to take cover. You just don’t pull up and blow the kid away. It’s like, was the cop’s life in any danger?’ You put your life in danger when you’re not alert. It came over 911 that it might have been a toy gun. Sometimes there are no repercussions, it shouldn’t be that way. Some believe the talk everybody else is buying, “I feared for my life.”
I was talking to these kids yesterday. I said you know how stupid it is when you’re buying clothes and you’re paying to advertise the clothes that you’re wearing with a stupid brand on your back or your front. I said you’re being had, don’t you see it. This is where our kids are. I see young teenagers gawking over their boyfriend’s shoulder who’s driving a truck, to look at a little sports car.
We are all material oriented, there’s nothing about morality or principle and this goes for the individual, it goes for the city and the country.
Where are families today?
This thing about rights, everybody wants rights. Yes, there should be equality. But you want a right to kill your own baby, you want to go kill somebody else’s baby.
I think that what man calls his greatest triumphs are his greatest failures. He created nothing but destruction. We were given a beautiful home, with the trees, to keep our air clean and fresh. We destroyed our own home out of greed.
Backing the badge
Frank has personally supported police officers over the years who have stood their ground because they believed in the oath they swore to. He has inspired countless police officers, myself included, who like him, have put their careers on the line, because the oath they swore to was far more than just words to them.
That’s what we do, you support and inspire. Just about every good cop that ever reached out to me, never asked for nothing. All they wanted was somebody that would listen and understand what they went through. That’s what it’s about.
Frank gave support to NYPD Sgt. Joe Trimboli, who was stone-walled by his own department for over five years during his internal affairs investigation of scumbag-in-uniform, drug dealing cop, Michael Dowd.
In October 1993 Trimboli told the New York Times that he had spoken several times with Frank Serpico. Trimboli said,“When Frank first started talking to me, he said, ‘They’re going to do this, and they’re going to do that, and you’re going to reach the point where you’ll start disbelieving what you know to be the truth,’ And you know what? He was right.”
Doug, did you see him in the documentary, The Seven Five?
The guy that did the documentary called me. He wanted me to be in the documentary. I said have you spoken to Joe Trimboli, and he said, who’s that. I said Joe Trimboli is what the Mollen Commission was all about. He said he never heard of him. So, he did find Joe, he was in the film.
Joe and I became friends. I knew what he was going through. He had Michael Dowd and another cop’s picture on the wall in Internal Affairs and the lieutenant came in and said, who’s this. Joe said that’s him and his partner, these are my suspects. The lieutenant said, suspects my ass, these are New York City police officers, take the pictures down. Who the hell do you think you are, Serpico.
I received an email once from a cop. He was responding to a burglary in progress. The burglars were cops. They opened fire on him and his bulletproof vest saved his life. They said he was psycho and that he tried to commit suicide. Doug, who tries to commit suicide wearing a bulletproof vest?
There are some sick people out there wearing that uniform. You know, Michael Dowd was typical of them.
Frank also supported Adrian Schoolcraft, the former NYPD police officer who exposed the NYPD’s practice of downgrading crime statistics. After it was learned that he had recorded conversations with superiors, Schoolcraft was forcibly removed from his home by the NYPD and held against his will for six days in a hospital psychiatric ward. Schoolcraft’s lawyers consulted with Frank.
I knew what he was going through, I reached out to him. His father had called David Durk for help. Guess what David Durk did? He called Internal Affairs. I went over [to] Adrian’s house with my pet crow and cooked dinner for him and his father one night. I brought wine and salmon.
Bobby Addolorato, the NYPD Bronx Homicide Detective who got these two guys out of jail who were wrongfully accused in the Palladium murder in the city. You should see the hell he went through. When he retired he came to visit me one day and he gave me his plaque. I said ‘what are you doing?’ He said he wanted me to have it. “You were my inspiration,” he said.
Justin Hopson, is the former New Jersey State Trooper, who wrote the book, Breaking the Blue Wall. Hopson exposed a secret society within the State Police known as the “Lords of Discipline,” which sparked the largest internal investigation in the history of the New Jersey State Police.
Frank said that Hopson gave him a copy of his book with the inscription, “Frank, hopefully this book will help encourage others as you have me.”
Hopson told me, “Having spent some time talking and breaking bread with Serpico many moons ago, I gained an appreciation for his authenticity. In turn, Frank has inspired me to be authentic and to never succumb to the blue wall of silence.”
During the summer of 1971 while Frank was recovering from his gunshot wound a conversation was heard on a wiretap of a Mafia telephone that “the cop with the beard in the Village” was going to be “hit.” This prompted the NYPD to assign him police bodyguards. One of his bodyguards was the bagman (one who collects pay-off money) from his former division. Frank asked that they be removed citing that he could take care of himself.
Almost 30 years later, another NYPD police officer would need NYPD protection from other NYPD police officers. His name was Eric Turetzky. He broke the blue wall of silence when he testified against NYPD police officer, Justin Volpe who had sodomized Abner Louima with a nightstick in the bathroom of the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn in 1997.
Frank told the Los Angeles Times in May 1999, “These guys say they are so proud of the cops who come forward, calling them heroes, but then they have to put them all under police protection. What’s the point of doing that if it’s such an honorable action? And how can they possibly say that things have changed in the New York Police Department?”
Editor’s Note: Read the complete series on New York’s finest Joe Serpico under Special Reports.
Photos provided by Doug Poppa
Doug authored over 135 articles on the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas Massacre, more than any other single journalist in the country. He investigates stories on corruption, law enforcement and crime. Doug is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former police officer, deputy sheriff and criminal investigator. Doug spent 20 years in the hotel/casino industry as an investigator and then as Director of Security and Surveillance. He also spent a short time with the US Dept. of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration. In 1986 Doug was awarded Criminal Investigator of the Year by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. In 1992 and 1993 Doug testified in court that a sheriff’s office official and the county prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence during the 1988 trial of a man accused of the attempted murder of his wife. Doug’s testimony led to a judge’s decision to order the release of the man from prison in 1992 and awarded him a new trial, in which he was later acquitted. As a result of Doug breaking the police “blue wall of silence,” he was fired by the county sheriff. His story was featured on Inside Edition, Current Affair and CBS News’ “Street Stories with Ed Bradley”. In 1992 after losing his job, at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Doug infiltrated a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont fortune heir and his wife. Doug has been a guest on national television and radio programs speaking on the stories he now writes as an investigative journalist.