Frank Serpico : Bringing the lamplighter to the limelight

The real Frank Serpico who was depicted by Al Pacino in the movie bearing the same name

Frank Serpico

‘Doing the right thing’ was his motive and he still lives and fights for it. Frank Serpico, born in 1936 is an Italian American from Brooklyn. After spending his early years in the US Army, serving in Korea and his training at the military college, Serpico became a New York city Cop in the year 1960. Becoming a cop was his life time dream as that was a position he respected the most. But the police department was not what he though it was. Corruption was at every nook and corner. He kept moving from department to department but never found a peaceful work environment. His colleagues, immediate seniors, superintendents, officials, and even the chief commissioner of police were making the system corrupt. He always tried to fight back, but would end in vain. He had gone to outside agencies and even the New York Times. It all ended up in his colleagues being very angry on him and some of them setup a drug raid to get Serpico killed. Luckily, Serpico escaped with his left ear going deaf and a chronic cerebral problem.

A younger Serpico in 1971. The beard and hair are part of his undercover attire.

Serpico in 1971

I was very impressed by this man, for he stood by what he believed in. If I was in his place I might have decided one day to be a part of the corrupt system and go along with it. But only after I came across Serpico’s story did I realise that humanity is something that is wonderful and I want to live up to it. Why cant we be true to ourselves and others. That too a Police officer! We all know that the cops are corrupt and yet they never change! Just imagine if we were to hide behind the house and smoke when we were kids and our parents found out; they would punish us or warn us and the next time I am sure we will have some guilt feeling down us. Do these cops ever have a guilt feeling? I wonder not because all they have is the gut feeling. It has become a job description for cops that they have to be corrupt! The sad part is that we all have been aware and in a way or the other helped corruption go deep into the system.

Al Pacino portrays Serpico in the 1973 movie directed by Sidney Lumet

Serpico now lives in Europe during the summer and back home at New York at other times. He is still fighting to help the Lamplighters, who are generally called as the Whistle Blowers by the department. Serpico has been a moral support to all those Cops who have been going through similar incidents and hard times. In 1973 director Sidney Lumet made a film called ‘Serpico’ based on the biography written by Peter Maas. Al Pacino starred as Serpico in this emotional drama based on the real New York Cop who just wanted to do the right thing. During the filming of this film Al Pacino invited Frank Serpico to stay with him at a house that Pacino had rented in Montauk, New York. When Pacino asked Serpico, “Why did you do it?” 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?”

  • Gary

    Love the man, and his way of thinking. I am not my brothers keeper.