NYPD 40 Years After Frank Serpico

And 40+ years later it might be worse in the NYPD.  The candidates for Mayor all believe either that the current police chief should be replaced or that an “Inspector General” should be appointed to oversee the department.

The issues might be different; Serpico’s ordeal centered mainly around bribes and payoffs, not brutality and ‘testilying’.  But the difficulties – and dangers – of taking on the police for wrongdoing in any serious way are still there.  Perhaps they will always be there.  Perhaps it is the nature of the beast.

You can change chiefs and it’s “…meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”  You can appoint an IG, or some other bureaucratic commissioner of some kind, and before long you get regulatory capture or revolving doors or – once again – bribes and payoffs.

In the end there may be no substitute for the practice of virtues, like courage and justice (but of course don’t forget temperance and prudence).  Our willingness – or unwillingness, as the case may be – to insist on decent and civilized behavior from our police departments will ultimately determine what kind of police departments we will have.  The people of Mount Morris, New York – at least those who vote – have displayed such a high tolerance for police misconduct that it’s fair to say they approve of it.  They have ignored brutal rape.  They could just as easily – indeed more easily – ignore murder:  one less complainant to deal with.

This is what it comes down to in a vacuum where the rule of law is suspended or does not exist:  force and violence.  And I have to say that that state of affairs always implicates the legal profession, which must have degenerated well before the general population.  The legal profession – especially including the judiciary – is the natural safeguard against law enforcement corruption.

The practice of the cardinal virtues wouldn’t be so praiseworthy if it was easy to do it.  But we can’t tolerate it being impossible.  When virtue is punished and corruption is rewarded this is both a terrible injustice inflicted on the victims and also a massive social problem.  The results for Frank Serpico were mixed.  The NYPD’s track record and public image have ebbed towards integrity and flowed towards infamy multiple times since the now obscure Knapp commission hearings Serpico’s virtue helped bring about.

Corruption will always be with us, I guess.  But if that’s the case, then the Frank Serpico’s of the world are utterly indispensable.  They stand between us and the abyss.  Yet how many people know who Frank Serpico is as compared with how many people can identify Kim Kardashian?

Some days it doesn’t look good, and I’m not just talking about the stock market.

2 Comments

Filed under Media incompetence/bias, Striking lawyers, wrongful convictions

2 responses to “NYPD 40 Years After Frank Serpico

  1. And you still can’t see how an amoral constitution would lead to an immoral government? Think: how do you build a society with justice for all when said society is based on the best interests of corporate stockholders.

    Our justice system is built on shifting sand. Put rules on corporate charters that emulate human morality, criminalize the violation of those rules, and separate business from government and you might find civil employees and corporate executives doing what we all know is right, as opposed to what the “stockholders” would want.
    28th Amendment (The Constitutional Emergency Amendment)
    Corporations are not persons and shall be granted only those rights and privileges that Congress deems necessary for the well-being of the People. Congress shall provide legislation defining the terms and conditions of corporate charters according to their purpose; which shall include, but are not limited to:
    1, prohibitions against any corporation;
    a, owning another corporation,
    b, becoming economically indispensable or monopolistic, or
    c, otherwise distorting the general economy;
    2, prohibitions against any form of intervention in the affairs of government by means of;
    a, congressional lobbying
    b, electoral sponsorship or advocacy
    c, educational sponsorship or publication
    d, media news reporting
    3, provisions for;
    a, the auditing of standardized, current, and transparent account books
    b, closing the FRB and the establishment of state-owned banks
    c, civil and criminal penalties to be suffered by corporate executives et al for violation of the terms of a corporate charter.

    The 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution is hereby repealed and Congress shall re-write the U.S. Code to reflect the changes embodied herein.

    Like

    • William, I am not unsympathetic to those who perceive injustice, which is quite obviously there to perceive.

      There are things the law can do and things it can’t, even the constitution. Corporations are a creature of law and really are just a form of doing business, to enable people to invest in a business enterprise without risking everything they own, and for accounting and taxation purposes.

      The point of this post is especially relevant to what you are agitating for, and your comment indicates you completely missed the point. It would seem that even the best organizations – say, (and assuming without asserting as much) the NYPD – can get bogged down in rules and regulations, none of which will accomplish much of anything if there isn’t a basic practice of virtue in the first place.

      I think this was understood by the founders as well, who never considered the constitution a magic bullet for a sound citizenry.

      If things have gone terribly awry, and they have, we should ponder the possibility, to paraphrase the great bard, that the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our writings but in ourselves.

      Like

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