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Current Events PopWrapped | Current Events

Famous Whistleblower Frank Serpico Continues To Fight Police Misconduct

Margie Patton | PopWrapped Author

Margie Patton

11/03/2014 8:32 pm
PopWrapped | Current Events
Famous Whistleblower Frank Serpico Continues To Fight Police Misconduct | Frank Serpico
Media Courtesy of Page Six
It seems that every day brings us another new story of misdeeds perpetrated by the police. Cell phone cameras and social media have brought the matter into the spotlight in today's world, but the problem has been a long-standing one. No one knows this better than former New York City police detective Frank Serpico. If the name Serpico is familiar to you, it's undoubtedly because of the 1973 film starring Al Pacino, Serpico, which tells the detective's story. The movie recounts Serpico's struggles of being a lone fighter in a battle to fight police corruption from inside the force. One of the movie's most chilling scenes shows Serpico being shot in the face by a drug dealer, with the officers who were supposed to be providing him with back-up nowhere to be seen. That real-life 1971 incident left Serpico partially deaf and disabled, bullet fragments still lodged near his brain today. It also left the officer branded for life as a traitor by the very institution he strove to save. In a new piece for Politico Magazine, Serpico details his own personal crusade against police corruption during and after his time in the NYPD. At 78-years-old Serpico is still as focused and perceptive as ever, and still very much considered an outcast or a downright threat by other police officers who either directly participate in misconduct or protect those who do. "Police make up a peculiar subculture in society," Serpico writes. "More often than not they have their own moral code of behavior, an “us against them” attitude, enforced by a Blue Wall of Silence. It’s their version of the Mafia’s omerta. Speak out, and you’re no longer 'one of us.' You’re one of  'them.'" Serpico acknowledges that the graft aspect of police misconduct seems to have improved, but the plague of unchecked police violence is now more pervasive than ever.
Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In the NYPD, it used to be you’d fire two shots and then you would assess the situation. Today it seems these police officers just empty their guns and automatic weapons without thinking, in acts of callousness or racism. Today’s uncontrolled firepower, combined with a lack of good training and adequate screening of police academy candidates,  has led to a devastating drop in standards.
Serpico isn't just pointing out the problems, however, he is also offering solutions. Working with other whistleblowers and activists, the former officer has devised a clear, proactive six-point-plan to help combat police misconduct:

1. Strengthen the selection process and psychological screening process for police recruits.

Police departments are simply a microcosm of the greater society. If your screening standards encourage corrupt and forceful tendencies, you will end up with a larger concentration of these types of individuals.

2. Provide ongoing, examples-based training and simulations.

Not only telling but showing police officers how they are expected to behave and react is critical.

3. Require community involvement from police officers

so they know the districts and the individuals they are policing. This will encourage empathy and understanding.

4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers.

When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system.

5. Support the good guys.

Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop.

6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves.

Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.
Have you or someone you know ever been the victim of police misconduct? Tell us your story in the comments below and help change the system.

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