Frank Serpico Biography

Law Enforcement (1936–)
Police officer Frank Serpico exposed corruption in the New York City police department. He was the first officer to testify against another officer.


Frank Serpico was born on April 14, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York. He became a New York City police officer in 1959 and served for 12 years. He reported and exposed corruption within the department. In 1971, he testified before the Knapp Commission. Disliked by fellow officers, they did not come to his aid when he was shot during a 1971 drug raid. He now lives in upstate New York.

Corruption in the NYPD

Police officer Frank Serpico became a New York City policeman in 1960. By the early 1970s, he had gained both kudos and notoriety as the man who blew the whistle on corruption in New York's police department. Serpico, who served on both uniformed and plainclothes patrol in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem, was bothered by what he saw as the department's widespread corruption and bribery by his fellow officers. With hippie-like looks, he gained the distrust of a series of partners and other policemen by refusing to take bribes and speaking with his department superiors about corruption in the force.

Later Years

After many years of trying to call attention to the problem, Serpico finally was able to testify to the Knapp Commission in 1972, becoming the first policeman to voluntarily testify against a fellow officer. He paid for his perceived disloyalty to the force -- other officers refused to come to his aid when he was shot during a drug raid in 1971.

He survived, but lost his hearing in his left ear. Hated by his fellow officers, Serpico left the force following the incident and traveled to Europe. He lived in Holland and married before eventually returning to the U.S. and settling in upstate New York. In 1973, his experience was immortalized in the film Serpico, starring Al Pacino.

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