Rewatching *Serpico*

When I was 12 it was one of my favorite books (by Peter Maas), and shortly thereafter I saw and liked the movie as well.  On this viewing I was struck by the excellent understanding of the culture of corruption, the notion that the mayor is beholden to the police who can threaten to shirk, the performance of Al Pacino, and the wonderful scenes of early 1970s New York City (yes that is Soho you are seeing).

The last quarter of the film should have been shortened.  And for all of its attempts to be a politically correct film, the degree of casual racism and sexism still is astonishing to the modern eye, specifically how either black criminals or attractive women are shown on screen.

Nonetheless recommended, and in particular as historical backdrop for understanding 2020.  Here is a John Arnold thread on the primary of culture in police departments.  And here is the police response to the recent protests.

Here is the Wikipedia page of the actual Frank Serpico, still speaking out against police abuses at age 84.


Some vain people are still trying to promote some biographies from so long ago - l'état c'est moi ! A coup in France.

I love how you categorize this under "law"! Status anxiety, Tyler?

The WaPo link shares the frustration that police feel when they are criticized for the actions of police who they have never had contact with. This is an obvious consequence of the police maintaining the blue wall of silence with respect to the misdeeds of their colleagues.

I have as much sympathy for "good cops" as I have for "good members of the US armed forces" or "good CIA agents" or "good Catholic priests", which is to say none. You join the bad guys and cover for their crimes? You're a bad guy.

Methinks that there is a bit more accountability in the U.S. military -- which has its own legal code -- than among U.S. cops or the CIA. Remember Abu Ghraib? Some of the soldiers who were abusing prisoners (and some of whom were U.S. prison guards when not called up for active duty ...hmmm), got serious hard time. CIA officials and their contractor buds were torturing and committed at least one murder. Like cops, they got off.

As I recall, the prison deal went on for a long time, with a lot of people participating and aware of it, before a whistleblower blew the lid by releasing photos. (seems like these things never get traction until photos leak).

Only THEN did the wheels of justice stat to grind. Three low ranking personal did +a year time. Another six I think did >1 year. Two officers got wrists slaps.

The whole thing was of course planned, approved, and directed by the White House on down.

The only people who actually ate any sh*t (besides the victims) was a few dumb-ass Specialists from West Virgina.

In other words, the military isn't much better.

You join the bad guys and cover for their crimes? You're a bad guy.

Well I agree with you about the CIA - it is outrageous that they tried to remove Donald Trump and continue to cover up for him. But the claims about the Catholic Church are mostly fictional and if anything they prove that the Church was right to evade scrutiny. They cannot expect a fair hearing. Orthodox Jews do the same thing for the same reasons.

However it is ironic you are claiming this in a week where we are told that it is racist to accuse "most peaceful protestors" of having any link to the looters. Even though they are one and the same.

Care to condemn all the protestors as no different from the looters?

There are many many bad actors in the Catholic priesthood, some are atheists who joined the seminary with the intention to target victims, others are just bad people doing bad things. I could be wrong, but I believe that poor Bishop Fellay and poor Bergoglio have both been guilty of evil by protecting child molesters: well of course that is also true of many many minions sucking up to the Kennedy clan and of many high level bureaucrats in the USA public school systems and of many others, but it hurts to see people who pray a lot in public doing the "covering up for evil" thing.

Public schools in the 1950s and later decades generally had at least two or three perverts on the payroll, and there are huge problems with child molesters in some parts of every community, with a few exceptions.

Not many exceptions though - for example, give me list of 100 famous bullfighters and I will respond with a list of 2 or 3 evil men among them (and remember every bullfighter had access to honest adult sex, if he wanted), and the same is true for public high school teachers, religious teachers of almost every faith, and don't get me started on how high the percentage of rapists and child molesters was among the famous rock stars of the decades in the recent past.

For the record, there are no Rolling Stones, no Who, no Michael Jackson, and no Jerry Lee Lewis records in my house. And there never will be.

throw yours out if you have them in your house.

they were never your friends.

The casting of Al Pacino's girlfriend was weak. You can tell the filmmakers decided they made a mistake from the several minute long scene in which Serpico goes to a party with his girlfriend, then dances for several minutes with a very young, very magnetic Susan Sarandon, then just leaves with his girlfriend. The only way the scene makes any sense is as an apology for not casting Sarandon, whom the camera loves, in the female lead role.

There was always something off about Susan Sarandon.

I think it was the perennial selfish look that she had in her eyes.

No matter what other attributes a man or a woman has, a perennial selfish look in the eyes is a huge negative factor, often outweighing other factors.

So I am gonna have to disagree with you on this one.

Serpico was fiction and Officer Serpico had mental health issues. About as accurate as Dirty Harry.

Prince of The City might be more realistic on the same topic

I also think 'Prince of the City' was a better film. Sidney Lumet had such an interesting directorial career and his works spanned so many different genres.

"Serpico had mental health issues"............So......?

So, the officers are arrayed in phalanxes facing protestors. They are wearing black battle fatigues, gloves and knee pads and armored vests, they wear face shields, and are carrying mace, batons, and guns. They have shields like Roman gladiators. Their faces may be obscured by masks/shields or even gas masks, their names and badge numbers covered by tape. They carry a couple dozen zip ties. Their comrades have tear gas guns, rubber bullet guns, and pepper spray. Behind them are cops on horseback and some military-looking armored personnel carriers. On the roofs are snipers.

They are enforcing a curfew - marital law.

Occasionally they surge into the crowd, or shout orders through bullhorns, and move the protestors around or block their progress, seemingly at random or capriciously.

On TV, images show cops that are dressed just like them, doing the same thing they are doing, and beating up or arresting protestors.

And so the cops wonder why they all get lumped in with the bad guys.

>they wonder why they all get lumped in with the bad guys.

Rather ironic, given that this whole kerfuffle is about people upset that they get lumped in with the bad guys.

But, I guess sometimes it is ok to do just that, amirite?

The word is "profiling."

I am willing to bet that many of the cops who are complaining now, are advocates for profiling. Surely many who are facing protestors now in urban areas did their share of pulling over young back men for "DWB." And they do not see the irony at all.

It's a big old goofy world.

But there is profiling and then there is profiling. It makes sense to form a pattern of what a normal suspect looks like. And what did the Democrat's own big money funder Michael Bloomberg have to say about that?

The police do a pretty good job by and large. At least in America. This is not about police brutality. Otherwise we would be complaining about the police in Detroit.

Patterns indeed.

And when you see a bunch of cups all suited up in their combat gear, it makes sense to conclude that they plan to bash some heads.

Oh George!

Sure, and rather ironic of cops to not see this parallel, too, except the difference is that the cops are the reactors of the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force, so I have a LOT higher standard for their behavior.

When I got married, I also was put under curfew.

wait’ll i write a piece that uses “public” a bunch

George I don't think this is right.

There are people who think all the cops are bad. I think this is a small number. Many more are upset by the 'good' cops not standing up to and publicly rebuking 'bad' cops. So, pressure through the protests is being put on 'all cops' about this issue.


indeed. i am referring to the police’s perspective, according to the article.

this perspective is surely exaggerated as well.

The problem is not that they don't speak up in public. It is that they don't do so in private either, hence the culture. This is why I actually think the defund the police movement has the right idea. We have been spending money on "training" and changing rules and regulations for years and look we are. Organizational culture is really hard to change. A lot easier and cheaper to start over.......

I think the culture of police is protective of one another, us against he world, like most unions, but I tend to think police (humans) are more lazy than than actively racist. Why go out of your way to do harm, so they let crime run rampant. What does that mean for the direction of reforms?
Also what I'm reading about police now, reminds me that the worst teacher that I ever had, a guy who would just stand up in front of the class and yell while the students created chaos, my mother also had 30 years earlier she said he was just as bed then (the 2nd worst teacher that I had she also had BTW). That was in Providence RI, those north eastern Democrat politicians being strongly pro-union are unable to get the Unions agree to reasonable reformes.
What do you think?

The American tradition is to under-police Black communities until their violence spills over into White communities and then they punish harshly.

These days that does not really happen but because of demands from Black politicians and the Left generally, Black communities are still under-policed until something very bad happens.

You can see why the police do it - if they do their job, they get hung out to dry. They should stick together. If Black communities do not want to be policed, why police them? The sensible reform is to return the police to the control of the local Ward bosses. If the local Democrats want no police, they can have no police. If they want Black policemen, they can have them. Everyone will get the policing they want.

You are the first one here who made even half a lick of sense.
In the USA, police powers are local.

We'll protect a lot of Jaffre because he speaks french.

But being in the shelter of King is just like a copycat - of natives ! That was another France piggybacking on America but criticising the other. All Frenchies are Le Pen - no sure why she is vilified from time to time.

I met Serpico! My reaction, even as a skinny college sophomore, was that he was a little guy.

But with big .. attitude, obviously.

You met her or him?

I was too late for a college screening of the movie, and as I was discovering that, Frank Serpico came out and talked to us in the lobby. He had done an introduction.

The interwebs say he's 5'7" which isn't that short. Maybe I was just expecting heroes to be John Wayne height.

Keep guessing.

I don't really care what you believe, but I do think it's funny to look back that height was my big sophomore takeaway.

lol, shout out to all the professors who have to deal with freshmen and sophomores on an ongoing basis.

Haha! Did you see your doctor recently - free for everyone?

With her or him, we could arrange it. No langues barred !

Frenchies are just talking amongst themselves - hiding behind their LAAAAAAAAAAANGUE - college royal !

Careful, Tyler - praising a film that espouses anything other than woke views can get a person cancelled these days.

A copy of the Knapp Report is available here:

Hey, everyone! Thiago's Spam Farm has decided to chime in!

I do not know anything about spam farms, I am just a patriotic American exercising my First and Third Amendment rights.

Every day you've good a new account with called [Firstname] [Lastname], and you say "as an [identity] I support [this policy]" you just switch out the details like a mad lib.

I think you might be mistaking me for another person. I am Mr. Frederick Jones, from the Joneses from Wilcox County, Alabama.

My brother--a Jersey guy, like Tyler--dated, and came within a hair of marrying, the daughter of Serpico's Precinct Commander: quite a brute (the Commander, that is...)

The negroes, by far the most primitive of all of the races, just slaughtered 18 of their own kind in 24 hours in Chicago. But what we should be worried about is racism in a movie from the seventies?

The 1840’s called and they’d like their racism back. Sorry. Its 2020 now. Also I didn’t know black people had a hive mind. Do you talk about whites killing their own in the same way as if they’re one entity?

There are individual variations in any population. What I talk about is the vast difference in the mean for propensity for violence between blacks and whites.

And in case you missed the news, slavery was banned after the South lost the civil war. We also beat the Nazis 80 years later.

Ah yes, the Civil War, the last time the Republicans put down a Democratic rebellion.

Ha ... ha?????

What does the coalition of groups that happened to form the two parties 160 years ago have to do with the modern Democrats and Republicans?

I know you're at least partially joking, but I see people mention this enough that it suggests that many people somehow think this is relevant.
Do you think that modern Republicans have the same preferences as the Republicans of 1860 and same for Democrats, as if it weren't the case that nearly every Southern who was born before 1960 and who votes for Republicans now used to call themselves a Democrat.

In your mind, are Republicans and Democrats also still fighting over free silver vs. the gold standard? And are you a pro-mercantilism Republican? What are your thoughts on building canals in upstate New York? Should politicians still wear wigs? Slavery, good or bad or necessary evil? What are your thoughts on the Fugitive Slave Act? I hope Trump campaigns against it in the upcoming election.

And how is the outcome of a couple of wars remotely relevant how evolution has created different populations with different characteristics? If we were discussing the differences in the beaks of the finches on the various islands of the Galapagos archipelago, would you respond with some random trivia about who won the Thirty Years' War?

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