Serpico

Wednesday 09 April 2003 at 17:13

This movie has been kinda haunting me for the past week. Sarah and I rented it several weekends ago. It is based on the true story of Frank Serpico, a cop of remarkable integrity who blew the whistle on rampant corruption in NYPD in 1970. The movie portrays NYPD like the mob, spending most of their time shaking down criminals for hush money.

It's an excellent movie, but it is the real story which I find sobering. As recently as 1970 the integrity of the NYPD was thoroughly compromised by payoffs. Even the highest ranking public officials turned a blind eye to the problem rather than risk the damage to the image of the department. Image was preferred over substance. It's now obvious to me that I've been deeply naive about police work. It has made corruption into something real for me, not just speculation.

A couple years ago this country was agitated about chads and ballots in Florida. And until the war drums started beating there was a ton of press about Enron and WorldCom. I first noticed the war drums around this time last year, the same time that questions were asked about business practices at the former companies of Bush and Cheney. I sarcastically predicted to Sarah that we would be at war with Iraq in time for the elections. I was progressively more disturbed by how close I was to being right. Then I was shocked and frustrated by how well the war drums effected the elections.

It's all frustratingly conspicuous, but more frustrating because, like any good conspiracy theory, it's completely unverifiable. All suspicion, all circumstance, all compelling but vaporous.

Serpico doesn't have anything to do with all of this. It's an excellent movie that I happened to see when too much of my attention was wrapped up in a war and in my mistrust of the Administration that started it.