Amadou’s Ghost

Diallo Speaks to Serpico

Why did these values not apply to me?"

NYPD detective Frank Serpico's revelations of widespread corruption within the ranks compelled Mayor John Lindsay in 1970 to appoint the Knapp Commission. In a buy-and-bust operation the next year, Serpico was shot in the face by a drug dealer. These events became the basis for Serpico, the best-seller by Peter Maas and the hit movie starring Al Pacino. Serpico continues to speak out regarding police brutality and corruption issues.

What Must Be Done

In the wake of the Mollen Commission findings in 1994, I sent a letter to Bill Clinton asking him to investigate issues of police corruption and brutality on a federal level and setting forth some suggestions to check the abuses of police power. He decided to pass on my letter. So that Amadou Diallo's death might not be in vain, and for the sake of all the innocent citizens who have yet to die at the hands of the police who are meant to protect them, I again set forth these thoughts:

1. The citizenry must hold its elected officials to the highest ethical standards. The fact that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has repeatedly vetoed an independent audit board on police misconduct is a travesty and indicative of the problems that are being covered up in the department.

2. Honest police officers must be supported, encouraged, and held up as role models by their superiors rather than being compelled to abide by the blue wall of silence.

3. Recruits must be psychologically screened to ensure that they are the type of people we want maintaining order and protecting our streets.

4. We need better training of recruits and better instructors in combat techniques, community outreach, and ethics. (While I have been asked to speak around the country and around the world on police ethics, I have never been invited to speak at the New York City Police Academy on the subject.)

5. The 48-hour rule, which allows police officers involved in shootings to take 48 hours before they tell their story, must be abolished.

6. Minority representation in the police department must be increased. It is essential that there be an equitable balance between the racial composition of the police department and the society it serves.

7. A special prosecutor must be appointed on an ongoing basis to look into police misconduct.

And to those lawyers in the media who are telling federal prosecutors to stay away, I pray and say, unless we demand an independent prosecutor to review the Diallo case, his ghost cannot rest, and the credibility of our justice system and the credibility of every brave and honest police officer in America will be damaged beyond repair. —Frank Serpico

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