News & Politics

Read Frank Serpico’s Blistering 1975 Letter to the Village Voice

After the release of the hit film about his life, the hero cop who exposed corruption in the ranks sent a letter to his hometown paper

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Starting this week, Film Forum is presenting “Ford to City: Drop Dead — New York in the ’70s,” a series devoted to the classic, history-making movies made during some of the city’s darkest years. To go with the retrospective, we will be sharing some of the stories and reviews that ran in the Village Voice during this time.

Al Pacino and Sidney Lumet’s hit 1973 film, Serpico, about the undercover cop who exposed police corruption and criminality in the NYPD in the late Sixties and Seventies, was one of the seminal movies of this era. And in its February 3, 1975, issue, the Voice ran a lengthy letter from Frank Serpico himself, who at that time was living in the Netherlands. In the letter, written with the help of the Voice’s Lucian K. Truscott IV, Serpico offers his thoughts on the film, the politics of the day, his fellow cops’ response to him, and the issues of police brutality and racism that continued to plague the force, and in many ways still do so today.

The piece also included a sidebar by Truscott about the circumstances that led to the Serpico letter. It also featured some of the correspondence Serpico had himself received, including a threatening one, filled with racist invective, from an “Ex-policeman in New York.”

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