I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’m just now getting around to seeing “Serpico”. It’s one of the best police movies ever made — not to mention that it’s a true story. But it’s also a cautionary tale of the isolation and stigma attached to being a whistleblower.
If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief synopsis: “Serpico” follows Officer Frank Serpico after he graduates from the police academy and enters the force as a wide-eyed, well-intentioned cop. But he quickly realizes that many of his fellow NYPD officers don’t play by the rules, and he develops a burning desire to stop corruption as far and wide as he can. Of course, it’s a major undertaking — at the cost of his sanity, his relationships, and his street cred. In fact, when he was shot in the line of duty, his fellow officers wouldn’t even help him out. (And this is all portrayed in a landmark performance from Al Pacino)
The real Serpico still lives in New York state, and he can still tell the tale of being a beacon of truth. But he’s lucky to be alive. While “Serpico” makes for an engaging film, it also brings up a lot of questions: Did Serpico do the right thing? Did he make a difference? Did he go about it the right way — or could he have been more methodical and calculated about his approach?
It’s worth a watch, because it shows the dangers of doing the right thing at all costs and it’s a reflection of how easy it is to not do the right thing. Do you find that your profession is the same way? Are you held accountable for bending the rules, or is it easy to follow your moral compass? No matter how you answer, “Serpico” will make you think hard about your actions.