The Whistleblower Effect on Police Departments

As young recruits leave police training programs and enter into their chosen police departments, who knows if they will have the join the ranks of officers who may have the old “blue code of silence,” culture in their ranks. What happens when a bright-eyed, ambitious officer in training wants to come out of the academy and make a good impression in the community in which he serves. When I was growing up there was a police officer living on our block. His name was ‘Angel’ and I don’t remember his last name. He was much older than I was at the time.

He rode around the neighborhood in his squad car. It was no big deal to see Officer ‘Angel’ riding past the house or coming home for lunch in his uniform. You could walk to the police department. At that time, it wasn’t unusual to see the patrolman living in the community with us. In the movie, Frank Serpico, a narcotics detective would have been left to die in a pool of blood had a Hispanic man in the room at the time not called the ambulance.

In the movie, Frank Serpico would have been left to die in a pool of blood had a Hispanic man in the room at the time not called the ambulance. In the movie, Serpico was played by Al Pacino and he played him well. The city of New York was in the middle of the war on drugs, and narcotics divisions needed expertise help and experience. This is what happened in the movie:

In the opening scene of the 1973 movie “Serpico,” I am shot in the face or to be more accurate, the character of Frank Serpico, played by Al Pacino, is shot in the face. Even today it’s very difficult for me to watch those scenes, which depict in a very realistic and terrifying way what actually happened to me on Feb. 3, 1971. I had recently been transferred to the Narcotics division of the New York City Police Department, and we were moving in on a drug dealer on the fourth floor of a walk-up tenement in a Hispanic section of Brooklyn. The police officer backing me up instructed me (since I spoke Spanish) to just get the apartment door open “and leave the rest to us.”

One officer was standing to my left on the landing no more than eight feet away, with his gun drawn; the other officer was to my right rear on the stairwell, also with his gun drawn. When the door opened, I pushed my way in and snapped the chain. The suspect slammed the door closed on me, wedging in my head and right shoulder and arm. I couldn’t move, but I aimed my snub-nose Smith & Wesson revolver at the perp (the movie version, unfortunately; goes a little Hollywood here and has Pacino struggling and failing to raise a much larger 9-millimeter automatic). From behind me, no help came. At that moment my anger got the better of me. I made the almost fatal mistake of taking my eye off the perp and screaming to the officer on my left: “What the hell are you waiting for? Give me a hand!” I turned back to face a gun blast in my face. I had cocked my weapon and fired back at him almost in the same instant, probably as a reflexed action, striking him. (He was later captured.)

When I regained consciousness, I was on my back in a pool of blood trying to assess the damage from the gunshot wound in my cheek. Was this a case of small entry, big exit, as often happens with bullets? Was the back of my head missing? I heard a voice saying, “Don’ worry, you be all right, you be all right,” and when I opened my eyes I saw an old Hispanic man looking down at me like Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan. My “backup” was nowhere in sight. They hadn’t even called for assistance-I never heard the famed “Code 1013,” meaning “Officer Down.” They didn’t call an ambulance either, I later learned; the old man did. One patrol car responded to investigate, and realizing I was a narcotics officer rushed me to a nearby hospital (one of the officers who drove me that night said, “If I knew it was him, I would have left him there to bleed to death,” I learned later). Read more:

This scene and others like it was common if you tried to go against your officers and they didn’t like you. You see it in movies and television renditions of police work. It’s a very different world being in this type of environment. If you’re seen as a snitch, you soon will find yourself without any friends, or backup. But my original premise is going back to the way patrolmen would get involved with the community members. Police officers were known as ‘officer friendly.’ Nowadays, we don’t know who they are or where they live. Are the days gone forever, when we had a friendlier and community service atmosphere? Communities have to want this for their city, and they have to fight to gain more control.

Tracy T. Brittain is a political essayist and advocates for women’s rights and human rights of individuals all over the world. She is a professional commentariat and will continue to write thought provoking articles for people with open minds and hearts. She is on the verge of starting a YouTube Radio Show and will get back with more information about that in the future. This particular election has prompted and compelled her to write and put forth her views in support of what’s right.