When Corruption Infected 'New York’s Finest' -- 40th Anniversary of Knapp Commission

Forty years ago, a miasma of general lawlessness descended upon New York, rendering our “Fun City” designation something of a bad joke. Myriad problems — the city’s looming fiscal instability; a crumbling infrastructure; the vise-like grip of the Mafia; an influx of cheap heroin — had combined to make parts of the city a living hell.

And perhaps the ugliest fact of all was this: The most frequent predations against the populace were carried out by rank-and-file NYPD cops, who awaited a cash payoff or similar “consideration” from everyone in town. So reports the  NYPOST.com in "New York’s Foulest."

The real Serpico, who seemed to be the
only honest cop in the NYPD back in the
early 1970s.                      FROM GETTY
Sure, members of New York’s Finest were heroic when the situation demanded it, but the impolitic question being whispered four decades ago was no longer whether the average NYPD cop was corrupt, but rather just how corrupt was he?

At one Brooklyn precinct, entrepreneurs running a card game from a second-floor apartment were left undisturbed, so long as they remembered to throw $10 to cops, who impatiently honked their horns until the bill magically floated down to them.

One enterprising cop moonlighted by illegally wiretapping a particular bar’s public telephone, so he could listen in on random conversations, hoping to find out where he could steal money from drug dealers.

"A patrol car was literally a ticket to ride."

And precinct “desk cops” performing essential administrative functions would routinely expect and receive daily payoffs — a $5 bill was cool — from their fellow patrol officers for nothing more than assigning them patrol cars.

That’s because a patrol car was literally a ticket to ride — guaranteeing beat officers lucrative streams of cash revenue from drug dealers, gamblers, bar owners and local businessmen within their sectors.


Such tawdry scenes are exposed in “They Wished They Were Honest: The Knapp Commission and New York City Police Corruption” (Columbia University Press) by Michael F. Armstrong, who served as the chief counsel on the group tasked with trying to clean up the mess.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Knapp Commission’s findings being made public, conclusions reached largely from evidence presented earlier in 1972 during live hearings that kept New York riveted and outraged. ...

Read more: NYPOST.com