NYPD whistleblower Frank Serpico gets formal Medal of Honor, 50 years later

In December, NYC Mayor Eric Adams had promised that Serpico would finally get a proper accolade


By John Annese
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Frank Serpico has finally gotten his due from the New York Police Department.

The legendary police whistle-blower got his proper police Medal of Honor and its accompanying certificate after Mayor Eric Adams stepped in and said he’d make sure Serpico got the accolade, ending Serpico’s five-decade fight with the department.

In a December 2012 file image, retired New York City Police Officer Frank Serpico near his home in upstate Columbia County, New York.
In a December 2012 file image, retired New York City Police Officer Frank Serpico near his home in upstate Columbia County, New York. (David Handschuh/New York Daily News/TNS)

Serpico announced his receipt of the honor on Twitter Thursday, crediting Adams and several others — including veteran New York Daily News scribe Larry McShane, whose story about the 50th anniversary of his testimony before the Knapp commission helped bring the oversight to the mayor’s attention.

“I want to thank @NYCMayor, Chris Dunn @NYCLU, @PeterGleasonEsq & @lmcshanenydn for their efforts in facilitating my receipt of this long overdue honor awarded to me by the NYPD over 50 years ago,” Serpico tweeted.

Serpico, 85, a Brooklyn native, has been waiting for formal recognition ever since he was shot in the face in February 1971, nine months before his Knapp Commission testimony exposing corruption in the department.

When he originally got his medal in 1972, it was unceremoniously handed to him over a countertop, without any fanfare or the accompanying certificate.

In 2014, Serpico told McShane he was still “waiting for the NYPD to overcome their pettiness and animosity.”

Serpico was shot just below the eye after he forced open the door to a Brooklyn drug den. He returned fire and wounded the gunman, and has always maintained that the cops with him never made an “officer down” 10-13 call.

[POLICE HISTORY: Frank Serpico and the preservation of honor]

In December, Serpico tweeted that The News’ 50th anniversary article about his Knapp Commission testimony didn’t mention the fight over the medal. Adams, then the mayor-Elect, responded, “.@SerpicoDet‘s bravery inspired my law enforcement career. Frank — we’re going to make sure you get your medal.”

On Thursday, the certificate arrived in a large package at Serpico’s doorstep.

Serpico tweeted a short video of a “21-gun salute” unveiling the certificate -- using popped bubble wrap instead of gunshots.

©2022 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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