The Knapp Commission was part of a history of the NYPD (New York City Police Department). Why is it still important today?
The Commission to Investigate Alleged Police Corruption, known as the Knapp Commission because its chairman was Walter Knapp, was appointed in 1970 under New York City Mayor John Lindsay to investigate police corruption. The committee was formed after Frank Serpico, a long-time New York City police officer and David Durk, a sergeant, revealed corrupt police practices to the New York Times. The article in the Times suggested that Lindsay knew about corruption among the police but had chosen to ignore it.
After conducting public hearings, the committee convicted several police officers of corruption and made several reforms, including placing undercover agents in each office and making commanders in the police department responsible for the behavior of their officers. The commission is important today because it cracked down on and eliminated the widespread practices of graft and corruption that used to riddle the New York Police Department. While there will always be a small number of police officers who might try to use their jobs to make illegal financial gains, the culture of graft was largely eliminated from the department.
Ironically, Frank Serpico became a target of violence among his fellow officers. They became suspicious of him because he was honest and wished to remain so. Since he refused to take any money, his fellow officers felt they could not trust him. They attempted to take his life.
Serpico said that if the police of New York City spent as much time fighting crime as they did collecting graft, there would not be any crime in the city.
It was a bad time in the history of the city, but it did expose corruption and brought about a new era of police work and police officers.