Maybe Francisco Vincent Serpico is cut from a different breed. Maybe he just thinks he is the righteous second-coming. Or maybe he is just a decent man trying to do good. There is precedence however, and in many cases, how we behave is based on our individual experiences in life, starting when we were young, how we were treated by our parents and all the adults around us, and, more importantly, what we see around us, in our environment, as we grow. For Frank, who comes from a family of coal miners, and in which his earliest memory is a story told by his father of how his grandfather was stabbed and robbed right after they got paid his monthly wage. This memory, according to Frank (D’Ambrosio, 2017), is one of the major influences in him becoming a police officer. He later confided that, as a young kid, he imagined “I’ll catch that guy someday.” The path was set when, as his father’s assistant in the family shoeshine business, he experienced the first corrupt cop.
For a self-professed “righteous cop”, Frank’s deems that the role and responsibility of the police officer is simple: morals and ethics cannot be compromised. Is that absolutism? Absolutely. Is it extreme? Absolutely not. If you start qualifying and dissecting what is to be labeled ethical and moral against what is not, you are heading down a very slippery slope – and more than likely, you will not be able to climb out of once you start justifying your behavior. People will argue that morals and ethics are relative to the given situation. I say they are full of it. What most people are missing the point on is that even righteous people who claim absolutism on ethical and moral behavior are also subject to failing it. The difference is that these people do not sugar coat their transgression, nor justify their actions. That’s the difference between an amoral person and one who is a good human being who is working hard to do right, but at times makes mistakes. It is easy to spot the difference between the two. In Serpico’s case, if we apply the rules of Absolutism in ethics and moral behavior, when he saw another cop accepting or demanding payment from civilians, he should have arrested the police officer for it is a crime to do so. But he did not. He looked away and minded his own business. Yes, he did not accept the payment himself, but he also did not arrest the corrupt cop, which he had a professional duty to do so. We arrest regular people for bribery and extortion. Why don’t we not do that to police officers who are actually caught in the act? That’s double-standard – even for Frank Serpico. Personally, I feel Frank Serpico was a decent human being. But he was also looking out for himself. He wanted to play both sides of the game, but ensuring he comes out unscathed when the scuffles settle. That is why he reported the activities to the higher ups.