Dispute over a tree prompts former NYPD detective Frank Serpico to enter politics

Tree stump in field
(Image credit: iStock)

Frank Serpico, the former detective who revealed corruption in the NYPD in the 1970s and inspired Sidney Lumet's Serpico starring Al Pacino, is making headlines once again. Although he's now 79, Serpico is running for political office, The New York Times reports.

Admittedly, it's nothing big — just a spot on the five-person board of Stuyvesant, New York, where the total population is just over 2,000. Serpico, whose name is now synonymous with battling corrupt, high-powered officials, seems an unlikely participant in political bureaucracy. That is, until things got personal:

Even before being encouraged by local Democrats, Mr. Serpico had contemplated seeking office after a battle with a neighbor, Frank Palladino, who had cut down some trees on Mr. Serpico's property.Mr. Serpico said the prosecution had been improperly handled, resulting in Mr. Palladino's getting off, in his view, too easy. He received no jail time and was fined $350, much less than the thousands of dollars Mr. Serpico had sought.The experience "threw me back 50 years to when I was going to quit the Police Department," he said. "I'd gone full circle. I was aching." [The New York Times]

While Stuyvesant's board is currently held by Republicans and Serpico is being championed by the town's Democrats, he's gained enough support to make the "old-boys network" he wants to overthrow nervous. "I said, 'Why not just go with the flow,'" Serpico told the Times. "I figure, 'Hey, I can always resign.'"

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Jeva Lange

Jeva Lange was the executive editor at TheWeek.com. She formerly served as The Week's deputy editor and culture critic. She is also a contributor to Screen Slate, and her writing has appeared in The New York Daily News, The Awl, Vice, and Gothamist, among other publications. Jeva lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter.