Prince of the City


A Memo From Our Blast-from-the Past Unit

This week we take a look at some of the works associated with former NYPD Detective Robert Leuci. Leuci, a Narcotics Detective in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was involved in the anti-corruption efforts of the Knapp Commission (the committee formed from the revelations of Frank Serpico). Alas, Leuci was not the squeaky clean cop Serpico claimed he was… but Leuci’s conscience eventually got to him. He cooperated with the feds — among them a rising young prosecutor named Rudy Giuliani — often wearing a wire to help take down major portions of New York’s criminal justice system. With a few 70’s-era wiseguys thrown into the mix (who knew suit lapels came so wide…).

His story was first told in the excellent book, Prince of the City, by former NYPD Deputy Commissioner Robert Daley. This was then made into a film by Sidney Lumet (featuring the immortal line, “As a cop, you don’t own the world, but you can shake it a little”). If you like gritty, 70’s-era New York flicks like Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, The French Connection… — this one’s for you.

Enduring ostracizism from colleagues, Leuci taught at the Police Academy and eventually retired, taking up writing himself. His autobiographical, brutally honest All The Centurions may well be his most compelling work (later made into the documentary, Blue Code of Silence). He passed away in 2015.

Leuci’s career shows the depths of corruption a demoralized, mismanaged police force can descend to, and how far American policing has come in a few short decades.

Hero to many, dirty cop to others, “rat” to many colleagues of the time, Leuci remains a singlular figure in U.S. law enforcement. His story deserves to be better-known.

Start here weekend buffs, with The Prince of the City movie (available on Amazon Prime for $2.99 – well-worth it).

And we’ll see you Monday morning with our latest dispatch.

Until then: stay safe.


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