A recently retired high-ranking New York City police supervisor recounts his career, with an emphasis on his unpleasant but necessary assignment flushing out corrupt cops.
With assistance from journalist Dillow (co-author: Trauma Red: The Making of a Surgeon in War and in America's Cities, 2014, etc.), Campisi offers a compelling, educational, memorable account of his rise through the police department ranks until he was ordered to accept an assignment no cop ever wanted: to become part of the Internal Affairs Bureau, hostilely known among rank-and-file police as "the rat squad." Before his appointment, the bureau had been viewed as a dumping ground for incompetent, lazy, or previously dirty officers. With aggressive support from a new police chief, Campisi found ways to alter the reputation of the bureau while also improving techniques to catch and punish cops who cut corners, stole drugs, or employed excessive force. The author does not shy away from going behind the scenes of infamous cases, including the brutalizing of Abner Louima and the shooting death of Amadou Diallo. Refreshingly, Campisi rarely comes across as defensive about the police department, but he does emphasize that an overwhelming percentage of the 30,000-plus cops on the job in NYC handle their responsibilities as prescribed. Another element that Campisi relates without sounding defensive is the idea of the "blue wall of silence”—good cops protecting corrupt cops. The author writes convincingly that such protective behavior is also common among physicians, lawyers, and many other professions. Though Campisi expected to remain within the Internal Affairs Bureau for two years, he served there for a record-setting 21 years before retiring in 2014. He is worried that since his retirement, the unit's aggressiveness might have been de-emphasized, with a parallel concern that the lax screening of cops might lead to terrorist infiltration of the NYPD.
This superb memoir can be read for its sheer entertainment or as a primer on police work—or both.