David Durk, a New York City detective who helped expose widespread police corruption in the 1960s and ’70s, died Nov. 13 at his home in Putnam County, N.Y. He was 77.
His wife, Arlene, told the New York Times that he died of cardiac arrest. He had been treated for mesothelioma for the past two years.
Mr. Durk, a New York native, was an Amherst College graduate before joining the police force in 1963. He said he found rampant corruption throughout the system, including beat cops taking payoffs from mobsters and other criminals, and police officers dealing drugs and intimidating witnesses.
Refusing to participate in payoffs and other corrupt practices, he teamed up with fellow officer Frank Serpico to fight the so-called blue wall of silence that protected police misconduct. He said he was shunned by many on the force.
As quoted in the book “The Scales of Justice,” by Abraham S. Blumberg, Mr. Durk said: “The fact is that almost wherever we turned in the Police Department, wherever we turned in the city administration, and almost wherever we went in the rest of the city, we were met not with cooperation, not with appreciation, not with an eagerness to seek out the truth, but with suspicion and hostility and laziness and inattention, and with our fear that at any moment our efforts might be betrayed.”
The efforts by Mr. Durk and Serpico eventually resulted in front-page newspaper stories, and Mayor John V. Lindsay appointed a panel to investigate charges of police corruption. The Knapp Commission heard testimony from Mr. Durk, Serpico and others, and recommended reforms.
Mr. Durk was promoted to lieutenant and stayed in the department for more than a decade. Serpico’s story became a book by Peter Maas and was turned into a 1973 movie starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet. Mr. Durk became the subject of a 1996 biography by James Lardner, “Crusader: The Hell-Raising Police Career of Detective David Durk.”
— From staff and wire reports