In David Kocieniewski's The Brass Wall comes a brilliantly reported true story of power and betrayal in the NYPD set against the worlds of the Mafia and big-city politics
In 1993, Vincent Armanti, Undercover Detective #4126, agreed to infiltrate the branch of the Lucchese family responsible for the homicide of a beloved fireman. Already a legend for successfully posing as a hit man and arms smuggler, Armanti transformed himself into Vinnie "Blue Eyes" Penisi--a veteran hood with an icy stare. Yet, once under cover, Armanti found that the wise guys he was chasing had access to classified police information. Stakes accelerated when the informant was revealed to be the son of the commander of NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau. Again and again, IAB's detectives compromised Armanti to protect the powerful man's son, but even the police commissioner ignored the situation. Like the fireman who took an oath to serve, Armanti stayed on the job, even when it was clear his life was in danger.
Kocieniewski, former New York Times police bureau chief, reveals every moment of Armanti's effort to break through the wall enforced by the cops' top brass. Here, with all its compromises, is the city of New York. Here, in all his humanity, is an unforgettable hero, battling for his honor and survival. Here is a remarkable story that ranks with the great police classics.
Part police drama and part expos of corruption in the New York City Police Department, this book captures the divergent aspects of heroism and dirty politics that have become intertwined in the complex world of law enforcement. Kocieniewski focuses his story on Vincent Armanti, an alias for an undercover cop who, in the process of trying to take down a gang of drug-dealing, murdering mobsters, is betrayed by another cop whose father just happens to be a powerful NYPD inspector. During Armanti's struggle to have his betrayer brought to justice, he faces the NYPD's "blue wall of silence," the department's unspoken policy of protecting their own at all costs. The varied personal stories of Armanti and such people as FDNY Lt. Thomas Williams, Det. John Wrynn and the members of the Ferranti gang range from poignant to intriguing and demonstrate a paradoxical familiarity between cops and criminals. While the court cases and office politics of the book's second half dampen the thriller aspect of the tale, the author's experience working as the police bureau chief for the New York Times allows him to clearly portray and analyze the myriad lawsuits, backdoor deals, personal vendettas and political agendas that arise out of an undercover mission compromised by a dirty cop. Though the ending is somewhat anticlimactic more front-page news than Hollywood blockbuster it supports the book's premise that the world of the NYPD is a murky place.