All the Centurions: A New York City Cop Remembers His Years on the Street, 1961-1981

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Overview

All the Centurions is Leuci's accurately and sometimes mercilessly remembered account of young manhood -- a tale filled with dreadful and daring adventures on the streets and in the courthouses of New York City. Leuci takes us into the world of the New York City Police Department at a time when the city was crumbling under its own weight, drugs were taking over the poorer neighborhoods, and crime was rampant on the streets and subways. But this is also a story of shattered illusions and personal loss, of ...
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All the Centurions: A New York City Cop Remembers His Years on the Street, 1961-1981

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Overview

All the Centurions is Leuci's accurately and sometimes mercilessly remembered account of young manhood -- a tale filled with dreadful and daring adventures on the streets and in the courthouses of New York City. Leuci takes us into the world of the New York City Police Department at a time when the city was crumbling under its own weight, drugs were taking over the poorer neighborhoods, and crime was rampant on the streets and subways. But this is also a story of shattered illusions and personal loss, of endurance and healing, and, finally, of astonishing spiritual growth. Leuci describes his evolution from a naive rookie to a seasoned detective who believes that the only people he can trust are his fellow cops -- until he learns that even that might not be true.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ex-cop Leuci presents an unflinching if familiar tale of the ravages of drug-related police corruption in New York City. The broad aspects of his story were previously treated in Robert Daley's Prince of the City, later adapted into a Sidney Lumet movie starring Treat Williams as Leuci. Here the author traces in detail the incremental steps that turned him from a naive and idealistic beat cop into an arrogant dirty one, who easily rationalized ripping off drug dealers and playing along with rampant graft. To his credit, Leuci doesn't sugarcoat or paper over his lies, his betrayal of the public and his family, or pretend that he was unaware at the time that what he was doing was wrong. These flaws make him a classic tragic figure, especially when he begins to make a belated effort to redeem himself by cooperating with the Knapp Commission. Though Leuci still lectures to police departments around the country, and presumably continues to follow the NYPD, his failure to comment on more recent scandals or offer insights as to how corruption could be minimized is unfortunate. Still, for those new to his story, this will be an eye-opening look at some of the wages of the war on drugs during the 1960s and '70s. Agent, Esther Newburg at ICM. (On-sale June 29) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It has often been said that the police are a type of fraternity bound together by a sense of loyalty and commitment. Leuci felt the ugly side of that brotherhood when he testified in a landmark police corruption trial, an experience portrayed in Robert Daly's Prince of the City. Having mined his cop experiences in several best-selling novels (e.g., Blaze), Leuci tells it straight in a gritty memoir that provides graphic and realistic descriptions of life in the NYPD, giving the reader an insightful glimpse inside the world of law enforcement. His fascinating personal stories range widely, reflecting U.S. history itself; for instance, he worked in Harlem during the 1964 riots and then only a few weeks later was guarding the stage at a Beatles concert, where a 19-year-old George Harrison helped him up when he tripped. Highly recommended for all true-crime and criminal-justice collections.-Tim Delaney, SUNY at Oswego Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Archetypal street-smart cop Leuci (Blaze, 1999, etc.) initiates us into the workings of the brotherhood of New York's finest a generation ago. And he should know: his experiences as a crooked detective who cooperated in a corruption investigation were the basis for Robert Daley's Prince of the City (1978). Leuci, a neighborhood guy who spent decades out there, vividly depicts his adventures from the day he first twirled a nightstick. He quickly learned the rules: if it doesn't fold, don't take it; never rat out a partner; there is no such thing as a warning shot; show the skels and the yoms who's in charge. (The text sometimes sounds like cop-bar repartee, but there are explanations for readers who never met a skel or a yom). The author guarded the Beatles. He landed in the heart of a riot. He went undercover as a high-school student scoring drugs and soon was known on the street as "Babyface." In the vaunted Special Investigations Unit, the scrupulous cop with all the great collars became the bought cop. He made cases and he made money. Dealing with informants, wiseguys, and top-of-the-line narcs, he yearned to surpass the haul in the recent French Connection, much of which went missing. Leuci turned, finally, against the bad cops, fixers, crooked bondsmen, judges, shysters, and the whole corrupt system. He wore a wire and came under the protection of bodyguards as intrigue and danger mounted. Old friends were jammed as he became an important witness. Before being retired, Babyface grew up. It's a dramatic police story, worthy of Wambaugh presenting with vitality players from Mario Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, Vinny Albano, and Leuci's cousin Johnny Tarzan to bimbos, pimps, pushers, made guys,and, especially, lieutenants, sergeants, and all the brothers on the job (generally described as attractive). A shrewd confessional by a knowing veteran-and a helluva cop book. Agent: Esther Newberg/ICM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641772733
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

A narcotics detective in New York City for more than twenty years, Robert Leuci is the author of several books, including Blaze. He lives in Rhode Island.

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Table of Contents

The Biggest, Baddest Gang in Town 1
Heave Heaven 11
Commandos 45
Combat 58
Dope Street 108
A Partner 147
The Dark Side of the Moon 183
The Awakening 230
Mounting Casualties 301
Prince of the City 344
At the End of the Day 367
Acknowledgments 369
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First Chapter

All the Centurions
A New York City Cop Remembers His Years on the Street, 1961-1981

The Biggest, Baddest Gang in Town

It's the fall of 1961. I'm twenty-one years old and part of a phalanx of gray-uniformed recruits marching into an out-of-date building on Hubert Street in lower Manhattan, the NYPD's police academy. What I remember most are glimpses of things antiquated and worn and the smells, the pleasant aromas of cinnamon and leather that have lingered for more than a hundred years from the lofts nearby that were used as storehouses for bales of spices brought by nineteenth-century sailing ships. I felt the mix of excitement and unnamed anxiety that comes when you are about to enter an unfamiliar world, knowing full well that you are a long way from belonging there. I was at the start of a journey and willing to go wherever the trip took me. Soon enough, mysteries began to slip away and the trip became more important than the destination.

In the academy, time flowed gently -- class work, the gym, and the pistol range. Every day we took a certain greedy pleasure in knowing more about the life we were going to live than we had the day before; and after a time the weight of a gun belt felt natural.

We recruits got the feeling that there was nothing about police work the instructors didn't know, they were so confident, so sure of their view of the world. I'd ask a question and they would stand smirking at me with a fixed serenity. Though I looked for signs of uncertainty, none were there. I marveled at the number of medals they carried on their chests, and how their eyes shone when they repeated over and over, "Pay attention here and now or you'll pay a price later."

Most of us were in our early twenties, a time for illusions and wild imaginings, when dreams are new, dazzling. I was sure it would last forever; we all were.

As those first days turned to weeks and then to months, I found what I was looking for -- acceptance, connection, kinship -- call it what you like -- belonging just to belong, that kind of thing. It is a very particular sort of yearning, a curious personality trait that has afflicted me my whole life.

You have to learn to compartmentalize your life. You must separate the street world from your world. Do not bring the job home, they told us. When you are all alone on patrol and need help, you will learn to love the sound a siren makes.


The Baby was so small, two or three months old, and it cried a lot. Lover-boy wanted to have sex with the baby's mother; he wanted the baby to stop crying. He thought the bottle of sweet wine he gave it would end the crying. The baby went into convulsions, and I didn't have to wonder anymore how I'd behave at my first arrest.

It was an old story: a single mother, her baby, and a drunk, horny boyfriend. The first time you see such a thing it's a shock -- the language, sounds, gestures. The veterans spoke to me slowly, gently, so I would understand that this arrest could turn a long night into an eternity.

I was on a training mission in Harlem. The veterans were telling me, "Rookie, here's your first arrest. You want it, you got it. This guy's going to be a pain in the ass to collar. Look at him."

We were standing in the kitchen, and cops and ambulance attendants seemed to be everywhere. The mother left with the medical people and the baby. I stared at the boyfriend. He seemed cool, aloof, detached. A small smile, his brains all down in his dick.

That first time and forever after you know you're part of something extraordinary. You begin to gain experiences that give you knowledge and pride. I don't mean all the bullshit macho stuff. Instead it's a real sense of accomplishment. Down deep you feel as though you're some kind of hero, the man in the white hat, the marshall of Dodge City.

"You're under arrest," I told him.

He said, "For what?"

It was a good question. "Don't worry, we'll figure something out," one of the veterans said.

When I tried to handcuff him, lover-boy went off and started throwing punches. He was tough, fast, strong, and a lot more rugged than I thought. There were cops in the apartment, cops waiting in the hallway, cops on the stairway, and they were all getting a laugh at my inability to handcuff this character.

Finally, two or three of them jumped in and gave me a hand; it was over in a flash. A veteran Harlem cop, a huge black guy, grabbed my shoulder.

"Kid," he said, "this is the street, not the Golden Gloves. There's no referee out here. Remember," he said, "you belong to the biggest, baddest gang in town. You need help, don't wait -- ask."


In the detectives' squad room bright and early the following morning, I stood looking at a precinct detective who was wearing brown brogans, black ankle-length socks, a T-shirt, and boxer shorts. He was chomping on a cigar, banging away at his typewriter.

His face was covered with stubble and there were bags under his eyes. He wasn't a bad-looking guy. He did not seem at all happy.

It was early February, a cold and windy morning. I had dressed warmly, way too many layers for that sauna of a squad room.

My prisoner sat in the holding cage across from the detective. His legs and arms were crossed like a Buddha's, his head was down, his eyes at half-mast, all the fight in him gone.

"A real pain in the ass," the detective said. "When I was printing him, he broke free and tried to dive out the window. Your shit-bird smashed our fucking window. We were freezing in here all night."

All the Centurions
A New York City Cop Remembers His Years on the Street, 1961-1981
. Copyright © by Robert Leuci. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2007

    Choppy

    Disjointed stories that aren't exactly compelling reading, especially to a noninsider of the NYPD. There's a feeling that the reader isn't getting the full story behind the scenes here and that there's a lot of reading between the lines intended by the author. Self-pity abounds but doesn't inspire compassion, something the author seems to be fishing for. Was left with the sense that this was a less-than-fully-truthful memoir with lots of hint-dropping/innuendo, all of which amounted to a less than satisfying read.

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