By: Scott RossPublished: August 9, 2022

Albert Seedman

Albert Seedman was your classic old school New Yorker. Born August 9, 1918, in the South Bronx, the son of a cab driver and a Garment District sewing machine operator, he would grow up to be the city’s only Jewish chief of the NYPD’s Detective Bureau, overseeing the investigations into the murders of police, celebrity robberies and mob hits, all while chomping cigars, sporting an onyx pinkie ring and happily speaking into any microphone at hand.

After earning a degree in accounting, Seedman joined the transit police force in 1941, then studied French for a year before joining the Army, serving in intelligence and as an MP, before heading back to the NYPD. By 1962, he’d made the rank of captain while working as a detective.

He wasted no time in thrusting himself into the spotlight and earning a quick reprimand from his superiors. Seedman was perp-walking Tony Dellernia, a suspect in the Borough Park Tobacco Company, but Dellernia insisted on keeping his head down, so Seedman stuck a hand under his chin and forced his face upward for the benefit of the cameras--not a good look. Despite causing outcry at the ACLU and getting himself into hot water with the higher-ups, Seedman neglected to apologize and years later kept a framed copy of the photo on the walls of his home.

Det. Albert Seedman presents Anthony Dellernia to the press.

When 28-year-old bartender Kitty Genovese was murdered on March 13, 1964, outside her Queens apartment building, the New York Times erroneously claimed that 38 people heard her screams but did nothing, a bit of nonsense that was for decades used as fodder by all manner of doomsayers. It was Seedman and his detectives who needed just six days to track down and arrest Winston Moseley, who was convicted on June 15 of that year, just a week after his trial began.

In October 1970, screen legend Sophia Loren was the victim of a jewel thief (for the fourth time!) who broke into her suite at Hampshire House on Central Park South and made off with more than a half-million worth of jewelry and Loren’s passport. Seedman saw fit to give Miss Loren his personal attention, rather than delegate the taking of her statement to a subordinate.

Less than two weeks after the Loren heist, and in the wake of Frank Serpico’s allegations that the NYPD was a nest of corruption, the Knapp Commission was launched to root out the bad guys. The commission found that Seedman and guests had been treated to a dinner at the New York Hilton worth $84.30, but they assured Seedman’s CO that the infraction was such small potatoes that it wouldn’t be in their report. Fearing a double-cross, Commissioner Michael J. Murphy tried to get out ahead of a pending revelation by issuing a press release acknowledging the “corruption” and announcing Seedman’s dismissal. Five days later, Seedman was reinstated, handling the moment with the easy charm of a man who loves a camera.

“It feels great to be back. I guess this is the first time in history that a man has been made chief of detectives twice,” he said, adding later, “I thought I was getting a little bit too heavy, so I'll stop eating so much.” The scandal clearly didn’t leave much stink, as Seedman was promoted to Chief Detective the following March.

Seedman’s tenure as Chief Detective lasted just 13 months, and was tumultuous to say the least. Witness this paragraph from his obituary in the New York Times:

"Three pairs of police officers were shot — four of the officers were killed and two grievously wounded — in ambushes by the Black Liberation Army. The underworld boss Joseph A. Colombo Sr. was shot in the head by a gunman who was himself shot to death seconds later at Mr. Colombo’s Italian-American Day rally in Columbus Circle. The mob leader Joey Gallo was fatally shot at a Little Italy restaurant. Gunmen posing as guests looted 47 safe deposit boxes at the Hotel Pierre."

The final straw for Seedman came on April 14, 1972. That was the day that two officers responded to a bogus call for help from a mosque in Harlem that belonged to the Nation of Islam. What happened after their arrival is unclear, but both officers were badly beaten, and one, Philip Cardillo, was shot with his own gun and died six days later.

When Seedman arrived on the scene to begin his investigation, he was intercepted by Minister Louis Farrakhan and newly elected Rep. Charlie Rangel, who told Seedman that the NYPD “had better get out of the Mosque or there would be trouble; that they could not control the crowd outside.” Seedman decided to quit then and there, though he told people at the time that he felt he was drawing too much attention to himself and the force.

A day after his resignation, Seedman took a job working security at a local department store. In 1975, he tried his hand at acting with a role alongside Yaphet Kotto in the crime drama Report to the Commissioner. He worked in store security until the early 1990s before doing the most New York thing ever: he moved to a condo in Florida, where he lived to the ripe old age of 92.

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