According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy corruption is defined as the abuse of power by a public official for private gain. Police corruption is the abuse of power by a police officer for their own personal gain. Police officers become corrupt mainly for monetary gain because most feel that police officers do not make enough money and they want to make more. Police corruption can be costly to society and it can even violate the rights of society. Police corruption can show favoritism to some and unfairness to others.
If the people of our society would ban together and stop thinking about themselves, then there could be a chance to eliminate the corruption caused by police. There are several kinds of police corruption; there are reasons why other officers tolerate corruption, there are ways to reduce or even eliminate corruption, and there are different effects that police corruption can have on society. In the instance of noble-cause corruption, the utilitarian philosophy of “the ends justify the means” is employed.
The drive is a “profound moral commitment to make the world a safer place to live” (Axia ADJ 235 Ethics in Crime and Justice Chap. . p. 197). The logic behind this concept is “… that officers sometimes (maybe even frequently) employ unethical means to catch criminals because they believe it is right to do so. ” A police officer has the power through use of his or her discretion to determine culpability and in doing so possibly altering the life of a criminal suspect. Discretion is a necessary element in law enforcement, but the need for discretion also leads to a greater dependence on individual ethical codes in place of rules and laws.
Arguably, police utilize their discretionary power to enforce societal desires for order and crime control. The pressure for order and crime control may lead to the use of illegal means to achieve these goals. Here, corruption may be tolerated and left undisclosed to make an arrest and get a conviction. The concept of “noble-cause corruption” and the “Dirty Harry problem” are examples of why corrupt behaviors may not be reported. Author C. Klockars (1983) suggests that using immoral means to reach a desired moral end is an irresolvable problem and inevitable circumstance for officers.
There will be situations where officers know a “dirty act” will result in a good end, there are no other means to achieve the good end, and the “dirty act” will not be in vain (Chp. 8. p. 213). In a “Dirty Harry problem” scenario, an officer has a suspect detained, and knows a victim’s life is in jeopardy. If the officer can obtain the victim’s location, a life could be saved, but the suspect is not talking. The officer then uses means deemed necessary to obtain information of the victim’s location from the suspect.
Although immoral acts may be imposed on the suspect, there is a chance to save a life. This could be a reason for officers not reporting corrupt behavior. Undercover work and interacting with informants also require use of discretion. To infiltrate a criminal organization that has a hierarchy it may be required to do away with a code of conduct, otherwise to stick out like a sore thumb. These breaches of conduct and practices of what may be considered corrupt by others are necessary to get to the top of a criminal hierarchy.
Such conduct cannot be reported, for the sake of the officer or informant’s lives; or to blow a case. Being at the forefront of the criminal justice system and first responders to incidents police officers are exposed to the effects of humanities’ worst side. A fresh recruit may soon realize that dishonesty and corruption are relegated not only to those who are commonly considered to be criminals. An officer can and does meet people with good reputations who practice deception and dishonesty. The general conditions of police work can influence an officer’s moral fortitude.
Officers become intimately familiar with the ways people prey on each other. Officers can recall specific instances of “good’ people being dishonest. They witness defrauding insurance companies with false claims, obtainment of goods or services without payment, or a citizen lying to an officer to protect others. There are disparities between what is illegal and what the public expects to be enforced; victimless crimes such as gambling are condoned in some communities and treated lightly by those courts.
Officers also can see their efforts marginalized by other agents in the criminal justice system and society. Authors Meier and Close (2003) explain it this way: “Constant exposure to public immorality and the failure of the criminal justice system frequently create within police officers a cynical attitude toward their work and the general public. In the limitless encounters where the officer’s discretion is the basis for action, this cynicism may lead an officer to manipulate the law in the name of expediency or for personal gain. This cynicism is developed by a conflict in the role officers are to play. Officers feeling this way would not be inclined to report corruption. The necessity of counting on a partner or other officers is paramount in police work. Loyalty and solidarity are crucial to safety and effectiveness because officers operate on the ethical fringes of society. Only other officers can truly understand the reactions of an officer who makes split-second decisions in an environment that has a great potential to turn violent at any time.
Considerable leeway must be accorded police officers in such situations, and every police officer depends on his or her fellow officers to accord them that leeway in giving statements or testifying before a tribunal or the court (Westwood. 2001. p. 1para. 3). When witnessing corruption of fellow officers, an officer must decide whether or not to put the officer in question’s loyalty to at risk by reporting corruption. Needing the loyalty of a fellow officer for backup at anytime would be a reason to not report corruption.
Police corruption affects many parts of society and public views of law enforcement aren’t always a positive view. Citizens of the United States people would like to think Police officers are doing their jobs and upholding the ethics they are sworn to, this can be a false outlook on law enforcement. With the rise of police corruption and the worry of unlawful force used by law enforcement, the public has trouble trusting the police. Without the trust of the citizens, security measures are threatened and many crimes go undiscovered.
Police corruption fuels transnational crime and impacts the economic growth and good governance. Draining our resources and causing lack of trust within the community affects how every individual reacts to law enforcement. On the campus of UCLA a rule that every student must present a student ID card after 11 pm to occupy the library was in affect and when one student failed to present his ID card officers tased the student to the point he dropped to the ground. After Police ordered the student to stand and he replied that he couldn’t, officers continued to tase the student.
By standers watched as the student never resisted from the police, but was treated as if he had committed a violent crime (The Stanford Daily, 2006). Events such as this, makes American citizens nervous to come into any contact with law enforcement. Unlawful use of power is huge part of police corruption. Police corruption causes such a ripple in the justice system that other officers have a hard time trusting each other. Police corruption compromises the safety of the citizens and allows outsiders to find a way in.
When the public has knowledge of law enforcement committing crime it causes a lack of respect for laws in the United States. “Police Corruption is also a violation of human rights as it denies some very basic rights to the citizens. The fundamental right of being protected by a law enforcing agency mainly constituted for this purpose is being denied by the prevailing corruption. ” (PUCL Bulletin, 2007). Police corruption is a complex phenomenon, which does not readily submit to simple analysis. It is a problem that has and will continue to affect us all, whether we are civilians or law enforcement officers.
Since its beginnings, many aspects of policing has changed; however, one aspect that has remained relatively unchanged is the existence of corruption. Police corruption has increased dramatically with the illegal cocaine trade, with officers acting alone or in-groups to steal money from dealers or distribute cocaine themselves. Corruption within police departments falls into 2basic categories, which are external corruption and internal corruption. In simple terms, corruption in policing is usually viewed as the misuse of authority by a police officer acting officially to fulfill personal needs or wants.
For a corrupt act to occur, three distinct elements of police corruption must be present simultaneously: 1) misuse of authority, 2) misuse of official capacity, and 3) misuse of personal attainment. (Dantzker, 1995: p. 157). The reason is simple. There deviance elicits a special feeling of betrayal. Most studies support the view that corruption is endemic, if not universal, in police departments. The danger of corruption for police and this is that it may invert the formal goals of the organization and may lead to the use of organizational power to encourage and create crime rather than to deter it. Sherman 1978: p. 31). General police deviance can include police bribery, police brutality, police misconduct and intimidation. Police brutality is the intentional used of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer. Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct, which include false arrest, racial profiling, surveillance abuse, and sexual abuse. Police officers are legally permitted to use force, and their superiors expect them to do so when appropriate.
In dealing with disorderly elements of the society, some people working in law enforcement may gradually develop an attitude or sense of authority over society, in some cases the police believe that they are above the law. (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Policebrutality) Police misconduct refers to objectionable actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties, which can lead to a miscarriage of justice. Types of misconduct are: False confessions, False arrest, Falsified evidence, Political corruption, racial profiling, Sexual abuse and Surveillance abuse. False arrest is a common law tort, where a plaintiff alleges he or she was held in custody without probable cause or without an order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. ?Falsified evidence, forged evidence or tainted evidence or misleading by suppressing evidence unfavorable for the police, is used to either convict an innocent person, or to guarantee conviction of a guilty person. Some evidence is forged because the person doing forensic work finds it easier to fabricate evidence than to perform the actual work involved.
The planting of a gun at a crime scene would be used by the police to justify a shooting, and avoid possible prosecution for manslaughter. (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Falsication of evidence). Police agencies, in an attempt to eliminate corruption have tried everything from increasing salaries, requiring more training and education, and developing polices which are intended to focus directly on factors leading to corruption. Controlling corruption from the departmental level requires a strong leadership organization, because corruption can take place any where from the patrol officer to the chief.
The top administrator must make it clear from the start that he and the other members of the department are against any form of corrupt activity, and that it will not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form (http://www. esrf. kabissa. org/corru/messages/242. html). In order to prevent corruption or reduce the likelihood of its occurrence, we must first identify and eliminate its cause. Although the causes of corruption seem to be as diverse as are its manifestations, one common aspect that appears to be consistent is that of a lapse of integrity.
Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as “Firm adherence to a code or standard of values. ” “First, a person of integrity has a reasonably coherent and relatively stable set of core moral virtue. Second, the person’s actions and speech tend to reflect those principles. Integrity in the context of police work should amount to the sum of the virtues required to bring about the general goals of protection and service to the public. ” (U. S. Department of Justice, 1997) The issue of integrity should be addressed at several times in an officer’s career.
To begin with the right people have to be hired. One must hire people that have a record of high integrity. Serious in depth background checks should be standard procedure. Integrity needs to be stressed in all careers at every level. Managers and supervisors need to understand the signs to watch for and be honest with their employees. Supervisors should emphasize the importance of honesty and hold employees accountable to following rules and procedures as well as being productive. (Captain Williams, LAPD) Random integrity checks should be done.
These checks can include but are not limited to planting large sums of money or leaving narcotics in plain sight in a station locker room or patrol car to see if the officer will properly report it. Some other steps towards eliminating police corruption might be: Higher standards in recruitment and screening Reforming recruit training Increasing professional pride Police management responsibility Revised anti-corruption policies Preventive Control Internal Accountability Tighter supervision Abolish procedures encouraging corruption Punitive control Detection
Probing police activities (using informants, wiretaps, and corruption patrols Most police officers have high levels of personal and professional integrity. If or when their misuse or abuse of power corrupts that integrity, whether it is from a desire for personal gain, or out of a desire to protect and serve, society as a whole suffers. With thorough investigations into the extent and nature of corruption, specific actions can be identified, which in turn can reduce the number of instances of corruption, identify and effectively and appropriately punish the offenders. Police corruption has many faces.
Police officers may feel the need to break the law in order to protect fellow officers or family and friends. This form of police corruption may seem mild in comparison to officers breaking the law for greed and self-gratification. Officers have a code of honor they live by. Their code is to protect weak against oppression, the peaceful against violence. Respect the constitutional rights of all, be courageous in danger, have self-restraint and be mindful of others welfare. He will live an exemplary life obeying laws and regulations. He will not break a person’s confidence unless it is necessary to perform his duty (culcom. et). This ethical code was created so every law enforcement official would take an oath to uphold the law and be responsible for his actions. They are a written law they must live by. Then there is the code of silence. This code is one that officer’s use among them as a pact. Officer’s loyalty is for each other. They are not to snitch each other out. If they do, they will be subjected to harassment and bullying. There are many ways police corruption can be taken care of, but the reality is that many officers will continue to break the law for the very reason that they enforce the law and think themselves as being invincible.
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