Police corruption is one of those things that we seem to hear about every day and it appears that it is never ending. There are several different forms of police corruption and I’m sure many of you have experienced or witnessed one or more of these forms happening. Some individuals may use the terms Misconduct and corruption interchangeably. Although they are both abuses of police authority, Misconduct is a broadest term.
Misconduct refers to a wide multitude or procedural, criminal, and civil violations. Misconduct is procedural when it violates their departments rules, regulations, and standards. It is considered criminal misconduct when police officers violate their state and federal laws. Unconstitutional misconduct refers to police who violate civil rights. A few of the most common and well-known forms of corruption that I will address in this paper are: Police intimidation, Racial Profiling, Excessive Force and off-duty Misconduct.
Corruption is a form of misconduct that is committed which refers abuse of their authority for their own personal gains. Corruption may involve profits or other forms of materialist items that benefit the officer but are most likely obtained illegally. The most common forms of corruption include bribery, extortion, receiving or fencing stolen goods and selling drugs. Corruption also refers to patterns of misconduct within a given police department or special unit, particularly where offenses are repeated with the concurrence and acceptance of superiors or through other ongoing failures to correct them. (Azarbar, A. n.d.)
According to Sherman, one should begin with the assumption that a corrupt act by an officer serves as a personal interest as opposed to an organization interest. In other words, that officer is not concerned with the departments that he or she works in but is more concerned with the organization itself but rather in the corruption for his own personal gain.
One study found that “Police officers are arrested about 1,100 times a year, or roughly three officers charged every day and the most common crimes were simple assault, drunken driving, aggravated assault, and significant numbers of sex crimes were also found. About 72 percent of officers charged in cases with known outcomes are convicted, more than 40 percent of the crimes are committed on duty, and nearly 95 percent of the officers charged are men.” (Jackman,2016, PP.3)
Police corruption starts to form when a rookie police officer learns that he or she can take and receive gifts and favors from individuals within the community because they protect and serve those individuals. The gifts that they receive will start of as harmless everyday normal gifts. Whether it is free doughnuts, coffee, breakfast, baked goods, or anything of that nature. It is still considered unprofessional to accept these gifts. As the officer continues to partake in accepting gifts, their behavior begins to lead to more gifts, cash, and eventually drug related corruption. (Bahn,1974; Brereton & Ede, 1996; Carter,1990; Goldstein,1975; Hughes,2000; McCormack 1986; Metchik, 1999; Morton, 1993; Mutlu, 2000; Roebuck & Barter,1974; Sharp, Et.al, 1997).
Another way many police officers learn corruption is through their interactions with criminal endeavors. In this aspect, endeavors usually begin with minor infractions. For example, acceptance of gratuities, petty bribery, and or shakedowns. This type of behavior usually leads to the acceptance of the officers to fail to enforce laws to prevent acts such as gambling, prostitution and narcotics trade. (Morton,1993, Mutchick, 1979; New York City mayors to investigate Allegations of police corruption,1973). It seems that as officers continue to learn this behavior, they continue the process because the payoff begins to pay off in plentiful levels.
Once the officer’s behavior is more routine and learned, it is only a matter of time before he or she realizes that their corrupt ways have now become obligations. Many officers partake in things that are illegal in order to fulfil an obligation that is required. Some of the rewards can often be large amounts of narcotics and cash. Money gained for from these types of activities is known as dirty money opposed to the Clean Money (New York City mayors to investigate Allegations of police corruption,1973).
Other police officers partake in corrupt misconduct because it allows for them to be able to build their personal gain, but they also partake in it because they believe that they will never be caught. According to Anne Fox the most common claims reported of corruption are the use of excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and wrongful death (Fox,2003, n.d.).
I believe that even though these crimes are the most reported, I believe there is still a large number of officers who take items from suspects as well. In Atlanta, seven police officers have been arrested this year on charges including stealing money during drug searches and extorting money from citizens in exchange for police protection. The arrests followed a two-year undercover operation aided by local and federal law enforcement agents. (Atlanta Holds Six Policemen in Crackdown, 1995)
A lot of police officers use their badge, gun, and authority in order to get what they want from suspects or non- criminal individuals in society. Historically, police corruption has been identified with bribery, where cops accepted money from gangsters or small-time criminals to overlook their offenses. According to Mark H. Moore who is a professor of criminal justice at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, says today's brand of corruption generally involves abuse of criminal suspects rather than collusion with them. Police officers are operating “within the public's ambivalence” when they beat up a suspect, extort money or lie about an arrest in an attempt to get a conviction.
The most widespread category of police misconduct includes a wide variety of unauthorized materials indictments or gratuities. Although the acceptance of gratuities on the part of the police often violates departments policy, it does not violate criminal law when the gratitude’s are offered voluntarily. In many cases gratitude’s are viewed as a part of the job and are overlooked by police departments unless they become a matter of public concern. In other words, the acceptance of gratitude’s is often allowed, if not approved.
This issue of police officers and gratitude’s continue to be debated but the weight of evidence seems to suggest that they are the best avoided when offered by commercial enterprises. Whether or not gratuities pose a major problem when they are offered by a grateful citizen and involve nothing more than a cup of coffee and a cookie remains controversial. Clearly is an officer ignoring an existing department policy prohibiting acceptance of any form of gratuity it established a bad precedent.
Kickbacks refer to the practice of obtaining goods, services or money for business referrals by police officers those involved in offering theses quid pro quo schemes could include lawyers, doctors, towing contactors, auto body shop operators, and others who reward police officers who refer customers to them. Shakedowns occur when officers take money or other valuable and personal services from offenders they have caught during the commission of a crime. Drug dealers, prostitutes and motorists seem to be favorite targets, through incidents like these may occur when any arrestee is willing to buy his or her way out of an arrest. With officers committing misconduct and corruption crimes I wanted to search a little deeper and find out how much off-duty misconduct they committed as well.
According to the US general accounting office, drug related police corruption differs in many ways from other types of police of police corruption. While also trying to protect criminals and ignoring their activities, including stealing drugs and or money from drug dealers, selling drugs, and lying under oath about illegal searches. (US General Accounting officer, 1998)
Not all misconduct by police officers are caused while they are on duty. Fyfe suggest that police officers engage in a wide variety of crimes while they are off duty as well such as domestic violence, bar fights, drunk driving, burglary, vehicle accidents, hit and run collisions, acts of vandalism, property crimes as larceny, burglary and sex offenses.it was also concluded that almost 20 percent of police firearms discharges involved officers who were off-duty as well. (Fyfe & Kane, 2006; Kane & White, 2009; Mollen Commission, 1994).
Many officers abuse their police authority to resolve their own personal matters. In short, in addition to misconduct directly relating to their status as a police officer, off-duty officers engage in all the offenses that are generally known to be committed by individuals outside of the law enforcement. (Stinson, P. M., Sr., Liederbach,, J., & Freiburger, T. L. (2011, February 1). A well know case that addresses Off-Duty misconduct is the Trayvon Martin case in which he was shot by George Zimmerman while he was Off-Duty. The high cause of conduct and misconduct has brought upon the request for officers to wear Body Cameras which will better protect them and the community.
This is where my police implication would take effect. Since there is not a policy already set in place for police officers who engage in corrupt behavior and misconduct, we have to create one. So, we know that our problem is police officers who are engaging in corrupt activities and we know that there has been a drastic need for officers to wear their body worn cameras at all times. But not only should they wear them, their cameras should be able to record all activities for a specific period of time. Then, that footage should carefully be reviewed to ensure that no officer in a police department is or has engaged in any misconduct or corrupt activities.
Officers would be required to wear body worn cameras while on Throughout their entire shift and if they did not comply then they would initially start off receiving a fine through the police department. On their second offense, they would be suspended for an amount of time determined by the department and their third offense would result in termination. We cannot continue to allow police officer to engage in corrupt activities and get away with it simply because they do not want to wear their body cameras. Also, any officer who is caught engaging in corrupt activities will be terminated after carefully reviewing the footage and accessing which form of corruption and misconduct was committed.
Due to the high volume of police officers committing crimes of misconduct and corruption, when the need for body cameras was brought into place, many people including myself believed that once body cameras begin to show up in police departments the rate of misconduct and corruption would decrease because officers would now be watched.
Officers would now be held accountable for their actions, and misconduct activity would most likely be prevented, criminal statements and activity would now have more accurate and hard facts, identify problems within departments, improve documentation for investigations, and it would most likely help improve overall performance of police officers. According to Washington D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, he stated” the results of implementing body cameras were not what we anticipated.” He said it appears in many police interactions, “cameras didn’t make a difference.” (Hermann, P, 2017, October 20).
In 2013 a study was conducted by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum. and it was found that approximately 75 percent of police officers reported that they did not use their body-worn cameras. The ones who did wear their body cameras reported using more force then those who didn’t wear their cameras. A study conducted by a Lab in Washington DC, a research group in the Mayor’s Office, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) summed up the use of body worn cameras and whether or not they were effective by saying, “the behavior of officers who wore cameras all the time was indistinguishable from the behavior of those who never wore cameras.” (Doleac, J. L., 2017, October 25)
Also, in recent times many individuals have begun to record police with their own cell phones because many officers don’t utilize their body camera and sometimes they may also try to tamper with their video footage. Therefore, recording police encounters with you own personal cell phone not only helps people in the community but it also helps you cover your statement to insure you will not try to be charged with incriminating or making false statements. The high rise of police racial profiling has also brought up the need and use of body cameras as well.
Another form of misconduct is Racial profiling. This form of misconduct has been well known throughout history but has been well spoken of in recent years and it is still a form that is increasing in popularity. Racial profiling is the act of suspecting or targeting a person of committing a crime or participating in illegal activities based on a stereotype about their race rather than on individual suspicion. In a Leadership Conference on Civil Rights evidence was found of widespread racial profiling, showing that African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately likely to be stopped and searched by police, even though they’re less likely to be found possessing contraband or committing a criminal act.
In Philadelphia, more than 50 criminal cases have been thrown out of court this year involving arrests made by renegade officers, and 1,400 cases are under review. These officers routinely abused career criminals and innocent citizens alike and have pleaded guilty to charges including robbery, obstruction of justice and civil rights violations, mostly against poor, black citizens. People of color have known for many years that false arrest, charges, and illegal searches of one’s person, vehicle, or home are treated as a cost of doing business in modern policing.
Former cop Phil Stimson and professor at Bowling Green State University conducted research that showed these results. There has been radical shift in the balance of police criminality since 2005-2012. According to Stinson, Non-violent incidents led to 1,677 arrests of police officers in the first four years of the dataset and 1,754 arrests were made for misconduct tied to violence. That gap widens tremendously in the second half of Stinson’s figures. From the years 2009-2012 More than 2,500 of the 4,575 criminal arrests of officers stemmed from non-violent incidents and almost 2,075 stemmed from arrest that happened due to violent incidents. (Pyke, A. 2017, September 12.) We also note that along with racial profiling, many officers begun to use excessive force when dealing with mostly African American and Hispanic suspects.
Excessive Force is something that we have heard of occurring more often. It is another form of police corruption and misconduct as well. Although excessive force will have different meanings for every individual depending on their personalities. Excessive force refers to force in excess of what a police officer reasonably believe is necessary. A police officer may be held liable for using excessive force in an arrest, an investigatory stop, or seizures. A police officer may also be liable for not preventing another police officer from using excessive force. (Excessive Force, 2014, October 08).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) analysis of national data on citizen complaints about use of force found that in large departments (those with 100 or more sworn officers), the complaint rate for police use of force was 6.6 complaints per 100 sworn officers. Of these complaints, 8 percent had sufficient evidence to take disciplinary action against the officer that committed excessive force crimes against them.
Mark Henriquez, project manager for the National Police Use of Force conducted a study that came up with these results. Very few incidents of force result in charges of excessive force, says Henriquez. From 1994-98, his project documented 147,362 incidents of police-related force and 6,163 complaints, only 654 of which were sustained by review boards. That’s only .44 percent of force being considered using excessive force. (Research on Police Use of Force. n.d.).
Most of the Police corruption that we experience could most likely be prevented with proper screening and background checks. Although background checks and screening can be very costly, if you run them for individuals who may be inquiring for the job then you’re more likely to hiring Police officers who are likely to be not only unqualified but also officers who have a history of misconduct. Failure to properly conduct a background check can have very detrimental effects on smaller police departments.
Many small police departments hire officers who have lack of proper training and experience. This usually becomes a major cause of drug related police corruption. (Alpert, 1991; Hughes, 2000; Metchik,1999; McCormack, 1986). Also, once rookie police officers are hired in small towns, the structure of the departments will have great influence on the inexperience officer and they overall performance of that officer. (Sechrest & Burns, 1992).
This paper reviewed the corruption and misconduct of police officers. During my research I found that Police officers commit misconduct and corrupt activities on duty as well as off duty. There is no dramatic and outranging difference in statistics when viewing if they partake in off duty misconduct or off duty misconduct. Although more officers are prone to commit crimes off duty because they have more outside resources that are available to them. I also found out that many police officers believed their excessive force is brought upon due to the situations that they are in with suspects.
My search conducted on police corruption also brought up the fact that police officers partake in a racial profiling as well when they are working. African Americans and Hispanics have the highest proportionate statistics recorded for being pulled over for no reason at all. Police Officers have also confessed to stealing, arresting and searching African Americans and Hispanics more than any other race. Many officers use their badge and gun to make suspects or others feel like they have to comply, or they have to do whatever that officer is saying.
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