Police Corruption Essay, Research Paper
Introduction: What is Corruption
Corruption can be defined as the misuse of public power for private or personal profit. Corruption can be by people many different ways. One cannot assume that corruption always means the same thing or has the same impact on society (Goldstein).
There are two very different types of corruption. The first type occurs where services or contracts are provided ?according to rule.? The second is when transactions are ?against the rule.? In the first type, an officer is receiving private gain illegally for doing something that he or she is ordinarily required to do by law. In the second type, the bribe is paid to obtain services that the officer is prohibited from providing. ?According to rule? and ?against the rule? corruption can occur at all levels the policing system. They can also range in scale and impact. Another way that corruption can be defined is the behavior involved on the part of officials in the public sector, whether police officers or civil servants, in which they improperly and unlawfully, enrich themselves, by the use of public power that was entrusted to them (Ades). These are not the only way to look at corruption.
Public opinion is also a large influence on the attitudes of the people in the community. They can surpass many different legal definitions of police corruption. If public opinion and legal definitions do not conform, the likelihood is that officials will act in accordance with the public view, and in doing so, violate the law (Goldstein). As a result of this, the public should be completely aware of the damage corruption can cause to society.
Causes of Police Corruption
There are many causes of police corruption. One cause of police corruption is the wide authority that is throughout the system. A way to prevent this is to limit the authority. Increasing the competitive bidding of the selection process could do this. Another cause is that police officers are offered wrong incentives for their work. The incentives need to be realigned to provide better living wages. Also, incentives should be provided based on performance (Ades).
To continue, another major cause of police corruption are the anti-system attitudes portrayed by people. They are worried too much about personal loyalties instead of rule of law and public sarcasm. The best way to help combat against this is to raise the awareness about the costs of corruption (Trojanowicz).
One final cause of corruption that will be discussed is the idea of an underdeveloped society. This concept has a large impact on the people. One way to prevent this is by strengthening the business associations in the community. This will provide a larger area of community awareness. Another way is to improve the watchdog groups in the community. This will also help the community become more aware of what is happening day to day in their society. “Without a watchdog organization that has teeth, police know they can hide behind civil-service protections until the latest scandal passes by. Then they come out again when the coast is clear (Punch).” All of these ideas are concerns and are large factors that can be looked at to cut back on police corruption.
Examples of Police Corruption
Police corruption occurs over many different areas of the law. Police corruption occurs most often when dealing with drugs. One such example is that of a NYPD police officer Kenneth Eurell. On May 6, 1992 six New York City police officers and one retired NY police officer were arrested in a five-month undercover drug operation. The Suffolk county police dept. tapped the phone of a low level street dealer and soon found out that NYC police officers were involved in a multi-level drug operation. Suffolk County in cooperation with the NYPD internal affairs unit arrested all of the officers involved and 49 civilians. The probe that lasted five months included undercover drug buys and electronic surveillance. Twenty-five vehicles were seized and over $30,000 in cash. Also seized was an undisclosed amount of drugs. The cops acted as venture capitalists and pooled their money to buy cocaine from known Brooklyn drug dealers for resale in Suffolk County. According to Suffolk authorities the cops made purchases that amounted to four ounces at a time. Eurell admitted involvement to the Southern District and to purchases of up to one kilo at a time (Van Natta).
Another type of police corruption is improper policing. This is a major concern of the public today. One such example of improper policing occurred in the early hours of April 21, 1995 when police observed four men putting two duffel bags into the trunk of a rental car with Michigan plates. When the men saw the police officers, they ran away in different directions. The police officers testified that running away from the officers, in addition to the involvement of an out-of-state rental car, constituted enough suspicion to search the car for drugs. The search yielded 34 kilograms of cocaine and 2 kilograms of heroin. When police questioned the driver of the car, Carol Bayless, she said she had made at least 20 round-trips from Michigan to New York since 1991 to ferry drugs.
U.S. District Judge Harold Baer, Jr. ruled on January 24 that police brutality and corruption are so prevalent in some neighborhoods it is natural for people to run away when they see police. “Residents in this neighborhood tended to regard police officers as corrupt, abusive, and violent,” Baer ruled. “Had the men not run when the cops began to stare at them, it would have been unusual.” Because he ruled that the search was unreasonable, Baer threw out the 36 kilograms of drugs and the videotaped confession (Barker).
One final example of police corruption occurs in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is the middle of a scandal involving widespread police misconduct. It is not a case of beating or crass racism, as displayed in Los Angeles recently; but a more subtle and pervasive corruption that often stems, by an irony, from policing reforms that have brought officers back on to the streets. Since last autumn, 116 convictions have been overturned on the grounds that officers lied under oath and planted false evidence. Typically, a corrupt officer in a poor district would steal the pocket money of a young black male in the course of arresting him and would fabricate the evidence of drug-dealing needed for conviction. Other officers are said to have burgled businesses, trafficked in heroin, sold confidential police files and run prostitution rings (Goldstein). These are all just a couple of different kinds of police corruption that occur in the Philadelphia area.
Police corruption is a major issue in the eye of the public. There are many ways that one can look at controlling police corruption. As we all know, there will always be the occasional bad cop. From this we find that there is reason to hope that adopting Community policing may enhance a department’s ability to prevent corruption. This can only be done if the approach itself remains uncorrupted. Community policing has now become so popular that everyone is ready to jump on the bandwagon, but this has also meant that the term is knowingly or unknowingly applied to efforts that violate the principles or the spirit of community policing or both. It will take careful research to prove whether or not community policing would be an effective way to help with corruption (Trojanowicz). Will community policing accurately provide police departments with a new way to boost their immunity to corruption?
To continue, in most cities, police departments have gotten more diverse than they’ve ever been. It is from this that many of them are having a larger share of women and minorities. Significant increases in funding for training, including the education of beat cops in interpersonal and communication skills, have also improved police conduct in dealing with the public. And citizen concern has prompted mayors or city councils to replace the man at the top, the police chief. It is the police chief that has the responsibility for a police culture of abuse or corruption.
Another way to look at an area of police corruption is by examining the courts. Prosecutors and police are usually on the same side of a criminal case. This is that they both want to send the guilty people to jail. I would argue that there are legal and ethical consequences for prosecutors who know or should reasonably know that their witnesses will lie. The result is that prosecutors may choose not to investigate police officers’ histories, may not engage in sufficient trial preparation, and may simply stick their well-known heads in the recognizable sand. The result would be to push testifying further behind the blue wall of silence (Punch). Worse yet, prosecutors who are fearful of their own legal and ethical jeopardy may decline to prosecute cases where guilt hinges completely on police testimony. This, in turn, results in guilty defendants being set free.
When police officers use unlawful means to gain a desired end, they damage the system they represent. Beyond the damage to the justice system, however, officers who engage in illegal behavior degrade not only the uniform of the protector but also the individual within (Daley). It is because of this that the eventual result to society is a loss of confidence in those charged with the protection of others. This then leads to a fraying of the tapestry of the culture that binds communities together.
In Philadelphia, as well as in other cities, the public has overwhelmingly supported efforts to get rid of rotten police officers and provide restitution. This is done again with the probable risk of having criminals set free. This is probably one of the only issues on which middle-class whites side solidly with poor minorities. Apparently, few things frighten and sicken Americans as much as corrupt policemen criminals with the authority of a uniform, and the power of the state, behind them.
Ades, Alberto and Rafael Di Tella. 1996. “Causes and
Consequences of Corruption: A Review of Empirical
Contributions.” IDS Bulletin:Liberalization and the
New Corruption 27, 2 (April): 6-11.
Barker, Thomas and David L. Carter. Police Deviance. 3rd
ed. Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing Company, 1994.
Daley, Robert, Prince of the City, New York, Warner Books,
Goldstein, Herman. Police Corruption: A Perspective on Its
Nature and Control. Washington, DC: Police
Punch, Maurice. Conduct Unbecoming: The Social Construction
of Police Deviance and Control. New York: Tavistock
Trojanowicz, Robert. Preventing individual and systemic
Van Natta, Don, Jr., “Seized Drugs Are Ruled Out As
Evidence,” New York Times, January 25, 1996, p. B1.
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