Police Corruption Essay, Research Paper
The police officer stands at the top of the criminal justice system in a nation where crime rates are high and where the demands for illegal goods and services are widespread. These conditions create a situation in which the police officer is confronted with opportunity to accept a large number of favors or grants. Police corruption occurs in many forms and observers of police behavior agree that it falls into nine specific areas. Drug related police corruption differs from other types of police corruption. In addition to protecting criminals or ignoring their activities, officers involved in drug related corruption were more likely to be involved in stealing drugs and/or money from drug dealers, selling drugs, lying under oath about illegal searches, and other crimes. Although not enough data was available upon which to base an estimate of the extent of corruption, the amount of cases of police corruption proved that it was striking enough to concern the public. The most commonly identified patterns of corruption involved small groups of officers who protected and assisted each other in criminal activities. The demands of the public and politicians, however, have caused an outrage and a fear that open investigations and accusations of corruption will cause the problem of distrust in the police to grow even greater.
Some police forces seem to have adopted a market-based approach to law enforcement. Several drug related pedophiles and even murderers were believed to have walked out of police headquarters “free-if- poorer” men (Klockars, p 76). In one small town in New Mexico more than 30 suspected pedophiles were arrested in the span of 18 months but only one case went to court. The other suspects were released after paying a hefty “bail”, or a straightforward bribe. There is evidence that some police officials fleece tourists by first planting drugs on them and then demanding bribes. Unbelievably, there are cases of corruption that are far worse. Two have been charged with keeping a brothel, for which they are alleged to have kidnapped a 15-year-old virgin. Another officer set up a children’s home, which he advertised as a charity. “Charlie’s Shelter” in fact offered young boys for sex. The local police record an unusual number of suicides and mysterious incidents of heart failure. One detective failed to notice that a tourist, whom he diagnosed as having been beaten to death, had been shot at point-blank range. Perhaps the officer in question was distracted by the strain of managing his second-hand car business.
The people in charge of the police organizations are not blind to what is going on; some are just too scared to admit that there are corrupt officers in their force. Others may just really not know what is going on while the rest are either involved in the corruption or speaking up and trying to stop the dishonesty. For example, Roy Penrose, director-general of a new squad, warned the public that a “small but significant number” of officers were known to be selling police information and aiding former officers and criminals as to the whereabouts of safe havens where they could go unharmed in dealing in their drug trades. He pledged to be “ruthless” in sacking corrupt and incompetent officers (Welch, p 13).
James Wood, a former Supreme Court judge, was well suited to staying the distance with an inquiry that many in the police force hoped would fizzle out soon after it began. Mr. Wood chose as his chief weapon the power of public exposure-filmed evidence that revealed police officers allegedly taking bribes or dealing in drugs. The commission’s staff also made use of “roll over” witnesses, policemen who admitted corruption and then agreed to finger colleagues in return for immunity from prosecution. The star informer was Trevor Haken, a former detective sergeant who helped to install miniature video cameras in the dashboard of a police car and in the light fittings of a prostitute’s home. The cameras caught one senior policeman being handed wads of cash by another, allegedly his cut of a drug deal, and a third policeman accepting drugs from a prostitute and asking her if she could obtain child pornography. When television news programs showed the video clips, the public was predictably outraged.
In the last months of his inquiry, Mr. Wood confronted allegations of a police cover-up of child sex abuse. The chief casualty here was David Yeldham, a retired Supreme Court judge, who gassed himself to death last November within hours of being interviewed by commission officers. Mr. Yeldham denied being a pedophile, but admitted having homosexual sex in public lavatories while he was still serving as a judge. Since his death, there have been allegations that policemen had protected Mr. Yeldham from investigation, and that the judicial system might therefore have been tainted.
But the high profile nature of recent corruption cases has kept the issue in the headlines, while the increasing, and often successful, use of civil law to overturn internal decisions on officers’ behavior is also adding to the pressure for change. Due to the great increase in the public demand to know what is going on and the great political influence the needs of the public have, politicians began to crack down on this issue in order to get positive attention. The politicians began to advertise the problem once they found out it was on peoples minds and turned what was a low-key issue into a nationwide interest; thus causing the public to demand knowledge of the facts and change where it is needed.
The Police Federation reacted angrily to these demands and accused those of whom were making a big deal of the issue of “seriously undermining the civil and human rights of all police officers” (McCormack, p 243). It is currently balloting its 12,000 members on whether they would support an independent body to investigate allegations of corruption. Fred Broughton, the federation’s chairman, said: “The recent comments by the commissioner [Sir Paul Condon] and several other chief constables that they cannot deal with dishonesty and corruption in their forces is a time bomb which, as it ticks, is draining away public confidence in our police service” (Welch, p 13). These conflicting opinions are exactly what is stopping the criminal justice system from cracking down and finally doing something to put a stop to a problem that is not only occurring in our country but in many others as well.
A few hypotheses as to why police corruption occurs are The Society-at-Large Explanation, The Structural Explanation, and The Rotten Apple Explanation. The Society-at-Large Explanation comes from O.W. Wilson. His hypotheses said that an acceptance of small payoffs and bribes extend into more serious crimes. Wilson called this progression The Slippery Slope hypotheses, that corruption begins with harmless intentions and leads, that eventually lead into more serious crimes for more profit. The Structural Explanation comes from Arthur Niederhoffer. His hypothesis is a step by step progress that results from the differences of police officers beliefs, values, and norms. Police officers are said to develop an attitude in which they view corruption as a game in which every person is out to get a share. The Bad or Rotten Apple view is the most popular explanation of police corruption. This says an honest department usually has a few bad officers who are operating on their own. Corruption is the result of moral failure of just a few officers, but it spreads, coming from a saying “one rotten apple spoils the rest of the barrel.”
If the police are to deal effectively with the problem of police corruption, they must recognize and understand what it is and how it happens. There are a number of factors that contribute to police corruption, but the most important are: The Nature of Police Work, The Police Officer’s Clientele, Public Attitudes, and Leadership. The Nature of Police Work puts police in an opportunity to have corruptive influences. The police recognize that they cannot enforce all the laws equally and consider discretion in their law enforcement role. By having this kind of role, it makes it easier to take particular courses of action that may work to their own benefit. The Police Officer’s Clientele deals when police officers come into contact with many people who will do anything they can to protect themselves from the consequences of their own misdeeds. They do not share the same values of honor and integrity with the rest of society and they place their own interests above all others. Some police officers develop personal relationships with these people and may end up sharing their value system.
The public attitude may play a key role in creating police corruption. Citizens often take the lead in initiating situations leading to corrupt behavior by a police officer. The problem of police corruption cannot by solved unless citizens take a strong stand against it and demonstrate to their appointed officials that they will not accept it. Strong leadership in a police organization results in a more strong and healthy environment. There is probably no more important influence on performance in a police organization than its leadership. It is important that police leaders demonstrate their own acts and words and their intolerance of police corruption.
Police corruption is an issue everywhere because people love money and power. Among the commonly identified factors associated with drug related corruption were police officers code of silence and cynicism about the criminal justice system, ineffective supervision practices, and weaknesses in internal investigative units. Corruption in the police force has long been recognized, and condemned, by politicians. Often it revolves around an entire sum demanded of junior officers by their superiors as a sort of protection money. In turn these low-ranking officers demand monies from the public in return for turning a blind eye to infractions, real or invented. The code of silence among the police is what holds this corruption together so well. What really seems to worry the authorities, though, is the country’s growing reputation as a haven for active and retired criminals and as a place where the police force is less a solution to the crime problem than a part of it.