Police Corruption

Police Corruption 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.

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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. Social Issues.

Police corruption

Police corruption is a complex phenomenon, which does not readily submit to simple analysis. It is a problem that has and willcontinue to affect us all, whether we are civilians or law enforcement officers.

Since its beginnings, may aspects of policing have changed; however, one aspect that has remained relatively unchanged is the existence of corruption. An examination of a local newspaper or any police-related publication on any given day will have an article about a police officer that got busted committing some kind of corrupt act. 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. Large groups of corrupt police have been caught in New York, New Orleans, Washington, DC, and Methodology: Corruption within police departments falls into 2 basic categories, which are external corruption and internal corruption. In this report I will concentrate only on external corruption because it has been the larger center of attention recently. I have decided to include the fairly recent accounts of corruption from a few major cities, mainly New York, because that is where I have lived for the past 22 years. I compiled my information from numerous articles written in the New York Times over the last 5 years.

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My definitional infornmation and background data came from various books cited that have been written on the issue of police corruption. Those books helped me create a basis of just what the different types of corruption and deviances are, as well as how and why corruption happens. The books were filled with useful insite but were not update enough, so I relied on the newspaper articles to provide me with the current, and regional information that was needed to complete this report. In simple terms, corruption in policing is usually viewed as the misuse of authority by a police officer acting offically to fulfill personal needs or wants. For a corrupt act to occure, three distinct elements of police corruption must be present simultaneously: 1) missuse of authority, 2) missuse of official capacity, and 3) missuse of personal attainment. (Dantzker, 1995: p 157) It can be said that power inevitably tends to corrupt, and it isyet to be recongnized that, while there is no reason to suppose that policemen as individuals are any less fallible than other members of society, people are often shocked and outraged when policemen are exposed violating the law. The reason is simple.

There diviance 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 brutality, discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation, and illicit use of weapons. However it is not particularly obvious where brutality, discrimination, and misconduct end and corruption begin.Essentially, police corruption falls into two major categories– external corruption which concerns police contacts with the public, and internal corruption, which involves the relationships among policemen within the works of the police department. The external corruption generally concists of one ore more of the following activities: 1) Payoffs to police by essentially non-criminal elements who fail to comply with stringent statutes or city ordinances; (for example, inviduals who repeatedly violate traffic laws).

2) Payoffs to police by individuals who continually violate the law as a method of making money (for example, prostitutes, narcotics addicts and pusshers, & professional burglars). 3) “Clean Graft” where money is paid to police for services, or where courtesy discounts are given as a matter of course to the police. “Police officers have been involved in activities such as extortion of money and/or narcotics from narcotics viloators in order to aviod arrest; they have acceptedbribes; they have sold narcotics. They have known of narcotics vilolations and have failed to take proper enforcement action. They have entered into personal associations with narcotics criminals and in some cases have used narcotics. They have given false testimony in court in order to obtain dismissal of the charges against a defendant.” (Sherman 1978: p 129) A scandal is perceived both as a socially constructed phenomenon and as an agent of change that can lead to realignments in the structure of power within oraganizations.

New york, for instance, has had more than a half dozen major scandals concerning its police department within a century. It was the Knapp Commission in 1972 that first brought attention to the NYPD when theyreleased the results of over 2 years of investigations of alleged corruption. The findings were that bribery, especially amoung narcotics officers, was extremely high. As a result many officers were prosecuted and many more lost their jobs. A massive re-structuring took place aftewards with strict rules and regulations to make sure that the problem would never happen again.

Be that as it may, the problem did arrise once gain…

Some of the most recent events to shake New York City and bring attention to the national problem of police corruption was brought up begining in 1992 when five officers were arrested on drug-trafficing charges. Michael Dowd, the suspected ‘ring leader’, was the kind of cop who gave new meaning to the word moonlighting. It wasn’t just any job that the 10-year veteran of the New York City force was working on the side. Dowd was a drug dealer. From scoring free pizza as a rookie he graduated to pocketing cash seized in drug raids and from there simply to robbing dealers outright, sometimes also relieving them of drugs that he would resell.

Soon he had formed ”a crew” of 15 to 20 officers in his Brooklyn precinct who hit up dealers regularly. Eventually one of them was paying Dowd and another officer $8,000 a week in protection money. Dowd bought four suburban homes and a $35,000 red Corvette. Nobody asked how he managed all that on take-home pay of $400 a week. In May 1992 Dowd, four other officers and one former officer were arrested for drug trafficking by police in Long Island’s Suffolk County. When the arrests hit the papers, it was forehead-slapping time among police brass. Not only had some of their cops become robbers, but the crimes had to be uncovered by a suburban police force.

Politicians and the media started asking what had happened to the system for rooting out police corruption established21 years ago at the urging of the Knapp Commission, the investigatory body that heard Officer Frank Serpico and other police describe a citywide network of rogue cops. (New York Times, March 29, 1993: p 8) To find out, at the time, New York City mayor David Dinkins established the Mollen Commission, named for its chairman, Milton Mollen, a former New York judge. Last week, in the same Manhattan hearing room where the Knapp Commission once sat, the new body heard Dowd and other officers add another lurid chapter to the old story of police corruption. And with many American cities wary that drug moneywill turn their departments bad, police brass around the country were lending an uneasy ear to the tales of officers sharing lines of coke from the dashboard of their squad cars and scuttling down fire escapes with sacks full of cash stolen from dealers’ apartments. (New York Times, April 3, 1993: p. 5) The Mollen Commission has not uncovered a citywide system of payoffs among the 30,000-member force. In fact, last week’s testimony focused on three precincts, all in heavy crime areas. But the tales, nevertheless, were troubling.

Dowd described how virtually the entire precinct patrol force would rendezvous at times at an inlet on Jamaica Bay, where they would drink, shoot off guns in the air and plan their illegal drug raids. (New York Times, Nov. 17, 1993: p. 3) It was “victimless crimes” problem which many view was a prime cause in the growth of police abuse. Reports have shown that the large majority of corrupt acts by police involve payoffs from both the perpetrators and the “victims” of victimless crimes.

The knapp commission in the New York found that although corruption among police officers was not restricted to this area, the bulk of it involved payments of money to the police from gamblers and prostitutes. (KnappCommission Report, 1973: pp 1-3) ”The cops who were engaged in corruption 20 years ago took money to cover up the criminal activity of others,” says Michael Armstrong, who was chief counsel to the Knapp Commission. ” Now it seems cops have gone into competition with street criminals.” (Newsweek, Oct 21,1992: p.

18) For cops as for anyone else, money works age for crooked police. Gambling syndicates in the 1950s were protected by a payoff system more elaborate than the Internal Revenue Service. Pervasive corruption may have lessened in recent years, as many experts believe, but individual examples seem to have grown more outrageous. In March authorities in Atlanta broke up a ring of weight-lifting officers who were charged with robbing strip clubs and private homes, and even carrying off 450-lb. safes from retail stores. (Washington Post, Jan 18, 1993: p. 11) The deluge of cash that has flowed from the drug trade has created opportunities for quick dirty money on a scale never seen before.

In the 1980s Philadelphia saw more than 30 officers convicted of taking part in a scheme to extort money from dealers. In Los Angeles an FBI probe focusing on the L.A.

County sheriff’s department has resulted so far in 36 indictments and 19 convictions on charges related to enormous thefts of cash during drug raids — more than $1 million in oneinstance. ”The deputies were pursuing the money more aggressively than they were pursuing drugs,” says Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Bauer. (Washington Post, Jan 18, 1993: p. 11) When cities enlarge their police forces quickly in response to public fears about crime, it can also mean an influx of younger and less well-suited officers. That was a major reason for the enormous corruption scandal that hit Miami in the mid-1980s, when about 10% of the city’s police were either jailed, fired or disciplined in connection with a scheme in which officers robbed and sometimes killed cocaine smugglers on the Miami River, then resold the drugs.

Many of those involved had been hired when the department had beefed up quickly after the 1980 riotsand the Mariel boatlift. ”We didn’t get the quality of officers we should have,” says department spokesman Dave Magnusson. (Carter, 1989: pp. 78-79) When it came time to clean house, says former Miami police chief Perry Anderson, civil service board members often chose to protect corrupt cops if there was no hard evidence to convict them in the courts.

”I tried to fire 25 people with tarnished badges, but it was next to impossible,” he recalls. (Carter, 1989: pp. 78-79) The Mollen Commission testimony could also lead to second thoughts on the growth of community policing, the back-to-the-beat philosophy that in recent years has been returning officers to neighborhood patrol in cities around the country, including New York.

Getting to know the neighborhood can mean finding more occasions for bribe taking, which is one reason that in many places beat patrolling was scaled back since the 1960s in favor of more isolated squad-car teams. The real test of a department is not so much whether its officers are tempted by money but whether there is an institutional culture that discourages them from succumbing. In Los Angeles the sheriff’s department ”brought us the case,” says FBI special agentCharlie Parsons. ”They worked with us hand in glove throughout the investigation.” (Washington Post, Jan 18, 1993: p. 11) In the years after it was established, following the Knapp Commission disclosures, the New York City police department’s internal affairs division was considered one of the nation’s most effective in stalking corruption. But that may not be the case anymore. Police sergeant Joseph Trimboli, a department investigator, told the Mollen Commission that when he tried to root out Dowd and other corrupt cops, his efforts were blocked by higher-ups in the department.

At one point, Trimboli claimed, he was called to a meeting of police officials and told he was under suspicion as a drug trafficker. ”They did not want thisinvestigation to exist,” he said. (New York Times, April 3, 1993: p. 5) It was at this time that New York City police commissioner, at the time, Raymond Kelly announced a series of organizational changes, including a larger staff and better-coordinated field investigations, intended to improve internal affairs.

His critics say those changes don’t go far enough. Much of that happened after Kelly’s reforms had been announced. The Mollen Commission is recommend the establishment of an outside monitoring agency, a move that Kelly and other police brass have expressed some reservations about. ”No group is good at policing itself,” says Knapp Commission counsel Armstrong. ”It doesn’t hurt to have somebody looking over their shoulder.” An independent body, however, might be less effective at getting co-operation from cops prone to close ranks against outsiders. ”You have to have the confidence of officers and information about what’s going on internally,” says former U.

S. Attorney Thomas Puccio, who prosecuted a number of police-corruption cases. (New York Times, April 3, 1993: p. 5) Getting that information was no easier when officers were encouraged to report wrongdoing to authorities within their owndepartment. In many cities that have them, internal affairs divisions are resented within the ranks for getting cops to turn in other cops — informers are even recruited from police-academy cadets — and for rarely targeting the brass.

”One of the things that has come out in the hearings is a culture within the department which seems to permit corruption to exist,” says Walter Mack, a one time federal prosecutor who is now New York’s deputy commissioner of internal affairs. ”But when you’re talking about cultural change, you’re talking about many years. It’s not something that occurs overnight.” (New York Post, June 14, 1993: p. 28) Dowd, who was sentenced prison on guilty please, put it another way.

”Cops don’t want to turn in other cops,” he said. ”Cops don’t want to be a rat.” And even when honest cops are willing to blow the whistle, there may not be anyone willing to listen. (New York Times, Mar. 29, 1993: p.

14) Is there a solution to the police corruption problem? Probably not because since its beginings, many aspects of policing have changed, but one thing that has not is the existence of corruption. Police agenies, in an attempt to elminate 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. What have all these changes done to eliminate or even decrease the corruption problem? Little or nothing.

Despite police departments’ attempts to control corruption, it still occurs. Regardless of the fact, police corruption cannot simply be over looked. Controling corruption is the only way that we can really limit corruption, because corruption is the by-product of the individual police officer, societal views, and, police environmental factors. Therefore control must come from not only the police department, but also must require the assistance and support of the community members. Controling 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 tollerated in any way, shape, or form. If a police administrator does not act strongly with disciplinary action against any corrupt activity, the message conveyed to other officers within the department will not be that of intimated nature.

In addition it may even increase corruption, because officers feel no actions will be taken against them. Another way that police agencies can control its corruption problem starts orginally in the academy. Ethical decisions andbehavior should be promoted, because failing to do make officers aware of the consequences of corruption does nothing but encourages it. Finally, many police departments, especially large ones, have an Internal Affairs unit which operates to investigate improper conduct of police departments. These units some times are run within the department or can be a total outside agency to insure that there is not corruption from within the Internal Affairs unit, as was alleged in the 1992 NYPD corruption scandal. Such a unit may be all that is need to prevent many officers from being tempted into falling for corrupt behavior patterns. Although the police agaency should be the main source of controling its own corruption problem, there alsorequires some support and assistance from the local community.

It is important that the public be educated to the negative affects of corruption on their police agency. They should be taught that even ‘graitudes’ (the most basic and common form of police corruption) is only a catalyst for more and future corruption. The community may even go as far as establishing review boards, and investigative bodies to help keep a careful eye on the agency. If we do not act to try and control it, the costs can be enormous, because it affects not only the individual, his department, the law enforcement community as a whole, but society as well. Police corruption can be controlled; it just takes a little extra effort.

And In the long run, that effort will be well worth it to both the agency and the community. (Walker, 1992: p. The powers given by the state to the police to use force have always caused concern. Although improvements have been made to control corruption, numerous opportunities exist for deviant and corrupt practices. The opportunity to aquire power in excess of that which is legally permitted or to misuse power is always available. The police subculture is a contributing factor to these practices, because officers who often act in a corrupt manner are often over looked, and condoned by other members of the subculture.

As mentioned from the very begining of this report the problem of police deviance and corruption will never be completely solved, just as the police will never be able to solve the crime problem in our society. One step in the right direction, however, is the monitoring and control of the police and the appropriate use of police style to enforce laws and to Bibliography:—Works CitedBeals, Gregory (1993, Oct 21). Why Good Cops Go Bad. Newsweek, p. 18.Carter, David L. (1986).

Deviance & Police. Ohio: Anderson Publishing Co.Castaneda, Ruben (1993, Jan.

18). Bearing the Badge of Mistrust. The Washington Post, p. 11.

Dantzker, Mark L. (1995, ). Understanding Today’s Police. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.James, George (1993, Mar.

29). Confessions of Corruption. The New York Times, p.

8.James, George (1993, Nov. 17). Officials Say Police Corruption is Hard To Stop. The New York Times, p. 3.Sherman, Lawrence W (1978). Scandal And Reform.

Los Angeles: University of California Press.Simpson, Scott T. (1993, June 14). Mollen Commission Findings. New York Post, p. 28 Walker, J.T. (1992).

Briefs of 100 leading cases in the law enforcement. Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing Company.Weber, Bruce (1993, April 3). Confessions of Corruption.

The New York Times, p. 5.

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