Police corruption Essay

This essay has a total of 3610 words and 16 pages.

Police corruption



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, 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
Los Angeles.

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. 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 is
yet 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 accepted
bribes; 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 they
released 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 established
21 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 money
will 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. (Knapp
Commission 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 one
instance. ''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 riots
and 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
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