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."