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Police Corruption Essay

Police corruption is a complex issue. Police corruption or the abuse of authority by a police officer, acting officially to fulfill personal needs or wants, is a growing problem in the United States today. Things such as an Internal Affairs department, a strong leadership organization, and community support are just a few considerations in the prevention of police corruption. Controlling corruption from the departmental level requires a strong leadership organization, because corruption can take place anywhere 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 tolerated in any way, shape, or form. So there are ways to prevent police corruption from happening.

An investigation of a local newspaper or any police-related edited in an urban city during any given week would most likely have an article about a police officer that got caught committing some kind of corrupt act. Police corruption has increased 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, as well as many other cities. Corruption within police departments falls into 2 basic ranks, external corruption and internal corruption. Corruption in policing is usually viewed as the mistreatment of authority by police officer acting formally to fulfill their personal needs or wants. For a corrupt act to occur, three distinct elements of police corruption must be present simultaneously: 1) Mishandling of authority, 2) Mishandling of official capacity, and 3) Mishandling of personal attainment (Dantzker, 1995: p 157). It can be said that power, it is necessarily so tends to corrupt. It is now to be recognized that while there is no reason to assume that policemen as an individual is any less capable to make a mistake than other members of society, people are often shocked when policemen are exposed violating the law.

The reason is simple; their deviance 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; 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). 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 consists of one or more of the following activities: 1) Payoffs to the police, by people who essentially violate non-criminal elements, who fail to comply with stringent statutes or city ordinances. 2) Payoffs to the police, by individuals who continually break the law, using various methods to earn illegal money. 3) “Clean Graft” where money is paid to the 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 illegal exaction of money and/or narcotics from drug violators. In order for these violators to avoid arrest, the police officers have accepted bribes, and accepted narcotics, which they turned around and sold.

These police know of the violations, and fail 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 testimonies 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 state of agreement in the structure of power within organizations. Is there a solution to the police corruption problem? Probably not, because since its beginnings, many aspects of policing have changed, but one thing that has not, is the existence of corruption. Police agencies, in an attempt to eliminate corruption have tried everything from increasing salaries, requiring more training and education, and developing policies which are intended to focus directly of factors leading to corruption. Despite police departments’ attempts to control corruption, it still occurs.

Regardless of the fact, police corruption cannot simply be over looked. Controlling corruption is the only way that we can really limit corruption, because corruption is the byproduct of the individual police officer, and police environmental factors; therefore, control must come from not only the police department, but it also must require the assistance and support of the community members. If a police administrator does not act strongly with disciplinary action against any corrupt activity, the message conveyed to other officers within the department would 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 originally in the academy. Ethical decisions and behavior should be taught. If they fail to, it would make officers unaware of the consequences of corruption and do nothing but encourage it. Finally, many police department’s especially large ones should have an Internal Affairs unit, which operates to investigate improper conduct of police departments. These units’ some-times are run within the department.

Dantzker, Mark L. (1995). Understanding Today’s Police.
Officials Say Police Corruption is Hard To Stop. Sherman, Lawrence W. (1978)

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