Police were established to protect the people, to represent the law and enforce it to the public. We, as the public, can be fooled to believe that the uniform they wear makes them all law-abiding citizens, and that they are put in their positions to do the good of the people. The truth is, they are also human who take advantage of their power, who make mistakes, who don’t know how to handle certain situations, and who just think of themselves rather than everyone else’s safety. Because humans will never be perfect, in the police department corruption, misconduct, and brutality exists. In American policing, there have been many cases in recent years where officers have been involved in these negative acts creating a problem in some departments.
Police corruption, misconduct, and brutality are all topics within departments that should not be tolerated at any level, state, local or federal. In most cases police perform these acts for their personal gain or the gain of others. The two key elements are misuse of authority and personal gain (Walker and Kats, 2011). In the united states, unethical police operations occur daily, and we see this through news reports and the media, although not always accurate, but it is a problem that has been around for hundreds of years. Police corruption is a deviant behavior defined as the abuse of authority for personal gain. For example, taking payments to protect illegal activities, or even police demanding special privileges. Officers have even been known to take money, property, or drugs from victims that have been arrested.
Corruption undermines the professionalism of a department, where the word of an officer has no value and eventually their credibility in criminal cases may be damaged. Police misconduct and brutality go hand in hand when it comes to unethical police operations. Police misconduct can classify any of these unethical behaviors, whether its use of force, sexual misconduct, theft, bias. It is any action performed that is unethical, against established employment guidelines, unconstitutional, or criminal in nature. The public views these acts and reacts with lack of respect for officers and public support for the department becomes an issue.
In cases like that of Sgt. Gialamas, a patrol officer from Baltimore City Police, who was involved in a misconduct situation with other officers, was convicted of misconduct but only received a probation punishment. This occurred after Sgt Gialamas arrested a 32-year-old man after fleeing from the police. Everything was going to plan, as any other arrest, until an off duty officer came in contact with Sgt Gialamas, saying the suspect had broke into his girlfriend’s apartment and was forced to call the police. Sgt. Gialamas put his trust on his off duty officer and returned with the suspect. The of duty officer then beat the 32-year-old man. CBS Baltimore reported that when in court, prosecutors were pushing for jail time on Gialamas because of what Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts states, “Any activity that undermines the integrity of the Baltimore Police Department simply won’t be tolerated” (2014).
As for the off duty officer, who beat the suspect, he received 45 days in jail. In this case, brutality and misconduct was present when the arrest process was taking place. I agree with what BCP Commissioner stated. Any unethical behavior of a police officer shall not be tolerated. Although the punishment was light on Gialamas, it took effect on his career and his family. The law and the court saw him as a law-breaker and a person that cannot be trusted within the department. Everyone else knew him as a kind, honest man, but when faced with the law it turned the tables on him. I believe that in this case, because the officer had a clean record and showed signs of pity and embarrassment; the court was right on dropping the jail time. Eventually Gialamas completed his community service hours and probations time and now is fighting to keep a job in law enforcement.
In today’s society, police are in the eye of the public. Many because of technology, where videos are being posted of officers performing illegal acts, police brutality, and police misconduct. Many careers are terminated due to these unlawful acts, and the trust between the public and the law are being questioned daily. Police are our eyes towards crime and the “bad guys,” but if the bad guy is the one who is protecting us then what is the reason for policing. Of course not all of police officers fall under these criteria’s, but the ones who do shall be punished against the law, knowing they enforce it but still decide to act unlawfully.
Walker, S., Katz, C. (2011). The Police in America. An Introduction: Police corruption. 7th Edition.
(2014). CBS Baltimore: Veteran police sergeant gets no jail time in misconduct case. Retrieved from http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2014/04/18/veteran-police-sergeant-gets-no-jail-time-in-misconduct-case/