Friday, June 24, 2011


Police corruption is a specific form of police misconduct designed to obtain financial benefits, other personal gain, and/or career advancement for a police officer or officers in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest. One common form of police corruption is soliciting and/or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities. Another example is police officers flouting the police code of conduct in order to secure convictions of suspects — for example, through the use of falsified evidence. More rarely, police officers may deliberately and systematically participate in organized crime themselves.
Police officers have various opportunities to gain personally from their status and authority as law enforcement officers. The Knapp Commission, which investigated corruption in the New York City Police Department in the early 1970s, divided corrupt officers into two types: meat-eaters, who "aggressively misuse their police powers for personal gain," and grass-eaters, who "simply accept the payoffs that the happenstances of police work throw their way."
The sort of corrupt acts that have been committed by police officers have been classified as follows:
a. Corruption of authority: police officers receiving free drinks, meals, and other gratuities.
b. Kickbacks: receiving payment from referring people to other businesses. This can include, for instance, contractors and tow truck operators.
c. Opportunistic theftfrom arrestees and crime victims or their corpses.
d. Shakedowns: accepting bribes for not pursuing a criminal violation.
e. Protection of illegal activity: being "on the take", accepting payment from the operators of illegals, casino establishments such as brothels, or drug dealers to protect them from law enforcement and keep them in .
f. Direct criminal activities of law enforcement officers themselves.
g. Internal payoffs: prerogatives and perquisites of law enforcement organizations, such as shifts and holidays, being bought and sold.
h. The "frameup": the planting or adding to evidence, especially in drug cases.
i. "Fixing operation. ": undermining criminal prosecutions by losing traffic tickets or failing to appear at judicial hearings, for bribery or as a personal favor.
(wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Police misconduct and corruption are abuses of police authority. Sometimes used interchangeably, the terms refer to a wide range of procedural, criminal, and civil violations. Misconduct is the broadest category. Misconduct is "procedural" when it refers to police who violate police department rules and regulations; "criminal" when it refers to police who violate state and federal laws; "unconstitutional" when it refers to police who violate a citizen's CIVIL RIGHTS; or any combination thereof. Common forms of misconduct are excessive use of physical or DEADLY FORCE, discriminatory arrest, physical or verbal harassment, and selective enforcement of the law.
(Police Corruption and Misconduct - History, Contemporary Problems, Further Readings - Civil, Federal, Law, Officers, Rights, and Criminal at
As with many disciplines, theories about how police corruption comes about have flourished over the years. The three theories that are often in evidence in the criminal justice field are the society at large theory, the structural/affiliation theory and the rotten apple hypothesis. Each of these theories takes a different perspective about how police corruption comes about and each holds merit in its own right.
The society at large theory, brought to light by O.W. Wilson, maintains that the societal structure is at fault for police corruption. Under this particular theory, police corruption is the result of certain prevalent actions of society. As Wilson explained it to citizens of Chicago, "the same kind of special consideration" that citizens were "buying for small amounts, could, by the same logic, be purchased by criminals and crime syndicates for larger amounts" (as cited by Delattre). When a citizen, as a matter of hospitality or in exchange for some small consideration or favor, gives an officer a gratuity, that citizen has contributed to the corruption problem by opening the door for an officer to then accept larger amounts or goods in exchange for bigger favors. Another similar belief within the society at large theory is that officers become corrupt because of a belief that other sectors of the system are corrupt. If, for instance, officers see judges taking bribes to thwart justice, they might come to the conclusion that if a judge can do profit from such behavior, so too can they.
The structural/affiliation theory, first presented by Arthur Niederhoffer, states that officers become indoctrinated into corruption by watching the actions of veterans and superiors. Officers do not start out corrupt, but the deviant behavior and the response to such behavior in the law enforcement field starts a corruption cycle. Rookies are taught the behavior, and the acceptance of such behavior, by veterans who learned the behavior from yet others, and if not stopped, the rookies will later pass the behavior on to an entirely new crop of officers. Another important element to this theory is the belief that secrecy acts as a breeding ground for corruption.
The final widely accepted theory is the rotten apple hypothesis. This theory maintains that police corruption is the result of putting into a policing position individuals with an already established propensity for corruption. Subscribers to this theory believe that "indiscriminate hiring, inadequate training and poor supervision" erode personnel standards which ultimately results in widespread corruption within a department (Delattre).
(Senedra Glenn, Yahoo! Contributor Network at
Far more prevalent than the accepting of bribes is the fabrication of evidence. This form of corruption is to the police what charity is to the Salvation Army. It is second nature. No matter how honest you might be right now, no matter how religious you think you are, or how much personal integrity you think you may have, within weeks of joining the police force you will be standing in the witness box, swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, knowing full well that you intend telling a pack of lies. The reason for this radical change in your nature is known as peer group pressure. The police force of every nation is corrupt, rotten through and through, and for you to remain decent and honest in an organization which is corrupt is impossibility. You will either resign or go with the flow.
Some do try to resist the system. They report corruption to their superior officers and suddenly find themselves on shit duties. Poor fools, it hadn't occurred to them that their superior officers rose through the rotten ranks and are every bit as corrupt as the men they now supervise.
Nothing changes and nothing will change so long as the men at the VERY top of the force are corrupt. No matter how concerned and sincere these men appear to be when interviewed on TV, ask yourself how it's possible for a man to remain in the police force for twenty-plus years, to witness corruption at every level in every department, to hear canteen gossip all day and every day, and yet remain oblivious to anything and everything of an illegal nature that's taking place under his very nose. This man and dozens like him reached the top by playing the game, by not making waves, and by turning a blind eye to the thousands of routine perjuries and illegal atrocities being committed by his workmates on a daily basis.
When he reaches the top, is he suddenly going to go straight? How can he when his colleagues remember his bent history? The very first time he tries to reprimand an officer for accepting a bribe or for fabricating evidence, the miscreant simply reminds his boss of the times he did precisely the same thing!
How can a Commissioner say to his Commanders and Superintendents, "I insist that you do the job honestly" when they recall the same man entering the witness box and lying his head off? Not once, but hundreds of times.
(Adapted from Police Corruption by John Hornblower at
Authorities make pronouncements about how officers "shall" or "will" behave and what they "shall not" or "will not" do. The language is in the imperative voice with an expectation that officers will follow these ethical imperatives because they have been officially stated. The motivation for following is similar to obeying the law.
Laws must be obeyed and ethical principles should be heeded, but the two are not the same. The legal model assumes that there is only one system of values, the authority based system, and that assumption is false. Notice the change in wording from "ethics" to "values". The two are not the same, but they can't be separated.
There are several value systems by which people decide right and wrong, and the authority value system is only one means by which people build ethics. Each system exists in all people at varying degrees in different circumstances and times in their lives. For example, one system may predominate at home and another at work. Likewise, the values most affecting a rookie are not the same as the predominant values in an officer of ten years.
New officers come into law enforcement with different backgrounds and value systems. Since the nature of police work is enforcing laws, it is safe to assume that the authority system is strong in them. However, they soon feel the power of the tribal value system. Phrases such as "the police family", "the police brotherhood", and "the blue code of silence" reflect the tribal system.
Briefly, there are three universal characteristics of tribal values. First, tribal values focus on an identifiable group. Membership in the group provides emotional support and security. Second, members are expected to observe a certain way of life in which they find emotional identity. Third, the tribe needs an enemy.
Every tribe must have a common enemy to provide strong motivation to live and work in concert. Members form an "us versus them" attitude. They feel that their very survival is at stake-strong motivation indeed. This fear in each member is a strong reason why members submit to behavior demands of the tribe and change their ethics to allow them to stay in the tribe.
Without question, police officers have an "us versus them" attitude. Most people just assume that criminals are the enemy, but sadly, criminals are not the only enemy. Police administrators, city administrators, the media and the general public are enemies for many officers even more than criminals. Officers see more threat from these sources daily than they do criminals. In addition administrators, media and citizens discourage officers from viewing criminals as enemies. After all, they are citizens fully protected by the Constitution and the laws of the land. Officers should treat these errant people as fellow citizens-even friends-who have just made a mistake.
(Adapted from Police Stress The Police Tribe: Code of Silence at

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