Police Corruption

Topics: Police, Police brutality, Police misconduct Pages: 8 (2864 words) Published: September 7, 2008
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy corruption is defined as the abuse of power by a public official for private gain. Police corruption is the abuse of power by a police officer for their own personal gain. Police officers become corrupt mainly for monetary gain because most feel that police officers do not make enough money and they want to make more. Police corruption can be costly to society and it can even violate the rights of society. Police corruption can show favoritism to some and unfairness to others. If the people of our society would ban together and stop thinking about themselves, then there could be a chance to eliminate the corruption caused by police. There are several kinds of police corruption; there are reasons why other officers tolerate corruption, there are ways to reduce or even eliminate corruption, and there are different effects that police corruption can have on society. In the instance of noble-cause corruption, the utilitarian philosophy of "the ends justify the means" is employed. The drive is a “profound moral commitment to make the world a safer place to live" (Axia ADJ 235 Ethics in Crime and Justice Chap.8.p.197). The logic behind this concept is "... that officers sometimes (maybe even frequently) employ unethical means to catch criminals because they believe it is right to do so." A police officer has the power through use of his or her discretion to determine culpability and in doing so possibly altering the life of a criminal suspect. Discretion is a necessary element in law enforcement, but the need for discretion also leads to a greater dependence on individual ethical codes in place of rules and laws. Arguably, police utilize their discretionary power to enforce societal desires for order and crime control. The pressure for order and crime control may lead to the use of illegal means to achieve these goals. Here, corruption may be tolerated and left undisclosed to make an arrest and get a conviction. The concept of "noble-cause corruption" and the "Dirty Harry problem" are examples of why corrupt behaviors may not be reported. Author C. Klockars (1983) suggests that using immoral means to reach a desired moral end is an irresolvable problem and inevitable circumstance for officers. There will be situations where officers know a “dirty act” will result in a good end, there are no other means to achieve the good end, and the “dirty act” will not be in vain (Chp.8.p.213). In a "Dirty Harry problem" scenario, an officer has a suspect detained, and knows a victim's life is in jeopardy. If the officer can obtain the victim's location, a life could be saved, but the suspect is not talking. The officer then uses means deemed necessary to obtain information of the victim's location from the suspect. Although immoral acts may be imposed on the suspect, there is a chance to save a life. This could be a reason for officers not reporting corrupt behavior. Undercover work and interacting with informants also require use of discretion. To infiltrate a criminal organization that has a hierarchy it may be required to do away with a code of conduct, otherwise to stick out like a sore thumb. These breaches of conduct and practices of what may be considered corrupt by others are necessary to get to the top of a criminal hierarchy. Such conduct cannot be reported, for the sake of the officer or informant's lives; or to blow a case. Being at the forefront of the criminal justice system and first responders to incidents police officers are exposed to the effects of humanities’ worst side. A fresh recruit may soon realize that dishonesty and corruption are relegated not only to those who are commonly considered to be criminals. An officer can and does meet people with good reputations who practice deception and dishonesty. The general conditions of police work can influence an officer's moral fortitude. Officers become intimately familiar with...
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