Police Corruption

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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. An examination of a local newspaper or any police-related publication 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 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, as well as many other cities. Corruption within police departments falls into 2 basic categories, external corruption and internal corruption.

Corruption in policing is usually viewed as the mistreatment of authority by police officer acting officially to fulfill 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, inevitably tends to corrupt. It is yet to be recognized 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; 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 extortion 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 realignments in the structure of power within organizations. New York, for instance, has had more than a half dozen major scandals concerning its police department within a century. It was the Knapp Commission in 1972 that first brought attention to the New York Police Department, when they released the results of over 2 years of investigations of alleged corruption. The findings were that bribery, especially among narcotics officers, was extremely high. As a result many...
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