Police Misconduct and Corruption

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INTRODUCTION For as long as policing has existed in America, there has been misconduct and corruption associated with any given policing agency. Police officer malfeasance can range from minor cases of misconduct to the downright criminal acts that are considered to be corruption. It is important to state here that not all police officers are guilty of misconduct and/or corruption, but like everything in our media-based society, the ?bad? cops are of much more interest and therefore are what this paper will focus on.

Merriam-Webster online (2005) defines misconduct as ?1: mismanagement especially of governmental or military responsibilities; 2: intentional wrongdoing; specifically: deliberate violation of a law or standard especially by a government official: Malfeasance; or 3: improper behavior.? Corruption, as defined by Merriam-Webster online (2005), is ?1 a: impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle: Depravity; b: Decay, Decomposition; c: inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery) d: a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct; or 2: an agency or influence that corrupts.? Police corruption encompasses police misconduct. While police misconduct is usually easily identified, police corruption is a gray area because people disagree on what is classified as corruption. This paper will discuss the different types of police misconduct and police corruption. It will also theorize about why police misconduct and corruption occur and the different ways to stop them.

TYPES OF MISCONDUCT AND CORRUPTION There are two types of corruption that most police malfeasances fall under: grass-eating and meat-eating. Defined by the Knapp Commission in the early 1970s, grass-eating is misconduct that occasionally occurs in normal every day scope of police work. (Schmalleger, 2005). Meat-eating is when police officers actively seek out illicit ways to make money, usually through bribes, threats, or intimidation (Schmalleger, 2005).

Grass-eating is usually viewed as the least serious type of corruption. Some forms of grass-eating are relatively harmless, such as mooching (police officers accepting free items from donors) and favoritism (issuing license tabs, window stickers, or courtesy cards that exempt users from arrest or citation from traffic offenses). Aside from these examples of grass-eating, there are still some types that are undeniably corrupt. These types of grass-eating include bribery (receiving cash or a ?gift? in exchange for past or future help in avoiding prosecution), extortion (holding a ?street court? in which minor traffic tickets can be avoided by the payment of cash ?bail? to the arresting officer, with no receipt given), and shopping (picking up small items such as candy bars, gum, and cigarettes at a store where the door has been unlocked at the close of business hours). This type of grass-eating often leads to meat-eating corruption.

Meat-eating is the more serious type of police corruption. When a police officer is meat-eating, if he or she gets caught they are almost certain to be fired from their job as well as possibly arrested if their meat-eating is serious enough. Some examples of meat-eating include premeditated theft (using tools, keys, or other devices to force entry and steal property), shakedown (taking expensive items for personal use during an investigation of a break-in or burglary), and perjury (lying to provide an alibi for fellow officers engaged in unlawful activity or otherwise failing to tell the truth so as to avoid sanctions). Planting evidence, nonjustifiable homicide, and dealing drugs and/or aiding drug dealers in any way are also very serious meat-eating corruption offenses.

While by definition, the use of excessive force and accepting free offers of coffee and other such goods are considered to be corrupt police practices, many (particularly police officers) don?t consider them or others to be such (Schmalleger, 2005). What makes...
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