The Slippery Slope to Corruption and the Public Corruption of Police Officers Ricky A Price, Col. U.S.A.F. (Ret)
Kaplan University Online
CJ340-02: Applied Criminal Justice Ethics
Professor Kevin Stoehr
10 July 2012
The law enforcement agent, that represents government, bears the heavy responsibility of maintaining, in his own conduct and the honor and integrity of all government institutions. He, consequently, shall guard against placing himself in a position in which any person can expect special consideration or in which the public can reasonably assume that this special consideration is being given. Accordingly, he should be firm in refusing any type of gifts, favors, or gratuities, large or small, which can, in the public mind, be interpreted as being capable of influencing his judgment in the discharge of his duties. The issue of police acceptance of gratuities has long been a source of controversy. Many writers on police corruption see the acceptance of even the smallest gift or benefit as the beginning of the end of an honest officer's career. Others suggest that the acceptance of gratuities does little harm, and that there may in fact be positive benefits in the practice, not just for the officer involved, but for society as a whole (Delattre, 2009). In this paper I look at the practice of accepting gratuities in order to draw attention to some particular situations in which their acceptance will always cause troubles, and thus to draw attention to those situations in which police ought to say "No!" It is not my intention to provide an comprehensive investigation of the practice of accepting gratuities, or to describe every situation in which gratuities ought to be refused. My intention, rather, is to draw attention to those types of situations in which the acceptance of gratuities will inevitably lead to troubles of one sort or another. I also recognize that in an ideal world there would be no need to question what sorts of gratuities ought to be refused, and what sorts accepted, for an ideal world would have no need of such dealings. But given that we live in a world in which such transactions are valued by both giver and receiver, it seems to me that it is necessary to seek some resolution to this problem--a solution that recognizes that worth, while at the same time avoids the problems that the acceptance of gratuities can cause.
In order to clarify the issues and problems involved, I begin with an outline of the main theoretical positions on the acceptance of gratuities canvassing the main arguments opposing the acceptance of gratuities, and the arguments in favor of their acceptance. It should be noted though that wherever I speak of "gratuities," this term can also be taken to include other discounts, gifts, and benefits offered to police (Coleman, 2008). A) Why Police Should Not Accept Gratuities
(1) The slippery slope to corruption
a. Police corruption is undeniably a serious problem. Some police departments have become so riddled with corruption that the public comes to see every police officer as bent. Many writers have suggested that the first step toward a police officer becoming corrupt is the acceptance of gratuities (Coleman, 2008). (2) Lawrence Sherman, for example, suggests that there is "a continuum of graft stages" from the acceptance of gratuities, to the acceptance of bribes in relation to such things as bar-closing hours, to the acceptance of payoffs from gamblers and prostitutes, to eventual involvement in narcotics. He sees both the police officer who accepts a free cup of coffee and the police officer who is involved in drug dealing as corrupt--it is only a matter of the degree of corruption involved. This slide into serious corruption is seen by Sherman and many others as a "slippery slope." Once an officer is on the slope, the slide into serious corruption is, if not inevitable, at the very...