John O. Temple Jr.
So what is white-collar crime?
According to the Meridian-Webster dictionary the word white is a stereotypical association of good character, marked by upright fairness, free from spot or blemish, free from moral impurity , innocent, marked by the wearing of white by the woman as a symbol of purity, not intended to cause harm, a white lie, favorable, fortunate. And there is the infamous cliché, “that’s mighty white of you.” This leads to the question; does the American society; look at white-collar crime the same way as they do street crime?
During a recent class at a University in California a Sociology professor while tackling the subject of white-collar crime, asked her class a relative simple question but complex. After viewing the film Office Space, the students were asked, “Was there a correlation in the film with Bill Lumbergh, a top level executive, and his “white” collar?” The professor wanted to know if the exaggerated whiteness of Bill’s collar was a deliberate action on the director’s part. Certainly this would fall with-in the Meridian-Webster Dictionary’s definition, if the director was trying to portray the actor to look like, the fair, up right, good character, corporate white-collar image type. Or perhaps the director was implying this is how the average American views top level, white-collar executives, in society. Here is where the issue becomes complex, the white-collar crime in the movie should be committed by the executive than, right? This is part of the problem dealing with the growing phenomenon of what is known as white-collar crime and the trend is growing and not going away any time soon. There was no official classification of what a white-collar crime was in America until 1939. The only way social scientist were able to track any sort of deviance in higher society was to look at the Uniform Crime Report that didn’t get published until January of 1930 by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). In the 1920’s the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) understood the importance to organize a committee for statistics on national crime. The IACP’s actions lead to the development of a uniform statics system. After further evaluating the record keeping practices and review of how the other states organized criminal codes, the committee put together another report that became the foundation of what is known today as the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). The committee also included definitions to the offenses to insure states would follow the same guidelines for reporting purposes (2). By 1930, 43 States had begun utilizing UCR, which included 400 cities with over 20 million people being represented. Later that same year Congress opened the door and passed Title 28, Section 534, allowing the Attorney General to collect criminal information as well. The UCR has been a valuable tool to over the years for sociologist in collecting statistical data and information (2). But in order to really help society and the socially deviant the UCR needed to be improved and who better to do it than a social scientist. Keep Them Guessing
In a landmark speech at the American Sociological Society Meeting Professor Edwin H. Sutherland coined the term, “white-collar” crime. Instead starting his speech with street crime, his focus was on crimes committed by people of a higher social status, respectability and with-in their upper-occupations. Professor Sutherland also was concern with the seemingly preoccupation of low status offenders of street crime while nearly no one has taken notice to higher status offenses (3). Even though Sutherland has his critics and say he doesn’t understand the law. Sutherland would like to get rid of the traditional criminal intent process and presumption of innocence, he claims the focus should be on who the alleged perpetrator is not what that...
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