Police corruption has been a problem in American society since the early days of policing. An ancient natural tendency of human beings is to attempt to placate or win over those in positions of authority over them. This tendency is complicated in today’s materialistic society by greed and by the personal and financial benefit to be derived from evading law. The temptations toward illegality offered to police range from free cup of coffee from a small restaurant owner in exchange for officers future goodwill, perhaps for something as simple as a traffic ticket, to huge monetary bribes arranged by drug dealers to guarantee that the police will look the other way as an important shipment of contraband arrives. As noted criminologist Carl b. klockars says, policing, by its very nature, “is an occupation that is rife with opportunities for misconduct. Policing is a highly discretionary, coercive activity that routinely takes place in private settings, out of the sight of supervisors, and the presence of witnesses who are often regarded as unreliable.”
Ethicists say that police corruption ranges for minor offenses to serious violations of the law. Exactly what constitutes corruption, however, is not always clear. In Recognition of what some have called corruptions slippery slope most police departments now explicitly prohibit even the acceptance of minor gratuities. Slippery slope perspective holds that even small thank you’s accepted from members of the public can lead to more ready acceptance of larger bribes. An officer who begins to accept, and then expects, gratuities may soon find that his or her policing becomes influenced by such gifts and a larger one soon follow. At that point, the officer may easily slide to the bottom of the moral slope, which was made slippery by previous small concessions.