In Edwin J. Deltarres' book Character and Cops he explores three hypotheses for police corruption in the United States. Some are somewhat historical, but they are still relevant to the problem of corruption today. The first hypothesis is called "the society at-large" theory by former Chicago Police Superintendent O. W. Wilson. Wilson was superintendent of the Chicago Police Department during the early nineteen sixties. The second hypothesis is called the "structural" theory. The third is called "the rotten apple theory." I will provide a brief analysis of the three hypotheses in this essay and examine which one(s) is valid today.
The society at-large hypothesis theory, asserts that the police, in this case the nineteen sixties Chicago Police Department, was corrupted by outside forces and the police became conditioned to the corruption as business as usual. O. W. Wilson makes the case that the police of Chicago had been accustomed to accepting "grafts" from various parts of society on a regular basis. It was the accepted norm.
Wilson explains that earlier generations of police were poorly paid and the wealthier citizens of the society viewed police similarly to their own servants and would provide them with gifts and gratuities even though the police were public servants and not private servants. Local businesses, restaurants, and hotels would also curry favor with the beat cop expecting better service from him in return by paying the officers. Other times officers were provided with reduced cost/free meals or alcohol. Owen believed that this pattern of behavior would often lead to even worse corruption, "a slippery slope," such as aiding organized crime or street level hoodlums by taking part in, or profiting from robberies or worse crimes. Owens concluded his hypothesis by being a strong advocate for strong policies strictly forbidding any gratuities of any kind.
The second is the "Structural" hypothesis. It is based on...
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