Corruption in policing is viewed as the misuse of authority by a police officer acting officially to fulfill his/her personal needs or wants. There are two distinct elements of corruption;
1) misuse of authority,
2) personal attainment.
The occupational subculture of policing is a major factor in both creating police corruption, by initiating officers into corrupt activities, and sustaining it, by covering up corrupt activities by other officers. Police corruption is a complex phenomenon, which does not readily submit to simple analysis. It is a problem that has and will continue to affect us all, whether we are civilians or law enforcement officers.
Since its beginnings, many aspects of policing have changed; however, one aspect that has remained relatively unchanged is the existence of corruption. Police corruption has increased dramatically with the illegal cocaine trade, and the officer acting alone or in-groups to steal money from dealer and/or distribute cocaine themselves. Large groups of corrupt police officers have been caught in New York, New Orleans, Washington, Dc, and Los Angeles.
Corruption within police departments falls into two basic categories; internal corruption, involving relationships among the police within the works of the police department (ex: promotions or favored assignments, usually purchased with bribes) and external corruption, which involves police contact with the public.
There are many different forms of corruption; gratuity, involving free meals, free dry cleaning and discounts; bribery, involving the exchange of money or something of value between the police and wrong doer (this is very common among narcotics officers); theft and Burglary, involving officers stealing property, money and/or drugs from the department; and stealing from people under the influence, who essentially become victims of the police. A new form of police corruption developed in the early 1980’s and into the 1990’s, which include brutality, discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation, and illicit the use of weapons.
The Mollen Commission found that “most corrupt officers start off as honest and idealistic.” The career of corruption’s begins with passively accepting minor gratuities that gradually begin to involve more serious violation of the laws, involving larger amounts of money and officers initiating corrupt acts. It can be said that power inevitably tends to corrupt, and it is yet to be recognized that, while there is no reason to presume those police officers as individuals are any less fallible than other members of society, people are often shocked and outraged when officers are exposed violating the law.
There deviance elicits a special feeling of betrayal. The danger of police corruption could invert the formal goals of the organization and may lead to “the use of organizational power to encourage and create crime rather than to deter it”. There has been many attempts to put an end to police corruption, with no real success.
An attempt to eliminate corruption, by increasing salaries, more training, incentive for education, and the development of policies that focus directly on factors leading to corruption. Despite many efforts by the police departments to control corruption, it still exists. Police corruption has a very long standing history. Controlling corruption has to come from both the police department and the assistance and support of local community members. Community members should be educated about the negative affects of corruption within the police agency and that gratuities (most common form of police corruption), is just the catalyst for future corruption. They should be aware of regulations.
Controlling corruption from the departmental level requires an organization with strong leadership. Corruption can take place at any level in the police department, from the patrol officer, to the chief of police. Controlling begins with the chief of police and his attitude. The chief has to make it clear that corruption will not be tolerated. Establishing rules and regulations within the department to insure that all officers conform to certain behavior will help. There should be procedures for discipline, counseling, and if necessary officer trade, if he/she is suspected of or found guilty of corruption.
A proactive integrity test should be in place. All police candidates should be pre-screened (background checks, drug test, alcohol testing), which will help to weed out the bad candidates from future police officer positions.