Police corruption is a form of police misconduct in which law enforcement officers seek personal gain, such as money or career advancement, through the abuse of power, for example by accepting bribes in exchange for not pursuing, or selectively pursuing, an investigation or arrest.
One common form of police corruption is soliciting or accepting bribes in exchange for not reporting organized drug or prostitution rings or other illegal activities. Another example is police officers flouting the police code of conduct in order to secure convictions of suspects—for example, through the use of falsified evidence. More rarely, police officers may deliberately and systematically participate in organized crime themselves.
In most major cities there are internal affairs sections to investigate suspected police corruption or misconduct. Similar entities include the British Independent Police Complaints Commission. Police corruption is a significant widespread problem in several countries, such as Peru, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Mexico Russia and Ukraine.
Corrupt acts by police officers
Police officers have several opportunities to gain personally from their status and authority as law enforcement officers. The Knapp Commission, which investigated corruption in the New York City Police Department in the early 1970s, divided corrupt officers into two types: meat-eaters, who "aggressively misuse their police powers for personal gain", and grass-eaters, who "simply accept the payoffs that the happenstances of police work throw their way."
The sort of corrupt acts that have been committed by police officers have been classified as follows:
- Corruption of authority: police officers receiving free drinks, meals, and other gratuities.
- Kickbacks: receiving payment from referring people to other businesses. This can include, for instance, contractors and tow truck operators.
- Opportunistic theft from arrestees and crime victims or their corpses.
- Shakedowns: accepting bribes for not pursuing a criminal violation.
- Protection of illegal activity: being "on the take", accepting payment from the operators of illegal establishments such as brothels, casinos, or drug dealers to protect them from law enforcement and keep them in operation.
- "Fixing": undermining criminal prosecutions by withholding evidence or failing to appear at judicial hearings, for bribery or as a personal favor.
- Direct criminal activities of law enforcement officers themselves.
- Internal payoffs: prerogatives and perquisites of law enforcement organizations, such as shifts and holidays, being bought and sold.
- The "frameup": the planting or adding to evidence, especially in drug cases.
- Police hazing within law enforcement.
- Ticket fixing: police officers cancelling traffic tickets as a favor to the friends and family of other police officers.
Prevalence of police corruption
Accurate information about the prevalence of police corruption is hard to come by, since the corrupt activities tend to happen in secret and police organizations have little incentive to publish information about corruption. Police officials and researchers alike have argued that in some countries, large-scale corruption involving the police not only exists but can even become institutionalized. One study of corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department (focusing particularly on the Rampart scandal) proposed that certain forms of police corruption may be the norm, rather than the exception, in American policing. In the UK, an internal investigation in 2002 into the largest police force, the Metropolitan Police, Operation Tiberius found that the force was so corrupt that "organized criminals were able to infiltrate Scotland Yard “at will” by bribing corrupt officers ... and that Britain’s biggest force suffered 'endemic corruption' at the time".
Where corruption exists, the widespread existence of a Blue Code of Silence among the police can prevent the corruption from coming to light. Officers in these situations commonly fail to report corrupt behavior or provide false testimony to outside investigators to cover up criminal activity by their fellow officers. The well-known case of Frank Serpico, a police officer who spoke out about pervasive corruption in the NYPD despite the open hostility of other members, illustrates how powerful the code of silence can be. In Australia in 1994, by 46 votes to 45, independent politician John Hatton forced the New South Wales state government to override the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the advice of senior police to establish a ground-breaking Royal Commission into Police Corruption However, in a number of countries, such as China, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil or Mexico, police corruption remains to be one of the largest social problems facing their countries.
"Noble cause corruption" and police
"Noble cause corruption" as ethical corruption is a departure from conventional discussions on police corruption, which typically focus on monetary corruption. According to the field of Police Ethics, noble cause corruption is police misconduct "committed in the name of good ends." In Police Ethics it argued that some of the best officers are often the most susceptible to noble cause corruption. According to professional policing literature, noble cause corruption includes "planting or fabricating evidence, lying or the fabrication and manipulation of facts on reports or through testimony in court, and generally abusing police authority to make a charge stick." According to Robert Reiner, a professor at the London School of Economics, stops based on statistical discrimination are also a form of noble cause corruption.
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- "Peruvian Times – News from Peru – Interior Minister: Police Working on Rooting Out Corrupt Officers". peruviantimes.com. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
- "Brazil | Police | Corruption". Globalpost.com. 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2013-05-17.
- "Survey: Police most corrupt institution: TII". The Jakarta Post. 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2013-05-17.
- Rogers, Simon (2011-12-01). "Corruption index 2011 from Transparency International: find out how countries compare | News". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-05-17.
- Thomas C. Mackey, "Meat-eaters and Grass-eaters", H-Net, November 1997, available at http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=1503. Accessed 6 February 2010.
- Newburn, 1999, p. 4
- Tim Prenzler, Police Corruption: Preventing Misconduct and Maintaining Integrity, ISBN 978-1-4200-7796-4
- "Met Commander Ali Dizaei guilty of corruption". BBC News. 2010-02-08. Retrieved 2010-02-08.
- Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovic, "To Serve and Collect: Measuring Police Corruption", The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 93, no. 2/3 (2003): 600.
- Peter Kratcoski, "International Perspectives on Institutional and Police Corruption", Police Practice and Research 3, no. 1 (2002): 74.
- "I am simply saying that the current institution of law enforcement in America does appear to reproduce itself according counter-legal norms, and that attempts to counteract this reproduction via the training one receives in police academies, the imposition of citizen review boards, departments of Internal Affairs, etc. do not appear to mitigate against this structural continuity between law enforcement and crime. Specifically the continuity between the breaking of procedural rules as a matter of routine and the kind of large scale criminal corruption we saw in Rampart bears further investigation." Judith Grant, "Assault Under Color of Authority: Police Corruption as Norm in the LAPD Rampart Scandal and in Popular Film", New Political Science 25, no. 3 (2003): 404.
- Tom Harper (2014-01-10). "Exclusive: Scotland Yard’s rotten core: Police failed to address Met's ‘endemic corruption’ - Crime - UK". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
- Jerome Skolnick, "Corruption and the Blue Code of Silence", Police Practice and Research 3, no. 1 (2002): 8.
- ABC Stateline The Stench Friday, November 6, 2009 http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2009/11/06/2735960.htm accessed 16 May 2010
- Wang, Peng (2013). "The rise of the Red Mafia in China: a case study of organised crime and corruption in Chongqing". Trends in Organized Crime 16 (1): 49–73. doi:10.1007/s12117-012-9179-8.
- Crank, J., Caldero, M., Police Ethics: The Corruption of Noble Cause, IBSN-13: 978-1-59345-610-8
- Thomas J. Martinelli, "Unconstitutional Policing: The Ethical Challenges in Dealing with Noble Cause Corruption", The Police Chief, 2006. http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=1025&issue_id=102006
- Robert Reiner, The Politics of the Police, Oxford University Press, 2010, ISBN 0199283397.
- Lawrence W. Sherman, Scandal and Reform: Controlling Police Corruption (Univ. Calif. Press, 1974)
- Stanley Einstein, Menachem Amir, Police corruption: paradigms, models, and concepts : challenges for developing countries (Office of International Criminal Justice, 2003; ISBN 0-942511-84-0)
- Tim Newburn, "Understanding and preventing police corruption: lessons from the literature", Police Research Series, Paper 110, 1999.
- Colonel Frank McKetta, "Police, Politics, Corruption : the mixture dangerous to freedom and justice"
- Justin Hopson, "Breaking the Blue Wall: One Man's War Against Police Corruption" (2012; ISBN 978-1-4497-0378-3)
- Michigan State University Library – Criminal Justice Resources – Police Corruption
- Police Corruption News & Media – Police Corruption