Issues Surrounding Deviant Behavior of Police Officers

Different attributes of police culture are developed and sustained in the course of selecting, training and accepting police officers into the different ranks where they fit. By passing through the rigorous recruitment and training process, the police are subjected to a group or organization in which they are expected to portray a sense of admirable assimilation of culture (Stoddard, 1968; Barker, 1978; Williams, 1984; Atkinson & Housley, 2003). However, this is not usually the case.

According to Barker (1978), a considerable amount of research findings shows that that there has been a chronicled increase in cases of police officers becoming isolated and therefore adopting deviant behavior. This form of isolation has been perceived to be meant to protect the police in their assignments, some of which involve dangerous undertakings such as dealing in drugs cases, protecting victims of harassment and so forth (Stoddard, 1968; Barker, 1978; Atkinson & Garcia, 2005).

The element of danger in activities that the police partake in develops a tendency of the police to be suspicious. The suspicion is raised by the fact that the police officers become wary of possible crime instances and develop general suspicion towards everyone (Atkinson & Housley, 2003). This behavior leads the police officers to alienate themselves from friends, the community, the legal system an even from their spouses and families (Garcia, 2005). But the continued isolation results in the police officers having the potential to engage in deviant behavior (Stoddard, 1968; Barker, 1978).

According to Williams (1984), deviance is not an attribute of the act committed by a person; rather, it is the consequence of the rules and sanctions applied to others by an offender (Stoddard, 1968; Garcia, 2005). Thus a deviant person is one to whom the label of deviance has successfully been applied. When various definitions of deviance apply to specific firms of criminal laws, it easy for sociologists to neglect the aspect of behavior (Atkinson & Housley, 2003). Therefore, acts of deviance by the police officers in many aspects of their delivery of service may be ignored (Atkinson & Housley, 2003).

Along the line legal affairs, courts, the legislature and the citizens also affect the behavior of police officers. Police officers are liable for questioning from the legislature, the courts and the citizenry in the process of handling various types of crimes and administering laws (Garcia, 2005). There have been wide concerns that the manner in which police officers handle different cases affects the outcome of various proceedings a great deal (Paoline, 2001; Atkinson & Housley, 2003).

Of great concern is that if police officers portray any from of bias in handling legal issues, this results in a wide variance in the way in which laws are administered (Paoline, 2001; Atkinson & Housley, 2003). Since the 1970s, various authors such as Barker (1978) and Stoddard (1968) have highlighted the fact that there is a proliferation of police cynicism. A review of other literature works done by other authors such as Paoline (2001) and Atkinson and Garcia (2005) shows that there is a correlation between deviant behavior among a majority of police officers and the contours of the anomie theory.

Thus, it is not surprising that police may exhibit deviance in handling cases involving alcohol and general drug abuse; they may be involved in sexual misconduct as well portraying acts of laxity in responding to cases that involve sexual violence- because for one, they may be the culprits in the cases (Paoline, 2001; Atkinson & Housley, 2003; Barker, 1978; Stoddard, 1968). Police deviance and ethics There are many issues surrounding the work of police officers. The tasks that the officers engage in during in their day-to-day operations are of a slippery nature.

This is highlighted by the fact that there is a potential for progressive deterioration of social and moral inhibitions and the perceived sense of acceptability of engaging in deviant conduct (Paoline, 2001; Atkinson & Housley, 2003). Police officers are involved in a variety of undercover activities that may involve putting up with false identities as well as inducing crime. (Paoline, 2001; Atkinson & Housley, 2003). In this context, it is possible for police officers to be involve in criminal activities since they may use their hidden identity to mastermind criminal acts.

This is why Paoline (2001) suggests that there have been many instances where the police have been involved in inducing crime rather than reducing it. There are many other issues surrounding the work that police officers do. Paoline (2001) also notes that police are allowed to make false promises in order to bust criminal activities. But this freedom makes subjects civilians to instances that may be dehumanizing because of the way in which the police portray deviance.

Police officers also find themselves handling sensitive court cases in which they are able to manipulate evidence and earn a lot of money from those involved (Atkinson & Housley, 2003). Paoline (2001) has noted that there are many cases where police officers strain truth that could be use as evidence in a suit in order to protect their friends and or relatives. In pursuit of truth in cases involving alcohol and drugs, Atkinson and Housley (2003) have noted that police do invade the strategic drug locations but may cause more losses than the amount that would be recovered by colluding with the drug dealers.

Along this line, what is more perturbing is the way in which some police officers handle the offenders in drugs cases (Atkinson & Housley, 2003). For instance, the police department is a system that condemns dealing min drugs, but it is common to find police officers involved in drug trafficking because of the perverted institutional framework (Atkinson & Housley, 2003). It is also common for place officer to condemn civilians who deal in drugs and contraband, but is amazing how the same department condones officers who deal in drugs. Issues surrounding deviance and the impact of deviant behavior

Although deviance by police officers is inculcated due to their isolation from many members of the society, it is vice that also relates to other vices such as corruption, misconduct and favoritism. All these terms are characterized by friction between vices and virtues (Paline, 2001; Atkinson & Housley, 2003). Deviance per se is a kind of behavior that is incompatible with norms, ethics and values (Ben-Yehuda, 1990). On the other hand corruption is a forbidden act that involves inappropriate use of office for gain (Ben-Yehuda, 1990).

Deviance and corruption are both epitomes of misconduct since misconduct is any kind of violation of laid out procedures in various departments (Ben-Yehuda, 1990). Yet, closely related to deviance is favoritism, which is characterized by unfair breaks from of procedures in order to please friends and relatives or to accommodate their interests (Ben-Yehuda, 1990). It is not surprising therefore, that even favoritism is one of the characteristics of deviance as exhibited by police officers. Drinking and use of drugs while on duty or off duty

It is commonplace for police officers to be engaged in drinking of alcohol or use of other drugs while on duty and even when they off duty (Ben-Yehuda, 1990). This is augmented by the fact that most duties at the stations involve interviews with victims, which give the police a chance to solicit for drugs or alcohol (Ben-Yehuda, 1990). Disposal of contraband drugs is one of the major sources of the drugs used by police officers in that instead of disposing the drugs, some of the police officers keep the drugs for their own use (Ben-Yehuda, 1990).

The drugs are taken as a means to reduce stress, to get high, or develop an alienation from the job (Barker, 1978). But obviously, this has far-reaching consequences such as low productivity and consequently, proliferation of crime (Barker, 1978). Away from the duty station, some officers engage in drinking and use of drugs as a form of recreation but this in most cases emanates from corrupt deals (Stoddard, 1968; Barker, 1978). This is because the officers obtain the drugs from rip-offs from victims and perpetrators of crime (Stoddard, 1968; Barker, 1978).

This in effect sets a bad example to the public domain in regard to the behavior of the police. The effect of alcohol use among police officers is evident in the slow process in which cases are handled, poor processing of documents, and so forth because it affects mental judgment (Stoddard, 1968). According to Barker (1978) and Stoddard (1968), police officers have a tendency to mix drugs and illicit drugs because of the wide sub cultural support for alcohol and alcoholism, hence the drug abusers cover up the drug deal with alcoholism.

According to Atkinson (2003), the problem of police officers engaging in use of drugs becomes more intriguing when police partake in the drug syndicate as dealers or sellers. It is common to hear of stories of police officers supplying drugs in rock concerts (Atkinson, 2003). The situation is undoubtedly caused by the police officers’ greed for monetary gain (Atkinson, 2003). Nevertheless, some police officers have been on record suggesting that they supply drugs in the concerts as an undercover operation to identify the drug’s users (Atkinson, 2003).

In spite of such an excuse, it is obvious that the officers use gatherings to make quick money from drugs (Atkinson, 2003). The trend of police involvement in drug syndicates has been widespread in many states of the United States. But the police seem to be comfortable with the status quo. Police Officer Associations in many regions save for a few places like Hawaii have opposed suggestions to carry out random drug testing (Atkinson, 2003).

In particular, the associations oppose suggestions to perform drug tests on police officers who are involved in shooting incidents, as doing so immediately after the shooting event tends to taint the image of the police officer (Atkinson, 2003). The irony is that the same groups of police officers support stiff punishment for any persons involved in dealings that involve illicit drugs. This partisan stance by police depicts a point that they are not ready discard totally get rid of deviant acts. Cases of sexual misconduct and violence

According to many police sources, the police usually come in contacts with many cases that are sexually- arousing (Atkinson, 2003). Thus it commonplace for police to be in touch with promiscuous women (Atkinson, 2003). This causes the police to develop ties after some time. In addition, a significant number of women who get attracted to police uniform because they guaranteed of security when they are with the police (Atkinson, 2003). These women commonly wave at the police, and wait for them at stopovers where they hold meetings and even have sex with them.

The police do this in spite of them being aware that such acts amount to deviance (Stoddard, 1968). There are situations such as that in which police officers take advantage of the vulnerability of women and use it to extend their deviance (Kraska & Kappeler, 1995). One is at traffic stops in which the officers get closer looks at the women and note further information about them (Stoddard, 1968). The impact of this is that such women become vulnerable and easily give in to the officers’ demands when they meet subsequent times.

Secondly, police officers do fox hunting in which they target college girls and make sexual demands, threatening the girls with arrest if they are not wiling to give in (Kraska & Kappeler, 1995). Thirdly, the police also practice voyeurism in which they peep through windows to see naked women under they pretext that they are on security patrols (Stoddard, 1968). Other instances of sexual misconduct involve police officers making forceful victim recontacts in which they always ensure that they remain with the contacts of the female victims of crime who require psychological help (Kraska & Kappeler, 1995).

Using the excuse of consoling the victims, many police officers usually end up harassing the women. Some police officers go further to touch the inmates of the opposite sex during routine searches or even worse, have sex with them. (Stoddard, 1968). In other cases, male police officers have been noted to let prostitutes go free if they have sex with them. The deviant behavior of police officers is further portrayed by the point that some officers get involved in rape (Kraska & Kappeler, 1995).

Many rogue officers have been known to coerce women into having sex or raping victims who come to report other crimes. Some officers even perform ‘second rapes’ to victims of rape. The case in San Francisco in 1985 where a police recruit was handcuffed on a chair and a prostitute brought to perform oral sex on him is a stark indicator that some police officers are hostile towards each other (Kraska & Kappeler, 1995). The effects of sexual harassment have been grave, including mental torture and psychological trauma. Police brutality

In spite of the fact that police officers usually undergo training to gain skills of handling the public, they seem to forget them once they are deployed, perhaps due the effect of too much isolation. Hence, they commonly exhibit use of excessive force while handling perpetrators of crime, and are fond of name-calling, ridicule, sarcasm and disrespect. Some of the instances in which brutality is exhibited by the police include use of obscene language, random and forceful searches, us of physical force approaching offenders with pistols.

Conclusion In spite of the training that police officers usually undergo, it is apparent that isolation from other people inculcates in them some behavior that is unbecoming. The deviant behavior is shown when he police engage in drug abuse, get involved in sexual violence and other forms of unpleasant behavior. Deviance is characterized by behavior that is incompatible with norms, ethics and values and leads to the public’s loss of confidence in the police. Worse still, victims of police torture suffer a lot of trauma.


Atkinson, P & Housley, W. (2003). Interactionism: An Essay in Sociological AmnesiaLondon: SAGE

Barker, T. (1978). An Empirical Study of Police Deviance Other Than Corruption. Journal of Police Science and Administration 6(3): 258-72

Ben-Yehuda, N. (1990). The Politics and Morality of Deviance: Moral Panics, Drug Abuse, Deviant Science, and Reversed Stigmatization. New York: SUNY Press

Garcia V. (2005). Constructing the ‘other’ within police culture: an analysis of a deviant unit within the police organization. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal, 6 (1):  78 – 80

Kraska P. B. & Kappeler V. E.(1995). To serve and pursue exploring police sexual violence against women. Justice Quarterly, 12(1):  85 – 111

Paoline, E A. (2001). Rethinking Police Culture: Officers’ Occupational Attitudes. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing

Stoddard, E. (1968). The Informal Code of Police Deviancy: A Group Approach to Blue-Coat Crime. Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science 59: 210-13.

Williams, G.H. (1984). The Law and Politics of Police Discretion. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

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