Corruption has been in the dark closets of American policing since it was first established in the country. When policing was first instituted conditions were not the best, pay was low, and respect was hard to find. These problems coupled with the problem of a lack of laws in which bound the police to accomplish a specific task a specific way, meant they had enough discretion to hang themselves by. There shouldn”t be any surprise that corruption hasn”t vanished and will most likely never totally go away. It is just like the saying “Absolute power, corrupts absolutely”.
It is just human nature to want a better life and get the things you always wanted. Some people, and police are just people, just can”t resist the temptation for “easy money”. People have a way of rationalizing situations in their heads, by thinking they are just taking care of their families and paying there bills. This is similar to the job I presently have, working in the Asset protection department for Sears. I see things I would like to have all day long, I know I could take them and no one would ever know, but I don”t.
I don”t do it because there is a fear of getting caught or any kind of punishment like that, I don”t do it because of ethics and morals. I, like the majority of people see the opportunity, while a very small percentage of people take advantage of it. It is the same with policing most police are honest and hard working but, there are always some “bad apples” in the bunch. If you knew a way to tell if someone was going to be honest in everything they do, 100% of the time, I think you would at the very least be a billionaire. Corruption has to be defined in order to look at it closer.
The dictionary definition of corruption is: 1. Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved. 2. Venal; dishonest: a corrupt mayor. 3 Containing errors or alterations, as a text: a corrupt translation. 4. Archaic. Tainted; putrid. Would consider a police officer who accepted a free cup of coffee corrupt?. What about an officer accepting money in exchange for not patrolling his/her sector. What would you think of a business person taking that same cup of coffee, would you believe him/her to be corrupt? I think you have to draw a line on what is corrupt and what you believe isn”t.
I think you have to add into your decision making steps the “offenders” jobs, position, and role in the community. The conclusion I came to is that it definitely does make a difference on the job, position, and role in the community. I believe if the business person had nothing to do with the place in which he/she received the coffee, he/she is not corrupt. He/she just had an act of kindness betrothed on them. Regarding the police officer, he/she should not of accepted the coffee because he/she has a duty to stay impartial to the community.
If he/she had to go to a fight later that same day between the person that gave him the coffee and another person, and the person who gave him the coffee was found to be in the right and the other person was in the wrong, what would happen? Most likely the person who was arrested (assuming this person had knowledge that he accepted the coffee) would most likely bring that fact up at the trial. If this situation happened the officer”s integrity would be in question, and the jury/judge would have to wonder about it.
Of course accepting coffee is not the main focus of police corruption, its not against the law, nor will it have a overwhelming impact on policing. I do believe the illustration puts into simplistic terms the larger problems which are occurring with policing in large. It all comes down to “Do I take it or don”t I take it? ” and it is enough? Corruption is like a drug in a way, you start small and just work your way up the ladder, until you fall off. I said before that accepting a cup of coffee isn”t against the law and doesn”t make up the corruption which we face today.
I am going to describe some recent corruption cases which have been fought. As identified in a report by the Knapp Commission published over two decades ago it was found there are two different violators. The first are called “Meat eaters” who abundantly misuse their power for personal gain. These individuals go out and seek ways to get money and have the advantage. The second type is called the “Grass eaters” these people are the ones who just accept payoffs and such when the happenstance come their way.
For the most part, when you hear of a corruption case you most likely hear about the “Meat eaters”, because they are the ones which get bolder faster with every successful gain. So what do we do about it? I said before if punishment isn”t going to stop police from becoming corrupt, what will? The first step to solving this “disease”, which is slowly eating away at public trust, is to acknowledge the problem. Managers on a whole use three different approaches when failing to deal with corruption. First, it is simply ignore the problem like it was never there.
This approach is bad for many reasons. If the police can”t police themselves, someone will have to come in and do it for them. Public trust will never be gained. The second approach is a “pollyanna” mentality. This is where the manager discovers and finds the corruption, but downplays its total impact. This approach as with the first approach, will cause someone outside the agency to solve the problem. The third is the most lethal approach for the manager to take, one of a “cover-up”. Like the second, the manager discovers the corruption, but takes overt action to cover it up.
Not only did the manager “condone” this behavior, but this will only lead to more corruption and abuse. This now enlarged corruption, will eventually lead to great public mistrust. A manager can overcome the problems with these approaches by assuming a realistic posture to this issue. This will allow the effects of the corruption to be less damaging to the agency. The next step to prevent corruption is to develop a plan of action. While no one plan will be foolproof it should include these three elements, recruitment, training, and investigation.
As I previously stated, you have to come up with a definition of corruption to be used for your plans. I suggest everything from accepting a cup of coffee to the further most end of the spectrum be included. Using this definition stops people and managers from trying to decide what is across the line and what isn”t. If you try to “draw a line” this can create confusion and many people could rationalize situations as being OK. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) defines corruption as acts involving the misuse of authority by a police officer in a manner designed to produce either personal gain or gain for others.
With a definition like this everyone from the patrol officer to the Chief knows where they stand. The IACP created the Model for Management Corruption Prevention, in reaction to the corruption running rapid in the departments. This model covers the three basic elements which I mentioned previously recruitment, training, and investigation. Recruitment is the first step in this process. It goes without saying that no agency hires people who they know are corrupt. There are a multitude of reasons why agencies should “Weed out” bad recruits. Money is at the top of the list.
All the training in which the recruit has to go through cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Many agencies have policies in which they hire only trained personnel so this cost can be eliminated. Selecting candidates which have already been on the job, shows supervisors a track record and therefor gives them more information. The use of the polygraph is a useful tool when “weeding out” candidates.. Training provides outstanding opportunity to make a anti-corruption plan work. It does this for a couple reasons. First training gets the message out with concern to standards.
Second, this training allows the recruit to ask questions and to clarify his doubts about what is appropriate and what isn”t. Training is divided into two parts, recruit and in-service. The in-service training is a valuable tools because the recruit interacts with a seasoned officer and allows that recruit to ask questions about everyday events. The department must also watch the candidate for a probationary period of about six months. This programs is called the Field Training Officer (FTO) period. During this period of FTO the new recruit rides with a seasoned officer.
Most agencies can release the recruit during this period for little or no cause. The department may also elect to send their recruits to a formal academic setting for training. This in turn will hopefully help the recruit in making the right decision when the question arises “Will I take it or won”t I? “. The last stage of this three point training is investigation. This is the crucial elements to this whole program, without it everything else loses its ability to function. If the public knows the department will thoroughly investigate all reports of corruption, it will instill a confidence with the department.
The investigation phase will most likely be conducted by the departments internal affairs unit. The IACP developed a model for departments to utilize. The first issue to be addressed is staffing. In small departments this could consist of only one person on a part time basis. In larger departments this unit could consist on many officers on a full time basis. If you are really concerned with the corruption within your department, you should consider having an outside agency investigate alleged corruption. This will ensure favoritism will not occur.
Once you have decided with type of staffing is appropriate for your department, you should decide where in the department to place them. The best location for the unit to be is directly under the Chief. This will provide for a direct line of communication of the problems at hand. The Chief should provide a clear and definitive procedure for investigating alleged allegations of corruption.
Theses procedures may include: 1. Handling all complaints quickly and impartially. 2. Explanation that the unit only handles facts, and doesn”t determine guilt of innocents. 3. Meticulous and accurate documentation is a must. 4. Responding to a crime scene immediately where an officer had to shoot a subject.
In summary, police are human and have the same compulsions which others posses. This of course doesn”t excuse the corruption in the departments. When you think of corruption in the police field, remember that acts which are corrupt for one may not be corrupt for all. Every instance needs to be looked in to with great concern and objectiveness. If we don”t investigate every allegation we will loose the public trust and this will make it impossible to do the job effectively.
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