Police Corruption Term Papers

Essay/Term paper: The police and corruption

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The Police and Corruption

The police. Twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a
year, this division of our government has a mandate to enforce the criminal law
and preserve public peace. Understood in this mandate is an obligation to
police everyday life matters that originate in the daily lives and activities of
citizens within their community. Police interact in some form with the average
citizen more often than any other government official. In society today the
police play a key role in maintaining a civil society. This role assumes a
substantial amount of power and authority over the general public. With power
comes corruption and/or misuse of power. The question that is presented is,
how and why do the police exceed the parameters of their power and authority?
This is an issue that is predominant in urban settings, but not
exclusive to these settings. This is an important issue because it effects all
people. The police is a government service to all people, but all people do not
feel they are being serviced. Not everyone is satisfied with the conduct of the
police. Why do people feel that police are crossing boundaries that they should
not be? This will be observed from four different aspects in which police are
capable of exceeding the parameters of their power and authority: police and
use of discretionary enforcement, "Police justice", police harassment, and the
unwarranted use of police authority.
Police are allowed to and must use personal discretion in their
determination of law enforcement. Unlike a judge or lawyer a police officer can
not gather information and take time to make a prognosis to make a decision
affecting the fate of a person. He must make a quick decision based on his
discretion to determine the fate of a person.. "...a quick decision is required
to protect the interests of the public and to satisfy requirements of operating
efficiency" (Reiss, p.130) Now we are telling officer to not enforce the law,
but to determine the law.
A policeman's discretionary decision may then be evaluated by others
both inside and outside of the department. This is the cause for a further
complication in the processes because in order to avoid criticism the police
officer then might use his own sense of justice. This "police justice" is
basically having the officer conduct his own trial. This usually satisfies
probable cause but also has the officer concluding a suspect's guilt and a
arrest that he determines justifiable. That also leads to the fact that
citizens who behave antagonistically towards an officer are more likely to be
arrested than those who are civil or very differential. Donald J. Black
reported in "Police control of Juveniles", American sociological Review February
1970, that when Complaints are present 72 percent of adults who behave
antagonistically toward the police are arrested in the field while only 45
percent who are civil and 40 percent who are differential toward the police are
arrested. This is an obvious misuse of discretion. When a police officer treats
a citizen antagonistically there is not much the citizen can do, but when it is
the citizen acting antagonistically it more than likely will be a determination
of guilt.
When a police officers judgment is constantly questioned and his sense
of justice is not validated he may lose his commitment to the system. Police
are often alienated in the criminal justice system, in a sense there status is
demeaned by the decisions of lawyers and judges. They are treated as less of a
professional. To see a person who in the officer's discretion was guilty be
released time after time, it is difficult for the officer to keep his commitment
to the system. "Where moral commitment is lost, subcultural practices take over.
One such practice that exacerbates the relationship of the police with the
public is harassment" (Reiss, p.138) Therefore police create their own
subcultural practices which include harassment.
Author Albert J. Reiss offers an alternative explanation to why some
citizens feel they have been harassed. He states that citizens do not call upon
the police for things that they feel the police will not believe or will not
consider legitimate concerns. Therefore citizens only call upon the police for
what they regard as a crisis or important matter.

"What the citizen generally regards as a crisis is necessarily routine to the
police; it becomes part of their regular work and follows routines. Likewise,
police intervention in the lives of citizens by such means as detaining citizens
for questions- regarded by police as routine preventive or investigative work
necessary to the role as agents of criminal control- are often regarded by
citizens as harassment, infringement upon individual rights, or unauthorized
intervention." (Reiss, p.64)

The unwarranted use of police authority towards citizens includes an
array of components that employ illegal actions including the undue use of force
and threats, harassment, uncivil treatment including abusive and demeaning
language and actions, and unauthorized methods of investigation. These are
actions that are obviously abuses of authority, but they do occur. In a survey
done by the national Advisory Commission on civil disorders(done in fifteen
cities) showed twenty-two percent of all blacks and six percent of all whites
said that they had been frisked or searched without good reason, and twenty
percent of all blacks and nine percent of all whites felt that they had been
demeaned or had insulting language used on them.
One major way in which in which police cross the boundaries of their
power and authority is police corruption. Corruption defined is a direct deal
involving cash (or assets, or any personal gain for the officer) in exchange for
official action or inaction.

"The national Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals
postulates that:

1. The corruption of public officials at all levels of government-
federal, state, and local- is perceived as widespread by the
American public;
2. such corruption results in a staggering cost to the American
Taxpayer; and
3. the existence of corruption breeds further crime by providing for
the citizen a model of official lawlessness that undermines
an acceptable rule of law. (More, p.346)

The police especially out of all government officials hurt society by this "
official lawlessness" because they are the ones who enforce the law. This shows
society that some people can be above the law. This does not promote social
order. It is almost a message that police feel that there are two sets of laws:
one for them , and one for the public. Roger Woddis exhibits this concept in
his poem "Ethics for Everyman":

Throwing a bomb is bad
Dropping a bomb is good;
Terror, no need to add,
Depends on who's wearing the hood....
Daily the Church declares
Betting-shops are a curse;
Gambling with stocks and with shares
Enlarges the national purse....
Social morality
Has a duality-
One for each side of the tracks.
(Whitaker, p.14)

What makes police officers conform to corruption? Possibly because
police feel disrespected, not only from their superiors in the criminal justice
system as mentioned before, but also from the public. In a study of 437 police
officers across eleven cities, fifty-four percent were unhappy with the respect
they received from citizens. Thirty percent felt that the average citizen in
their patrol held the police in some degree of contempt. Nineteen percent felt
that most people in the precinct generally look at the police as enemies. Also
one third of the police in the study frequently stop people to question or frisk
them, which is seen by most citizens as suspicion of crime. This may have
something to do with why so many of the police officers felt the citizens
resented them.(More, p.120)
The best way to study these issues of whether the police exceed the
parameters of their power and authority would be to conduct a survey of citizens,
because the general population is who the police have power and authority over.
Who else would know better if the police were servicing their communities in the
manner in which is expected.
When police take too much power of the criminal justice system into
their own hands they are damaging society. They are splitting society into the
people who are policed for, and the people who are policed against. The police
that abuse their power and authority are no longer enforcing justice, but are
making it just to obey force.


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My first question to you is are you talking about police corruption in general as in all or any place in the world, or do you plan to choose this country and one or two cities within this country?  If you plan to discuss this topic without narrowing your focus, this essay will be difficult to write.  Think about what you want to narrow in on--a specific city, management corruption, police on the street corruption,...

My first question to you is are you talking about police corruption in general as in all or any place in the world, or do you plan to choose this country and one or two cities within this country?  If you plan to discuss this topic without narrowing your focus, this essay will be difficult to write.  Think about what you want to narrow in on--a specific city, management corruption, police on the street corruption, or how any corruption affects the city or country in which it takes place.  For example, in Bolivia, South America, you can usually get a traffic ticket dismissed by paying off the officer who stopped you.  With the lawlessness of the drug cartels affecting the country of Mexico and how the world sees this country, tourism is dropping because of the fear of violence.  In this country, efforts have been made in many cities to clean up corruption.  In the 1930's, St. Paul, Minnesota was a playground for the mob as many vacationed there and were protected by the local police.  Since then, much has been done to make St. Paul an exemplary city with an honest police force.  You just have to narrow your focus so that it's what you really want to talk about and then outline and write your essay.

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