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Police Corruption: Examples And Solution

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When the word corruption comes to mind, many individuals think of practical societies or countries without a stable government that handle issues in an unfair way. Even though this may be true to a certain extent, corruption has a broader meaning to it, and, is found in almost everything and everywhere. Johnson (2006) explained that corruption is a widespread social occurrence that exists in any civilization, and thrives in any type of people. He also states that corruption exists in systems that somehow relate to the control of the public. Johnson (2006) uses the example of police departments because they maintain order and, peace by controlling society. He states that a police organization is very similar to other government sections such as, courts of law or tax collection service It is a belief that all these types of organizations tend to have corruption within them for one simple reason; they receive and use the tax payer’s money. This then leads to not one person caring about the control of the money that comes in and goes out.

In turn, this leads to an unclear understanding of who is in command and what are the responsibilities one needs to keep accomplish (Para. 1). With this may being one of the main causes of corruption in a police organization, it would further lead to “the misuse of authority by a police officer acting officially to fulfill personal needs or wants” (Holloway, para. 3). Dantzker (1995) states that there needs to be three various elements that must be present: “1) misuse of authority, 2) misuse of official capacity, and 3) misuse of person attainment.” (Dantzker, 1995). For a corrupt act to occur all three of the elements listed need to be present and occurring simultaneously. With this being said, there are three main theories of corruption that must be taken into account. Reese (2003) explains two of them, the rotten apple theory and the environmental perspective theory. He states that the rotten apple theory involves a few bad apples within a police department who were not screened properly and came into the department at risk of corruption.

The environmental perspective theory on the other hand, suggests that police corruption is a reflection and mimics the political corruption within the city. Politically corrupt cities influence the police organization which causes corruption. Another theory Holloway (2002) explains is that corruption can occur in various ways such as rough treatment, discrimination, sexual harassment, threatening, and the abusive use of weapons. He goes on to explain that corruption is broken down into two components, internal and external corruption. Internal Corruption is the illegal acts and/or agreements within a police department and, involves more then one of the members within the organization. The external corruption has to do with the illegal acts that involve one or more members of the police organization and, one or more members of the general public (Para. 3).

Holloway (2004) goes on to give examples of external corruption. He states that corruption generally consists of activities, such as individuals of the public pay money to police to avoid arrest or continually violate the law. Others include activities involved in narcotics, bribes, and false testimony in court in order to attain dismissal of the charges against a defendant (Para. 4). According to Holloway (2004) another type of corruption is called a scandal. He states “a scandal is perceived both as a socially constructed phenomenon and as an agent of change that can lead to realignments in the structure of power within organizations” (Holloway, 2002, Para. 4). Many police organizations experience scandals, some more vulnerable than others.

For example take New York for instance. New York has had “more then half a dozen major scandals regarding its police department within a century” (Holloway, 2002, Para. 5). One of the most famous scandals that occurred in New York is Rampart Scandal that occurred in 1998. Larsen (1999) explains that in 1998, Los Angeles Police Department [LAPD] Officer Rafael Perez, who was part of the anti-gang CRASH unit was charged with stealing six pounds of cocaine from the police security room. CRASH derived from the name Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums was a group of police officers who routinely arrested suspected gang members on street corners, searching and interrogating them, administering beatings, seizing drugs and money. Perez had been convicted of stealing $1 million worth of cocaine from the evidence room and, in exchange for a lighter sentence, he made confessions of other crimes that he and other fellow police members committed.

Perez stated that he and other officers committed routine theft, the sale of narcotics, violent beatings, unlawful shooting and even murder (Para. 2). Walker (2000) noted one of the most notorious crimes that Perez committed was when he and his partner handcuffed an unarmed teenager, and shot him in the head. They then planted a rifle by his body, and in court claimed they had shot him due to self defense. The victim, Javier Ovando who miraculously survived the attack but left paralyzed was sentenced to twenty three years in jail (Para.1). After Perez’s confessions “Ovando and another prisoner were released from jail, a third victim was been released from parole, and dozens more are set to be set free” (Walker, 2002, para.2). Larson (1999) documents one of Perez’s partners, David Mack. Perez and Mack were involved in a “legendary” gun fight in which Perez claimed that Mack saved his life. The case has now been re-opened because of what really happen.

Civilian eyewitnesses claim that Mack actually shot suspected drug dealer Jesse Vicencio, who was unarmed without reason. Mack was also convicted of robbing a bank of America branch in 1997 for over $740,000 and, was sentenced to 14 years in prison (Para. 17). “Like characters in some TV narc show, Mack and Perez were known to take Caribbean cruises, dress in designer suits, drive expensive cars and smoke fancy cigars” (Larson, 1999). Larson (1999) also explained that at the coming end to this scandal, during the trials, at least one officer complained to his higher ranks that Perez and other CRASH officers were “conducting narcotics searches without concern for proper LAPD procedure” (Larson, 1999, Para 20). Yet Perez’s superiors and co-workers all claimed they had no idea what Perez and his cohorts were up to (Para. 20).

On December 17th, 2001 “Perez pled guilty to federal civil rights and firearms violations resulting from the shooting of Javier Ovando. He admitted to one count of conspiracy to violate Ovando’s civil rights, and one count of possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number.” (Rampart Scandal Timeline, Para. 22). Reese (2003) concludes that in the end of the Rampart Scandal, at least twelve LAPD officers have been fired, and some seventy officers have been under investigations for committing crimes, such as misconduct or covering up (Para.16). Even though the so called CRASH team was successful in “dropping gang related crimes in areas from 1,171 in 1992 to 464 in 1999” (Reese, 2003, Para. 17) its successes came with consequences and, they created one of the most horrific scandals in history within the NYPD.

Another example of corruption happened recently in New Orleans. During August of 2006, a hurricane hit New Orleans hard and everything went into chaos. “During this time, hundreds of New Orleans’ 1,500 officers left the city without permission in the days after Katrina struck, abandoning their posts, and looting in shopping malls” (Maher, 2006, Para.8). “Corruption was wide-spread during the Katrina aftermath as New Orleans police officers were seen looting shopping centers and filling shopping carts with shoes, clothing, and electronics.” (Maher, 2006, Para. 8). Maher (2006) also noted that the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin allowed a large number of officers to take off to Las Vegas for rest and relaxation once the military arrived to take control of the city. Nagin was later questioned about his decisions and actions but could not come up with an answer (Para.10). Before the hurricane even hit New Orleans, the New Orleans Police Department [NOPD] was already under investigation because of rumors of false employment and salary money going to unknown locations.

The population of NOPD officers was never “openly acknowledged, and that NOPD’s actual numbers of employment were far below the “official” figure of 1500 – 1700.” (Maher, 2006, Para.3). Maher (2006) states that the FBI claims that the actual numbers of NOPD employment are 900 to 1,000. The FBI however, still questions the remains of the salary money and where it all went to (Maher, 2006, Para. 4). “FBI is still conducting investigations and so fared screened 500 “employees” and so far, 84% of them do not exist.” (Maher, 2006, Para.5). With these unethical actions of the NOPD and Ray Nagin broadcasted on public television globally wide, it left a bad name for New Orleans Police Department and its accountability went down the drain. It will take a number of years to regain its leadership and pride it needs to keep the city and its civilians safe from crime.

A recent scandal that occurred within a Canadian police organization left eleven officers charged under the police act. “Missing money and drugs, falsified search warrants, and lying before a judge are among the disturbing allegations in dozens of police services act charges laid against 11 former Toronto drug squad officers.” (Duncanson, 2006, Para. 1). Duncanson (2006) reports the allegations against the officers relate to events that happened in 1995 and in 1999. Staff Sergeant John Schertzer, the leader of the elite drug squad, faces the most charges regarding the police act which accumulate up to 21 (Para.4). “In June, Schertzer, and Constables Steven Correia, Joseph Miched, Ned Maodus, Raymond Pollard and Richard Benoit were ordered to stand trial on criminal charges that included extortion and assault” (Duncanson, 2006, Para.5). Duncanson (2006) also reported that Miched was not charged under the police act because he is retired from the force (Para.5).

“The investigation into activities of the central drug squad has been described as one of the biggest corruption probes in the force’s history” (Duncanson, 2006, Para 5). Duncanson (2006) explains the charges set out from the police act include deceit, insubordination, discreditable conduct, and corrupt practices. The allegations that were brought up included a search warrant incident where it was executed on a safety deposit box at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. It was stated that $31,150 was not at hand when the money from the bank was returned to the accused. Other allegations include officer’s stating inaccurate information to obtain search warrants and that seized drugs were not placed into police evidence lockers. The case is still under investigation and is likely to charge more key players in this scandal (Para.12).

So what do all three of the scandals mentioned above all have in common? Well first thing, they all involved gaining money through stealing, false statements, drugs, and the lack of discipline. What happened in New Orleans portrays the lack of discipline by officers abandoning there stations and taking off for a vacation down in Las Vegas. The corruption of the agency as a whole also added to this, by taking the tax payers money by using “fake” employees. The scandal that happened within the NYPD involved all of these factors. The CRASH team was driven by money and drugs and not so much in protecting the people of society. The team got what they wanted such as cars, girls, and fancy vacations and continually did these unethical acts that contradict the role of a police officer. In linking Rampart to what happen to the Toronto Police Service [TPS], it is much of a similar issue. The Toronto Police Organization displayed a similar scenario of what happened within the NYPD. For the most part, you could almost say it was the Canadian version of the Rampart Scandal.

The TPS mimicked the NYPD by stealing drugs from the evidence room, false information being spread around and all this was being done by the drug squad. So how could a police organization protect itself from these problems? According to Perry (2001) first, agencies should consider frequent assignment moves, particularly from and to the areas of policing where corruption is likely to occur. “Geographical and interdivisional reassignments prevent stagnation, broaden experience, and preempt lasting effects of deleterious associations–may aid perhaps at the expense of deepening expertise in a single area” (Perry, 2001, Pg.2). Secondly Perry (2001) states, is that agencies should “feed the eagles” which means agencies should acknowledge officers who “confronts corruption, soars to perform duties in the most noble fashion possible, and, thereby, raises the organization’s dignity and effectiveness.” (Perry, 2001, Pg.2).

He also explains another category the “birds”. Perry explains that the birds are officers who can fly above corruption, seek safety and work towards administrative positions. “Certainly, these birds who aspire for management ranks can, to further the analogy, become eagles” (Perry, 2001, Pg.2). Perry (2001) concludes his second point by stating “agencies should select, nurture, and promote individuals who demonstrate these attributes early” (Perry, 2001, Pg.2). The third and final point that Perry (2001) makes to prevent corruption within a police organization is that “the double standard must die” (Perry, 2001, Pg.3).

“Those who serve the public must be held to a higher standard of honesty and care for the public good than the general citizenry…. A higher standard is not a double standard. Persons accepting positions of public trust take on new obligations and are free not to accept them if they do not want to live up to the higher standard” (Perry, 2001, Pg.3). Perry (2001) basically states that a new recruit has to enforce the higher standard of conduct and entrust the power of service to protect the individuals of society. He says this “new recruit attitude” must be driven and continually enforced even to the highest rankings of command and executive management level (Pg.3). With these three points enforced a police agency would be “most resistant to corruption remove temptation, increase the fear of detection, and emphasize managerial responsibility” (Perry, 2001, Pg.3).

“The benefits of preventing corruption lie in stark contrast to the contempt, cynicism, and resentment generated within an organization” (Perry, 2001, Pg.3). Perry (2001) states that increasing more executive honest responsibility and accountability builds an organization. If the organization creates problems such as the “double standard”, the solution towards a healthy organization begins to vanish. Internal control must remain fair and firm (Pg.3). “Even an appearance of management protecting its own in substantiated cases of misconduct will not only cause forfeiture of an agency’s internal police powers, but will ruin the agency itself” (Perry, 2001, Pg 3).

With these enforced, scandal’s that happened within the New York Police Department and also the Toronto Police Department could have been prevented. If the integrity and the higher standard of conduct would have been in the higher positions within the New Orleans Police Department, many of the looting and escaping for vacations could have been prevented. Hopefully police organizations could start to implement these ideas and start to repair “broken windows” (Perry, 2001, Pg.4) within their agency and hopefully prevent future corruption similar to the ones discussed.

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