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Police Ethics

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Corruption and the Slippery Slope

This paper will address the “slippery slope” and how it relates to accepting gratuities. Also it will discuss theories on corruption such as the society-at-large hypothesis, the structural or affiliation hypothesis, and the rotten apple hypothesis.

In policing, the term slippery slope applies to the corruption of morals of the officers. It basically means that corruption can begin with something that seems harmless at first, but will escalate into something termed crimes-for-profit . Something as small as a free cup of coffee here or a discounted meal there can easily lead, in a matter of time, to something as big as taking money to “look the other way” while a drug smuggler drives through with an outrageous amount of drugs. Another example is an officer taking a gift of small monetary value for catching a burglar in a store which could, in the end, escalate to the officer expecting or offering his services of extra attention to stores for bigger monetary gifts or even money period. In our textbook, Delattre explains O.W. Wilson’s society-at-large hypothesis as society doing something that is normal to servants, to public servants as well and considering it commonplace .

Basically he is saying that giving tips to people like doormen, maids, and delivery persons is typical and people do it all the time so it became common for these people to attempt to “tip” the police in that way also. A business person or a truck driver who has been pulled over will clip some money to their license at a traffic stop to get out of a ticket and it became the norm in that area. This is where the slippery slope comes into play. It began with small bribes at traffic stops but from there the police expected it. Then those small bribes will eventually turn into something bigger; the crimes-for-profit discussed earlier. The structural or affiliation hypothesis is very much like the society-at-large hypothesis. The difference is that officers become corrupt because they feel that they were taught how to do so by their commanding officers or that it is something that is done in their department so they learned it that way.

As an example, a rookie officer starts working in a department and sees his fellow officers bringing home all sorts of “trinkets” that they bragged were from various robberies. The fellow officers tell the rookie that it’s something they all do. The rookie then goes along with this and slides into his own niche of corruption because it was how he was taught by his fellow officers and superiors as being “right.” Finally, the rotten apple hypothesis is much more simple than the other two. This hypothesis basically states that the person that was hired, right from the start was a “bad apple” and that neither society nor the affiliation of the department are the root of the problem. The book references the immediate expansion on the Miami police department and how many of the newly hired officers had admitted to the involvement in crime prior to being hired on as an officer . To prevent this from happening the department could’ve been a little more thorough in their hiring process with pre-screening the applicants and also background checks on everyone. References

Delattre, E. J. (2011). Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing, 6th Edition. Washington, D.C.: The AEI Press.

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