Free Favoritism In The US Police Research Proposal Sample

Type of paper: Research Proposal

Topic: Crime, Police, Favoritism, Corruption, Social Issues, Law, Theory, Criminal Justice

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/11


As a law enforcement agency and a guardian of laws, police should be a bastion of moral beliefs and convictions that can resist any temptation to trespass on professional ethics and criminal law. Still, officers are often caught engaging in what is preferential treatment towards the residents of high social status or relatives. Whether under pressure or in attempts to win the favor of fellow officers higher in rank, morally and ethically unsound officers commit the crime. Officers often seem to have nothing else to do other than shut their vigilant eyes to minor crimes perpetrated by the wives of police chiefs. Whoever may be a beneficiary of such treatment, a person may avoid receiving a speed ticket or being detained and placed behind the bars for driving under the influence. Preferential treatment may have a racial dimension when it applies to African Americans who have themselves discriminated, as may be seen during reward distribution or promotion. The rotten apple theory, organizational culture theory, clashing moral values theory, and rational choice theory explain the rationales behind officers’ decision to go delinquent defined as motivated by professional environment and department culture, moral values and family obligations contrasting with professional ethics and values, and a calculated premeditation.
Keywords: police, favoritism, theory, rotten, apple, preferential, value, culture


Police is a law enforcement institution that serves to ensure social justice, peace, and morality. Its task is to fight social ills like assault and battery, rape, murders, assassination attempts, burglaries, car thefts, drug trafficking, and other malfeasances committed by people trespassing on law and the codes of ethics and moral. Still, when it is police officers who commit crimes, social safety becomes difficult to guarantee, if not impossible in the sense that police is one of the major establishments in charge of maintaining peace and ensuring social safety. Multiple efforts have been made by scholars of analyzing police corruption and its underlying causes. Police favoritism remains, by far, one of the most under-researched categories of law enforcement professional misconduct. At the center of the research are the rotten apple theory, organizational culture theory, clashing moral values theory, rational choice theory highlighted by De Graaf (2007) and favoritism classifications presented by Stoddard (1995), Cohen and Feldberg (1991), Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998), and Grynbaum and Connelly (2012) in their studies. The literature review presents the views of renowned criminologists on the typology of police corruption, types of favoritism, their effects, and criminological theories that apply to favoritism, otherwise known as preferential treatment, whether towards civilians or fellow officers. Considering the lack or scarcity of statistical data, a profound empirical analysis, and a detailed scientific synthesis of knowledge related to police favoritism, the research paper is of significant relevance as a compilation study scrutinizing the complex phenomenon from various perspectives.


The Formation of Police Favoritism Perception and Reasons It Perseveres
Corruption and Police Favoritism, Its Subtypes. Classification Approaches
Palmiotto (2000) stated that police corruption was the abuse of police powers for personal gain, whether monetary or nonmonetary. The perpetration of corrupt acts allows law enforcement officers to receive financial gains by failing to do the duties assigned to them or by providing services, they must not provide. Barker and Wells (1981) claimed that corrupt acts had three major components, such as their prohibition by laws, regulations, or norms, the abuse of officer’s position, and a material gains irrespective of the amount thereof (as cited in Palmiotto, 2000). McCafferty and McCafferty (1998) suggested that police misconduct and corruption occurred when law enforcement officers use their power or professional status so as to achieve personals gains or benefits (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011). As per the definition, such corrupt practice often results in internal investigation and subsequent legal accusations (Kitaeff, 2011). As suggested by Kitaeff (2011), criminology scholars have made the classifications of the acts of corruption committed by law enforcement officers and proved the correlation between corruption and favoritism by including the latter in their typology. Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998) classified the acts of police corruption singling out 19 practices indicating the deviation from professional ethics and the criminal code.
Included in the list in descending order by importance were mooching, chiseling, favoritism, prejudice, shopping, extortion, bribes, shakedown, perjury, premeditated theft, the carrying of unauthorized weapons, and the misappropriation of personal property from recovered carjacked vehicles. Next stand the storage of drugs or firearms seized from suspects, sexual relations with informants, confidential information selling, loafing, the use of aggressive or deceptive means of interrogation, kickback collection, and violence and direct assaults (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011). Palmiotto (2000) has put forward a classification compiled by Stoddard (1995), in which the scholar differentiated between 10 different acts of corruption, such as mooching, chiseling, favoritism, prejudice, shopping, extortion, bribery, shakedown, perjury, and premeditated theft. The classification shows the benefit derived by officers does not necessarily have to be financial for professional misconduct to be believed an act of corruption, which conforms to the above-presented definition provided by Palmiotto (2000) suggesting that officers derive personal gain, whether it be monetary or nonmonetary.
As follows from the list, the third on the list of police offenses stands favoritism. Palmiotto (2000) characterized corruption as being the provision of services officers must never provide. As is evident from the definition of police corruption, it contains an unequivocal allusion to favoritism that may come in the shape of unlawful service giving. Cohen and Feldberg (1991) noted that favoritism had place when officers choose separate individuals or groups for a privileged attention by means of partial or invalid distinctions and offers them a better access to their services. Based on the classification construed by Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998), favoritism is considered the act of conferring immunity from police actions, such as handling or fixing traffic or parking violations (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011).
More specific sounds the definition on preferential treatment provided by Stoddard (1995) who noted that favoritism was the practice of using window stickers, license tabs, or courtesy cards in hopes of acquiring immunity from citation of traffic detainment, with the privilege granted to friends, families, and wives of a recipient (as cited in Palmiotto, 2000). The second definition was extended to include details like the instruments and recipients of preferential treatment. Cohen and Feldberg (1991) generalized the purpose of favoritism by defining it as discharge from penalties, also stating that police officers grant special privileges to fellow officers, members of the same profession, relatives, and friends. Unlike in the second definition, Cohen and Feldberg (1991) added fellow officers to the list of privilege recipients. The scholars added that individuals received exclusive immunity from detainment for offenses, such as, driving at a high speed, driving under influence or gambling, the last two reason missing in two previously stated definitions. Stevens (2009) stated that, apart from friends and relatives, favor beneficiaries may be individuals, with whom an officer is willing to make friends. Sometimes, patrol officers may treat offenders preferentially if only to flirt (Stevens, 2009).
Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998) also believed mooching to be a corrupt favoritism-related practice, by which officers accept gratuities or gifts like free meal often in exchange for favoritism (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011). Stoddard (1995) revealed the interests of officers in greater detail opining that mooching had bearing on favoritism, which is an act of reciprocity in exchange for the provision of free meals, cigarettes, coffee, groceries, liquor, and other items. Undercompensating or underpaid profession is said to be one of the causal factors of the practice (as cited in Palmiotto, 2000). Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998) defined mooching and favoritism as separate, albeit interrelated practices that are in a causative-consecutive connection (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011).
Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998) classified prejudice as a separate corrupt act practiced by police officers treating particular groups in a different manner, which holds true for minority groups in particular since they are unlikely to produce troubles for law enforcers (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011). Grynbaum and Connelly (2012), in turn, characterized prejudice vis-à-vis racial minorities as police favoritism that is observable in the stop-and-frisk procedure applied more often to African American residents of New York. Based on interviews conducted by the New York Times, the prevalent part of New York citizens, including 48% of Americans of European descent and 80% of African Americans, opined that the NYPD favored white residents over black ones. In 2011, police officers stopped as many as 700.000 people, of whom 85% were Hispanics and blacks who reported the frequent incidents of physical maltreatment. About 45% of respondents considered the approach excessive. As compared with Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998) and Grynbaum and Connelly (2012) who considered prejudice as a corrupt practice practiced against civilian minority groups, Leinen (1984) scrutinized prejudice as a form of favoritism discriminating against African American officers.
Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998) defined loafing, which is attending to personal businesses when on duty, as a separate category of police corrupt practices (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011), whereas Cohen and Feldberg (1991) opined that on-duty protection or patrol services provided to private ventures were a direct act of favoritism. Apart from private enterprise protection, the scholars singled out protection, by which officers accompany civilians on the way to bank establishment for making a bank deposit. Proprietors give gratuities or gifts in exchange for an extended police presence in proximity to their business. In doing so, businesspersons claim the time of an officer, which is a public resource that requires equal, unbiased distribution (Cohen and Feldberg, 1991). Stering (2005) presented different types of favoritism services provided by law enforcers, such as officers’ ignoring clients parking illegally in front of their ventures or letting bars or restaurants with liquor license work past closing time in exchange for free or discounted coffee or meal.
It follows therefrom that Beigel and Beigel (1977), McCafferty and McCafferty (1998), and McCafferty, Souryal, and McCafferty (1998) defined favoritism, mooching, prejudice, and loafing as separate types of corrupt acts (as cited in Kitaeff, 2011), as did Stoddard (1995) in his classification although the scholar omitted such category as loafing (as cited in Palmiotto, 2000). Unlike criminologists in their complex typologies, Cohen and Feldberg (1991) referred to business protection, which is equivalent to loafing, as favoritism while Grynbaum and Connelly (2012) saw no distinction between prejudice and favoritism.

Favoritism in the Ranks of Police Officers. Racism and Ethnic Favoritism

Kanter (1977) and Senger (1971) opined that favoritism could stem from personal relations and alliances emerging in organizational life between subordinates and superior officers due to mutually shared standpoints, which brings them into groups of the like-minded (as cited in Shane, 2008). Favoritism induced by the commonness of viewpoints breeds corruption eroding the organizational structure, discipline, and other elements of efficient functional performance. When made in such professional microclimate or environment, staff decisions stir up criticism and tensions among employees, which is particularly true of decisions involving extraneous factors like kinship, race, age, or gender (Shane, 2008). According to Hickman, Piquero, and Greene (2000), while favoritism materializes in various aspects of police life, such as desired training, performance ratings, promotion, and requests for transfer, the corrupt practice has exceedingly detrimental outcomes in the disciplinary process (as cited in Shane, 2008). During the process, supervisors guided by the principle of favoritism render sanctions in a biased manner based on circumstances not related to the facts of the matter (Shane, 2008).
Chan (1997) suggested that police management might try placing issues at a lower level, yet rank-and-file or grass-root officers resist the practice of scapegoating by pushing the blame in an upward direction. Subsequently, favoritism may allow privileged subordinates to avoid disciplinary actions for professional misconduct or the commission of criminal acts. Instead, innocent officers can face professional disciplining. Denver Police Department (2008) specified that disciplinary penalties imposed on police department officers might come in the shape of fine, reprimand, discharge, suspension, or a reduction in grade. The worst part of it is that disciplinary actions, if applied, can affect the future status of law enforcement officers and different categories of benefits, appointments, promotions, and assignments included.
Disciplinary sanctions can have serious financial and personal effects. Thus, for example, a suspension for a ten-day period imposed on a married officer with three dependents and no alternative income sources can prove difficult (Denver Police Department, 2008). Kitaeff (2011) singled out three major outcomes of an internal investigation potentially leading to a disciplinary action, termination, a civil lawsuit, or criminal prosecution. While the best-case scenario is exoneration from an accusation, the scholar dwelt on the effects of unlawful disciplining stating there is the possibility of favoritism-induced investigation causing personal damage in the form of compromised reputation, financial disruption, a family crisis, mental health and drug abuse issues, decreased employment prospects, and media intervention (Kitaeff, 2011).
Leinen (1984) suggested that, irrespective of background, management singles out police service members familiar with people in the right places over those who lack for connections in the right circles. Subordinates who did their police superiors a good favor some time ago can expect their chiefs to express gratitude if need be. The initial provision of services along with the expectation of a mutual favor builds a social bond between police officers of unequal rank. Membership in the established group is more likely to guarantee the acquisition of favoritism ensuring contacts than performance and potential are. Black police officers interviewees reported about the distribution of privileges and rewards on the basis of informal group connections. Upon joining a police department, African Americans acquire the status of newcomers, which does not let them into informal power positions or establish essential personal contacts, as distinct from their white fellow officers. Membership in exclusive white cliques and groups is the determinant of the distribution of privileges, rewards, and favors within the department (Leinen, 1984).

The Reality of Police Favoritism

No matter how elite, law enforcement agencies can abuse their status and commissions favoring people of high standing or colleagues to allow them to avoid legal punishment for minor crimes. Sandusky (2014) noted that highway patrol troopers, the elite of the American law enforcement, could practice favoritism while investigating fellow officer’s driving under influence or pulling over a speeding wife of a police chief. Standard Examiner (2013) quoted an example of police favoritism episode, whereupon an officer faced the accusation of demonstrating favoritism to the wife of North Logan police chief by preventing citation from entering a police database. Stoltze (2014) cited an example of favoritism with relation to Charlie Beck, the chief of LAPD, who allegedly used inappropriate influence in a disciplinary matter that involved his daughter, Brandi Pearson, serving as a local police officer in an elite horse unit of the LAPD. Her father is believed to have arranged for Brandi’s horse to be bought by Los Angeles City using his powers and status (Stoltze, 2014).
Gormile (2013) stated that favoritism-related accusations were on the rise in San Diego Police Department. A criminal case of Anthony Arevalos imprisoned for eight years has already generated 14 lawsuits. Hiding the misdeeds of officers, such as sexual misdemeanor, driving under influence, subsequent car accidents, the physical harassment of prostitutes, off-duty pursuits, and engagement in sexual intercourses while on duty were favoritism-allowed offenses that went unpunished. Apart from tearing traffic citations, some officers confessed that recruits were instructed not to ticket prosecutors or fellow officers. In another high-profile case, a detective crashed into a utility box while under influence, after which he received help from his coworkers feeding him to hide the traces of alcohol consumed previously, which would allow reducing alcohol content in blood, yet surveillance cameras caught officers committing the concealment of evidence. In 2002, a son of police captain from San Diego was charged with hitting a woman in the face as well as groping two women. He also smashed a car window while under the influence of alcohol. Police never detained the young men following the incidents of vandalism and sexual battery.

Criminological Theories Applicable to Favoritism

Over the decades, criminologists and scholars from related fields of study have developed specific criminology theories that apply to different types of corruption. The first theory that rationalizes police corruption along with the practice of favoritism is rotten apple or orchard theory highlighted by De Graaf (2007) and Gottschalk (2011). Punch (2003) noted that police themselves often employed the metaphor to indicate officers with deviant ways who live the life of crime or develop bad ways and contaminate good officers (as cited in Gottschalk, 2011). According to O’Connor (2005), criminologists have extended the rotten apple metaphor to incorporate the group level perspective of police cultural deviation with the metaphoric expression of a rotten barrel (as cited in Gottschalk, 2011). Punch (2003) suggested that the concept of rotten orchards showed police deviation at the systematic level. In this case, it is not an apple, or even a barrel that appears affected by corruption, but large parts of the system that overstep the authority (as cited in Gottschalk, 2011). De Graaf (2007) researched the rotten apple theory applicable to faulty, defective officers with inclination towards crime and the potential of affecting good fellows while Gottschalk (2011) combined the opinions of multiple criminologists putting forward the theories of rotten apple and rotten orchard to refer to the systematic level of corruption.
The value of the criminal theories of rotten apple and orchards is that the former refers to cases when separate officers go deviant and practice favoritism in expectation of reward in exchange for private services like the on-duty protection of private businesses, as exemplified by Cohen and Feldberg (1991). The latter refers to the systematic level of corruption affecting departments that makes itself seen in the case of African American officers reporting racial prejudice and discrimination by the white majority who are used to favoring officers of the same ethnic descent, as exemplified by Leinen (1984). It is only logical to assume that white law enforcers who employ the corrupt practice tend to contaminate white newcomers who often develop the same discriminatory attitude towards black fellow officers.
According to De Graaf (2007), organizational culture theory suggests that a certain group culture results in a certain mental state that leads to the development of a corrupt demeanor. Punch (2000) opined that corruption within police departments had bearing on the group behavior that has roots in extreme practices or established arrangements observed within the culture and structures of police organization and work. It turns out that departments and large groups of officers have more to do with corruption than separate individuals seeking personal gains do (as cited in De Graaf, 2007). Favoring white coworkers practiced by the white cliques of officers in police departments exemplified by Leinen (1984) relates to the organizational culture theory attributing corruption to large culture groups rather than separate individuals. Much the same can be said of police officers who favor relatives, friends, or fellow officers allowed to avoid being arrested or granted a speed ticket, as exemplified by Stoddard (1995) and Cohen and Feldberg (1991), which seems to find informal approval in the police culture leaving its imprint on officers. Wheeler (2011) suggested that fraternal departments, as opposed to their professional analogues practicing equal treatment, have less sense of justice since the system encourages preferential treatment. The culture of systematically corrupt police department suggested by Punch (2000) conforms to the concept of fraternal departments interpreted by Wheeler (2011).
As far as favors made to relatives and friends are concerned, clashing moral values theory rationalizes choices made by police officers. De Graaf (2007) noted that there were zero differences between public and private roles in some societies. Ackerman (1999) opined that gift giving was a highly valued and pervasive custom, so was the provision of job to friends and relatives (as cited in De Graaf, 2007). The theory bears direct relation to the kind of favoritism, by which police officers allow relatives and friends to avoid criminal punishment out of friendship or due to blood relation. The final theory applicable to police favoritism is public choice theory suggesting, according to De Graaf (2007), that a rational decision made by individuals is a causal chain that results in a predetermined outcome. A corrupt person is defined as being a rationally calculating individual who slips into bad ways when the desired pros prevail the cons (Graaf, 2007). The theory has a direct bearing on favoritism in police since officer do senior officials favor in exchange for a favor in return, as demonstrated by Leinen (1984).


The research paper is a theoretical study that compares multiple theories and verifies their applicability to the problem of police favoritism. The project uses descriptive method to report the current state of such delinquency phenomenon as police favoritism. The compilation of data relevant to the topic under scrutiny allowed the development of the major thesis and its evidence-based proving. However sparing, available statistical data made it possible to conduct correlational research. Statistics on the stop-and-frisking procedure applied selectively gave reason to report a relationship between race and the frequency of casual personal searches conducted by police officers on the streets of New York. Correlation analysis or causal research was used to establish the relationship between causal factors, such as police powers and status and corruption in the form of favoritism. It is safe to note that the research relied on quasi-experimental or causal-comparative method since its principal objective was to establish the causative-consecutive correlation between such variables as police status or position-related powers and the violation of professional ethics and law.
The systematic review of existing literature on the problem allowed synthesizing or systematizing and assessing different interpretations and problems aspects given scientific coverage by different subject-field experts to create an integral idea of favoritism. The paper demonstrates the use of secondary data analysis through the application of books and reports based on primary sources. Such method as analysis helped subdivide the paper into micro-themes that give insight into various aspects of the multidimensional problem, such as the formation of police favoritism perception, favoritism subtypes, classification approaches, racism and ethnic favoritism, and criminological theories applicable to favoritism, to name a few. Trend analysis based on compiled information made it possible to identify the major criminological and causative-consecutive tendencies of delinquent conduct of police officers.
The project shows the application of exploratory research conducted with regard to the problem of police favoritism that remains understudied, which makes the scientific paper a valuable compilation of separate scientific studies on the problem of preferential treatment in the US police. The focus group research method allowed singling out specific groups of law enforcers, such as police officers of European descent, which gave a better idea of racism and ethnic favoritism in the ranks of police. Overall, the application of a wide range of research methods enabled the researcher to study the yet relatively poorly covered problem in the field of criminal law. The scientific compiling effort has produced a complex synthesis of existing studies on the problem of police favoritism for its further application for various purposes.


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