Good Research Proposal On Police Corruption

Type of paper: Research Proposal

Topic: Crime, Social Issues, Corruption, Police, Law, Information, Criminal Justice, Study

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/12/22

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Police corruption has been an ever –present feature in the United States police since this entity of law enforcement was first formed in the mid-1800’s. Unfortunately, corruption is still present in the police entity. Corruption exhibits itself in local, state and even at the federal level. Some states are notorious for having police departments with humongous levels of corruption. This corruption has had a significant effect on the quality of service delivery, and it is from this that this paper draws its premise. This paper contains a proposal to carry out a research project exploring the nature and amount of police corruption in the United States and how it has affected the enforcement of laws and regulations as well as the delivery of other services that the police is officially charged with. The paper begins by giving a brief introduction of the topic of police corruption and a statement of purpose for the research. This is followed by a conclusive literature review of various studies and information on police corruption provided by different authors over the years. The next section of this paper is the methodology that explains the methods of data and information collection that will be used in the study and the particular participants who will be involved in the study. The other section of the paper will be the reference section which lists all the sources that have been used to compile the proposal. The final section will be the appendix.

Introduction/ Purpose of the Study

The criminal justice system of the United States has often been heralded as one of the most advanced in the entire world. Being part of this system, the police entity is consequently viewed as one of the most advanced in the world. Over the years, the police entity has witnessed massive changes. Most of these changes have been necessitated by the prevailing environmental conditions while some have been implemented by individuals who have a view of improving the entity. Most of these changes have affected the police entity in a positive way whereby it has been able to avail better services to the public and perform to its full potential. The police in America has had massive achievements in the last one century or so and has been greatly commended for its humongous role in ensuring that the constitutional law and order are followed. Unfortunately, and as with many government entities, there have been several stumbling blocks that have acted as impediments to the proper functioning of policing. At the helm of these stumbling blocks is corruption. The menace of corruption has plagued the American police system since time immemorial. In fact, it is not only the American police that has been infested with massive corruption. Corruption seems to be a vice that is ever-present in almost every police system in the world. The levels of corruption are particularly high in developing countries. This is not to say that the situation is any better in America. The effect that corruption has on police systems and the entire society in the developing nations is the same effect that is felt in America. In general terms, corruption interferes with the proper and effective function in of the police system. It prevents the system from fully performing the duties and responsibilities for which it was instituted in the first place. If a country such as the United Sates is to achieve high outcomes in terms of abidance to law and order, then impediments such as corruption need to be weeded out.
All in all, these studies have revealed a lot about the nature of corruption in the American system. This study hopes to draw from this already available research to also come up with various deductions, conclusions and possibly recommendations on the vice of corruption. This research project aims to look at the nature of police corruption in the United States and how it has affected the enforcement of laws and regulations as well as the delivery of other services that the police is officially charged with.
The project will involve an intensive exploration of the nature of police corruption in the United States including its history, how it has evolved over time and some of the dominant factors that have favored its occurrence. This will then be followed by an extensive exploration of the effect of police corruption in the United States with particular focus on how it has affected the enforcement of law and order.
The research project will utilize various credible sources to come up with information and data on police corruption. At the end of the project, a comprehensive report that articulates and assembles all the major findings will be developed.

Literature Review

One area that has received attention is in regard to the causes of police corruption. Some authors have tried to trace the singular causes of police corruption and how they come about. Pogrebin & Atkins (1976) have delved into a massive investigation into the probable cause of police corruption and some of the associated theories. The first thing that Pogrebin & Atkins (1976) have looked into is the individual causes of police corruption. First of all, it emerges that the recruiting process and the people being recruited play a key role in propagating elements of corruption in the police force. Pogrebin & Atkins (1976) quote the Chicago Crime Commission that conducted a study placing focus on the type of officers who were in the force. This Commission found that poor recruitment methods were often utilized, and these led to the entrance of individuals that were not properly suited for law enforcing into the police department (Pogrebin & Atkins, 1976). According to Pogrebin & Atkins (1976) therefore, “this explanation implies that corrupt activities stem from the low moral caliber certain police recruits”. The two authors go on to argue that corruption could possibly be averted if the available recruiting methods were made sufficiently rigorous such that persons who are prone to corrupt activities are detected and weeded out before they can enter the force. Pogrebin & Atkins (1976)go on to quote another author (Goldstein, 1970) who gives another reason for individual police corruption, and this is the individual officer’s s misuse of power and authority in a manner that is designed to gain monetary compensation usually for selfish ends. Just like the explanation by Pogrebin & Atkins (1976), this explanation also seems to be oriented towards an individualistic explanation of police corruption whereby it is shown that the misuse of authority in terms of corruption is slightly attributable to an officer’s character (Pogrebin & Atkins, 1976).
Pogrebin & Atkins (1976) also provide a structural explanation for police corruption whereby they argue that corruption in an entire police structure is perpetuated by the existence of a police subculture where deviant practices and means are considered as normal police behavior. This explanation is in accordance with the subculture theory of police deviance. (Pogrebin & Atkins, 1976).
Corruption has been part and parcel of the American Policing system since its inception (Walker, 2012). Consequently, some authors have embarked to find out how regarding how corruption came about. According to Kelling and Moore (1988), the emergence of corruption within the police framework can be traced to weaknesses in the police strategy. “Intimacy with the community, closeness to political leaders and a decentralized organization structure with its inability to provide supervision of officers gave rise to corruption (Kelling and Moore, 1988).
Another aspect that’s has been explored by authors is the forms of corruption in the United States. According to Punch, (2000), “there is a long tradition of corrupt city government in the United States”. In some towns, the police combined with politicians and organized crime masterminds to run both legal and illegal enterprises. One form of corruption that has been very prevalent in America is the one that relates to vice (prostitution and gambling), was condoned by the police in return for pay-offs and was seen as clean and easy’ money (there was a large demand for these illegal services and they ‘did not harm anyone’) (Punch, 2000). It appears that many cities across America have had corruption-related scandals that have prompted the formation of various commissions of investigation. The perfect example is the city of New York which throughout time has been embroiled in countless corruption scandals and in spite of steps seemingly being taken forward to counter this, the city police department seems to fall back into the web of corruption sooner or later. Punch (2000) writes that currently, drugs have changed patterns of corruption and police are even drawn to the drug world either as users, dealers, and partners. There are even cases where extreme violence is used against suspects and others (Punch, 2000). In a general scale, Punch (2000) gives several things that can be used to summarize the nature of police corruption in America. One of these is that “there has been a succession of scandals, inquiries, and reforms, but the issue continues to rise periodically to the surface” (Punch, 2000). The other finding is that corruption in the American police mainly pertains to organized crime where it is perpetuated by favoritism and endemic civic corruption. Another summarization by the Punch and that has several implications to the elimination of corruption is that “reform is difficult to sustain but it involves, if it is to be at all successful, vigorous leadership, new patterns of accountability, a strong and proactive investigative unit and (perhaps) covert methods and integrity testing”( Punch, 2000).
Punch (2000) findings on the prevalence of corruption especially when it comes to drugs are reinforced by another study by Stevens (1999). Stevens study primarily concentrated on the narcotics police department where corruption has over the years been very rampant. According to Stevens (1999), corruption in narcotics police enforcement “may include immoral and unethical conduct such as bribery, thievery, misuse of government property, graft, fraud, exploitation, misuse of office including use deadly force, denial of due process and police brutality”. Stevens conducted a study on 535 narcotics officers where he came up with very interesting statistics about corruption. First of all, it emerges that officers in narcotics enforcement are extremely distrustful of each other with sixty of them indicating that they could not trust a fellow officer with information gathered during an investigative process on drug traders. A large proportion of these officers also questioned the integrity of fellow officers. In addition, it also emerged that narcotic officers do not also trust their superiors. Such is the enormous effect of corruption. Obviously, the officers on the ground know how tempting corruption can be especially in a world where one could get rich in an instant by collaborating with powerful drug dealers (Treisman, 2000). In fact, another primary finding of this study was that many officers had witnessed their fellow officer either dealing or using the drugs that they were in the first place supposed to be fighting against. This is obviously a very sad finding.
The study by Stevens (1999) also found that personal attributes were also significantly responsible for officer’s engagement in corruption. “Overall, highly idealistic educated narcotic officers (women were better candidates than males are more likely to become involved in corruption due to their lack of experience and military training, and a strong belief in law and order” (Stevens, 1999). Stevens also seems to indicate that perhaps one of the reasons why police corruption in the narcotics department is high is because is the realization by the officers in this department that they are perhaps engaged in a losing battle. Regardless of their battle to eradicate narcotics related crimes, drug smuggling, use and sale continue to increase on a daily basis and therefore becomes harder to deal with. Therefore, most narcotic officers resign to the idea that this is a losing battle and they, therefore, decide to abandon their principles and move to the dark side of corruption which includes using drugs and collaborating with and protecting drug dealers.
Ivković (2003) is another author who has conducted research on police corruption, specifically on \ on how to measure corruption. Ivković (2003) treats corruption as an aspect that is present in almost every police force, but whose measurement can sometimes prove to be tricky He attempts to show how understanding the prevalence of corruption can help in the development of strategies to curb the vice. Ivković (2003) first of all contends that “learning how much corruption there is and understanding its characteristics are both basic yet crucial steps towards successful corruption control”. Furthermore, accurate information is needed to diagnose both the nature and the extent of the corruption vice, trace some of its changes in patterns and volumes over time, determine the major causes of corrupt behavior, and design proper control measures and mechanisms among other aspects (Ivković, 2003).
When it comes to tackling and addressing the problem of police corruption, Ivković (2003) suggest that the first step should involve defining the characteristics that constitute corrupt behavior and then seeking to determine its characteristics and its extent. After a particular set of behavior has been deemed as corruption, the next step should involve thorough efforts meant to measure it.
According to Ivković (2003), obtaining accurate date and information about the nature and extent of police corruption provides a guideline or direction for not only the selection but also the utilization of appropriate prevention and control mechanisms and at the same time identifies some of the problem areas that specific control areas should aim at or target.
Ivković (2003) however contends that measuring actual police corruption levels in America is quite impossible and the pragmatic solution is to place reliance on estimates. In light of this, the best approach when it comes to measuring the nature and extent of police corruption is by using triangulation, which means the application of several methods. Ivković (2003) also states that is up to city officials, police administrators and citizens to determine the levels of corruption that are acceptable in a police agency and consequently seek to control this corruption with the most effective means.
The effect of police corruption has also been widely studied. On an overall scale, most research seems to indicate corruption has humongous detrimental effects upon law enforcement. First of all, corruption demoralizes those officers who do not want to take part of engage in corruption or who do not enjoy the gifts and rewards of corruption. In addition, corruption provides an incentive for involved persons to take part in corrupt exchanges. 
Corruption also encourages individual police officers to perceive the community as both hypocritical and cynical. However, Pogrebin & Atkins (1976) state that the effects of police corruption are felt even far beyond the confines of the police departments themselves. Corruption erodes the confidence of the public in the law enforcement (Pogrebin & Atkins (1976).
Moreover, corruption creates disrespect for the law that the police has been charged with protecting in the first place (Polinsky & Shavell, 2000). Consequently, one of the trickle-down effects of corruption is the unwillingness of the public to report crimes because of the perception that the police will not do anything because of corruption. According to Pogrebin & Atkins (1976), “wide-scale corruption does not seem to cause a loss of public confidence in law enforcement that would account for the lack of public willingness to report crimes to the police”. This may hurt even those police departments that are devoid of corruption since the public will not distinguish between them (Care, 2014). This may affect the overall functioning of the police.
According to Jang et al (2015), “Citizen Confidence in the police is a crucial element of policing, as the police are unable to perform their duties if the public is unwilling to view them as legitimate government entities”. Jang et al (2015) goes on to state that “the police may benefit from prioritizing the fight against corruption if securing public support is their priority."
Other studies have delved into understanding police corruption from a social and psychological perspective. Some social theories on why police engage in crime have already been forwarded. One of the theories that is constantly mentioned is the social learning theory. Aultman (1976) is one of the authors who has embarked to study corruption from a social and philosophical perspective particularly in regards to the social learning theory. According to Aultman (1976), “social learning theories acknowledge the importance of internationalism and may also incorporate to varying extents, the proportions of role theory”.
Aultman (1976) goes on to state that relating these theories can indeed provide a better and deeper understanding of police corruption. Aultman (1976) combines symbolic interaction, the role theory and the theories of social learning to explain the behavior of corruption in the police. Through these theories of social learning Aultman (1976) hypothesizes that police officers essentially learn the corrupt behavior via the reinforcements from the police subcultural group, other governmental organizations, political leaders, and citizens. These reinforcements are indeed very effective when it comes to shaping behavior (Chappell & Piquero, 2004). In fact, they shape behavior to the extent the reinforcements direct an individual towards actions that allow the playing of significant or major roles (Aultman, 1976). Hence “corruption may be more easily learned in those instances that allow the police officer to demonstrate the possession of a certain role (role expressive behavior) or because it provides the means for performance of another more important role (role supportive behavior)” (Aultman, 19760).
As observed, a lot of research has indeed been conducted on the issue of police corruption. It is observable from the literature review above that police corruption is actually a virtue that has been studies from different dimensions that range from its nature, its extent, its cause and effects among other aspects. Different authors have aspired to concentrate on some of these dimensions and possibly shed more light on them. The subsequent study on police corruption will utilize some of this already available information or data and in the end, the research hopes to add to this information and possibly provide new information on police corruption.


This research will involve both primary and secondary research. Secondary research will involve the exploration of already available data and statistics about police corruption. The primary research will involve physical collection of quantitative data related to police corruption.
The primary tool or instrument for primary data collection will be questionnaires and survey sheets. In the beginning, a select group of participants will be identified. This select group of participants will comprise of various individuals from the law enforcement entity and across the criminal justice field. This will include officers from such departments as homicide, narcotics, the ATF, the D.E.A and several other police and law enforcement departments. The research will involve police entities from different administration levels including local, state and federal police departments. A representative from each of these levels from across different states will be chosen to take part in the research.
For purposes of convenience and practicability, a total of 100 respondents will be involved in this research. These will become from various offices and administrative levels of the law enforcement agency. The group will also be comprised of individuals from the judiciary including prosecuting attorneys, defense magistrates, and judges who have dealt with cases of police corruption previously.
At the beginning of the research, letters will be sent to each of these individuals asking them of their willingness to take part in the study. This will be accompanied by a letter of consent and another letter guaranteeing the confidentially of each of the respondents. After the participants have acknowledged their willingness to take part in the study and have signed the letter of consent, questionnaire form will be sent to them to fill.
The questionnaires and survey sheets will comprise of two sets of questions. The first set of questions will be close ended in nature and will require the participants to simply tick YES/NO or chose between two options; A/B. An example of a question in this section is one asking whether a police officer has ever engaged in corruption or witnessed a colleague engage in corruption.
The second set of questions will be open ended and will give the participants and opportunity to express their views and opinion on crucial matters related to police corruption. The number of words that can be used to answer questions in this section will be unlimited. Questions on this part will for example require the respondents to recommend ways of ending of corruption, to discuss whether there are certain instances where corruption is acceptable and to express the factors that propel levels of corruption in the police entity.
The respondents will be encouraged to respond to all questions in the questionnaire and survey sheet but they will also be provided with the opportunity to decline to answer some of the questions that they may not have the answers to or that they may not be comfortable with.

The participants will be given a whole week to fill the questionnaires and survey sheets and send them back.

The second part of date collection will involve secondary research. Here, data will be collected from various secondary sources. The primary secondary sources will include police websites and databases, news databases such as New York Times, court and criminal records, journal articles and government publications on police corruption.
Various types of information will be sourced from these resources. This will include any police reports on corruption in the last few years, court cases involving police corruption, number of officers convicted for police corruption, steps made towards ending police corruption and general recommendations on police corruption.
On the theoretical aspect, books will be used to collect data and information. For example books talking about the social theory of learning will be used to assemble information that for example explains why police officers engage in police corruption
All the data collected will be recorded and assembled together to be analyzed. The data will then be analyzed and represented in various formats including data tables. Later on, the analyzed information will be used to compile an official research report that is ready for presentation.


Chappell, A. T., & Piquero, A. R. (2004). Applying social learning theory to police misconduct. Deviant Behavior, 25(2).
Ivković, S. K. (2003). To serve and collect: Measuring police corruption. Journal of criminal law and criminology, 593-650.
Kelling, G. L., & Moore, M. H. (1989). The evolving strategy of policing. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
Pogrebin, M., & Atkins, B. (1976). Probable causes for police corruption: Some theories. Journal of Criminal Justice, 4(1), 9-16.
Polinsky, A. M., & Shavell, S. (2001). Corruption and optimal law enforcement. Journal of Public Economics, 81(1), 1-24.
Punch, M. (2000). Police corruption and its prevention. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 8(3), 301-324.
Rose-Ackerman, S. (1999). Corruption and government: Causes, consequences, and reform. Cambridge University Press.
Stevens, D. J. (1999). Corruption among narcotic officers: A study of innocence and integrity. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 14(2), 1-10.
Turvey, B. E., & Cooley, C. M. (2014). Miscarriages of Justice: Actual Innocence, Forensic Evidence, and the Law. Academic Press.
Walker, S., & Katz, C. M. (2012). Police in America. McGraw-Hill.
Aultman, M. G. (1977). A social psychological approach to the study of police corruption. Journal of Criminal Justice, 4(4), 323-332.
Jang, H., Lee, J., & Gibbs, J. (2015). The influence of the national government on confidence in the police: A focus on corruption. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 20, 1-16.
Treisman, D. (2000). The causes of corruption: a cross-national study. Journal of public economics, 76(3), 399-457.
Care, D. O. (2014). Police Corruption. Miscarriages of Justice: Actual Innocence, Forensic Evidence, and the Law, 49.
Primary data collection instrument: Questionnaires and surveys sheets
News database s- New York Times, L.A Times. Chicago SunTime, Washington Post
Court records
Police websites and database
Government periodicals and publications

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