Type of paper: Research Proposal

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

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/11/09


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.

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.


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.

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Police Research Proposal Sample. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/police-research-proposal-sample/. Published Nov 09, 2020. Accessed April 14, 2024.

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