Corruption in Law Enforcement and Corrections
The role of law enforcement officers is to protect citizens and their property as well as enforce law and order in society. Law enforcement officers are supposed to uphold the highest level of integrity in their work ethics. In most cases, it does not happen as they end up protecting the wrongdoers as opposed to arresting them and bringing them to justice. This vice caters for personal gains and qualifies as corruption. Corruption is giving anything of value to an individual with the aim of compelling that person to do an inappropriate action. This is a common occurrence in every corner of the globe both in developed countries, such as the United States, and developing countries like Nigeria, for example. The researcher aims at conducting the literature research to discuss the issue of corruption in the law enforcement and corrections. The work will cover the types of corruption in the law enforcement, the causes that lead officers to conducting this offence as well as the possible solutions applicable dealing with the vice of bribery in the force.
Keywords: police, corruption
Corruption in Law Enforcement and Corrections
Corruption is a vice that retards society, making it fail in its development. There is no precise definition of corruption since it means different things to various countries, depending on their cultures and legal factors. For example, Transparency International outlines corruption as the wrongful use of power entrusted for personal gains (HM Government, 2014). At the same time, the World Bank considers the process of corruption as being any activity that involves soliciting anything valuable with the motive of influencing the other party to carry out an improper action (HM Government, 2014). Even with the different definition of corruption, all one can deduce is that corruption is a vice that aims to deny individuals justice at the expense of others. The result has the innocent people, who never committed a crime, serve jail terms for the things they have never committed. It is evident that most police departments engage in high-profile corruption scandals, with the recent examples being Officer Rafael Perez of Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) (Tancredi, 2013). This work aims to explore the issue of police corruption by covering its types and causes as well as the possible correction measures.
Types of Corruption
Due to the manner, in which the crime of corruption is carried out, there are five categories. As Newburn (2015) writes, perverting the course of justice has topped the list with 33% while the least type reported is a misuse of systems at 9%.
Perverting the Course of Justice
This form of corruption involves the falsification or tampering with witness statements, records, or evidence. For example, cases on this form of corruption in the United Kingdom stood at 33% (Newburn, 2015). Furthermore, Bayley and Perito (2011) have observed in India and Uganda the instances of the rampant filing of false cases while omitting the actual ones with the aim of obstructing justice.
Misuse of Systems
This kind of corruption involves sneaking into the police system for the unlawful motives driven by personal gains. These are the incidences where one seeks information that will help friends and family members or any person willing to pay for the act. Cases identified under this category stand at 9% (Newburn, 2015). According to The Canadian Press (2014), more than 204 members of the police force had been found responsible for 322 incidents of corruption, which included misuse of the police database in accessing confidential information for family and friends.
Abuse of Authority
Abuse of authority stands at 15%, and it involves the use of police authority and power for personal gain (Newburn, 2015). It requires the use of the position bestowed upon the law enforcers to carry out unlawful activities that bring personal benefits. For instance, according to Assefa (2014), Officer Walker pleaded guilty to the charges of wrong use of his authority as a police officer where he was involved in the robbery. He also pleaded guilty to the extortion of money from the public.
Theft and fraud cases are mostly related to the police department embezzlement of funds from the government. It involves the use of false information to obtain overtime payment and expenses claims as well as personal use of police credit cards. Thus, 30% of this type of corruption has been recorded (Newburn, 2015). Bayley and Perito (2011) had offered a good example by describing a situation in Afghanistan, where the police participated in selling government gasoline on the black market as well as selling of ammunitions and guns to the Taliban.
Causes of Corruption
Before contemplating on the most valid ways of dealing with the issue of corruption, it is important to seek and comprehend the reasons behind the rise of this crime. Therefore, it is crucial to reveal the causes of corruption.
Police departments have the freedom of being able to determine which law will be most appropriate in a given context, and this leaves the room for mischief. Thus, the description of the law makes police officers tempted to fail to notice some wrongful activities with the aim of capturing an opportunity. In this case, a police officer may let a perpetrator leave the crime scene undetected, or he or she can be assisted by officers failing to forward the charges against perpetrators (Newburn, 2015). Police officers are entrusted with enforcing all laws, but it is unrealistic since they will always have priorities. It means that when they see an opportunity that offers a greater return, they will use their freedom of discretion to take the advantage of it.
Low Managerial Visibility
Law enforcement profession has some of its peculiar characteristics that make it hard for supervision. This issue means that most of the duties police officers carry out are unseen, and therefore, they are at liberty to take an action that seems favorable to them (Newburn, 2015). While in the field, they are not under any direct supervision. This gives them an opportunity to engage in corrupt activities. The situation makes some police officers break laws for their personal benefit since no one sees them. For example, as pointed by Tancredi (2013), in St. George Police Department of Saint George, Missouri, police officers used to ticket individuals for minor traffic offenses and they had to be recorded by an angry teenager.
Low Public Visibility
Much of what the law enforcers do is out of the public eyes and only visible to the individuals with whom they directly collaborate. Moreover, they have access to the areas considered private spaces where crime is believed to have happened, but in reality, they get into those areas to engage in corrupt deals (Newburn, 2015). For example, in Florida, sheriff’s deputy was alleged to have not arrested a woman in exchange for oral sex (Jauregui, 2014). Since such activities are out of public eye, police officers feel they can engage in anything they want.
Peer Group Secrecy
Corrupt police departments have organized sets of informal rules that help them get away with their shady dealings. They ensure that the information about their illegal activities is only limited within themselves, and that they opt not to cooperate with any investigation pointing to one of their own. This makes secrecy their protective armor that helps in the shielding of the entire force from the public (Newburn, 2015). Tancredi (2013) has provided a good example of such an incidence in Abu Ghraib prison, Bagdad, where the US troops had sexually abused and tortured Iraqi prisoners. All this happened because they knew they would cover for each other and no one would know.
Possible Correction Measures to Police Corruption
Strengthening Protection for Whistleblowers
Most cases of police corruption go unreported due to the fear of incrimination that a person may confront, which prevents the public or even the uncorrupt police officers from speaking of the incidences of corruption. To make sure that many of these cases are reported and the culprits identified for disciplinary measures, there should be well-laid regulations that ascertain proper protection of those who come out to report the cases of corruption (HM Government, 2014). This will help to curb corruption and decrease reported cases of this vice since every officer will be cautious not to be brought into the limelight for the wrong reasons.
Most corrupt activities carried out by police officers occur out of lack of or minimal supervision; therefore, with the tightened the grip on corrupt officers, the rate of corruption within the forces will automatically reduce (HM Government, 2014). It is true that most perpetrators, who end up committing capital offenses, begin with minor violations. Thus, the quality of supervision determines whether the situation will escalate or not. Ensuring a close watch over the officers in the field and beyond it will help in tracking the corrupt ones, while effecting disciplinary measures will discourage them from engaging in corrupt activities.
Discipline and Punishment of Corrupt Officers
To guard the reputation of the police force and send a message to the public that law enforcement institutions are sincere in their fight against corruption, those suspected or reported of engaging in crime should be tried and sentenced. The punishment should be strict in that those officer implicated in the vice should be relegated to their duties, and if necessary, they ought to be fired from the force (Newburn, 2015). With anti-corruption legislation being adhered to, more police officers will shun away from being engaged in corrupt activities, and this will mean that the fight against corruption will have been dealt with largely.
Conclusively, corruption is a vice that hinders the development in society as money is directed to evil purposes. Corruption has such types as the misuse of police database information, perverting justice and theft as well as abuse of authority for personal gain. Some factors encourage breeding of corruption, and they include the discretion where police can bend the law to their favor and small managerial visibility. Furthermore, low public visibility offers corrupt officers with a level of privacy in carrying out their unlawful activities. Additionally, peer group secrecy provides a cover to the corrupt officers, thus encouraging them to continue breaking the law. Some of the measures that can be implemented in curbing corruption may involve putting to trial and sentencing corrupt officers as a disciplinary measure, tightening their supervision as well as strengthening protection for whistleblowers to encourage more people to report the cases of corruption.