The Forms, Causes and Ways of Controlling Corruption in the Police Service

The Forms, Causes and Ways… the Police Service 11

TheForms, Causes and Ways of Controlling Corruption in the PoliceService

Tableof Contents

Abstract 3

Introduction 4

Police corruption 5

Forms of Police Corruption 5

Trends in Police Corruption 7

The Beginning of Police Corruption 8

Causes/Motivators of Police Corruption in the United States 10

Variable Factors 11

Constant Factors 12

Measures to Control Police Corruption 13

Effect of Police Corruption in the Public, Legal System and Criminal System 16

Conclusion 19

References 21


Corruptionin the police service is an international problem. The police haveremained one of the important forces with regard to maintenance oflaw and order as well as being an integral part of every country’sjudicial system. However, corruption is the major factor that hasbrought about menace that has hampered their impact in terms ofperformance. This paper focuses on the ever growing menace within thepolice force, an issue that is staining their hard work. Differentfactors have been attributed to the increased menace of corruptioncases facing the police service. Cases of police corruption haveincreased tremendously with an increase in illegal smuggling,prostitution, money laundering among other related vices. This paperwill focus on police corruption, history or the origin of thecorruption practices within the force, factors that contribute to thespread and practice of corruption practices, as well as the measuresto eliminate corruption in the police force.


Corruptionin the police force has become a problem globally, not only in theUnited States, but also in other regions such Far East, Asia, Europe,and Africa. Police corruption is a complex phenomenon and cannot bestudied through just a simple analysis. According to Agbiboa, (2015),police corruption is a form of police delinquency where the police orlaw enforcement officers act against their social contract, and inturn abuse the powers given to them by fulfilling their personalinterests. There are three extents as to which the occurrence ofpolice corruption can be attributed. These include misuse of power,misuse of subjective attainment and misuse of official capacity ofthe policemen and women. Different studies have been conducted on theissue of corruption within the police service. Most of them have beenon the support that, corruption is universal if not endemic withinthe police departments (Tankebe, 2011).

Furthermore,police corruption is known to negatively affect both the communityand law enforcement. Quah (2014) explain that within the police unitin the Los Angeles state, there was an anti-gang unit referred as‘Community Resource Against Street Hoodlums’ (CRASH). Thedepartment was part of the LA police force until 1999 wheninvestigations were carried on the unit operations and found outthat, the group was involved in drug sales, theft of money from thedrug dealers, fabricated arrests, assaults, and false police reportsamong other implications. After the investigations of the ‘CRUSH’operations, dozens of criminal convictions connected to the groupwere overturned, and at the same the involved officers were convictedof various crimes. In addition, the city incurred more than $40million dollars towards the settlement of civil lawsuits. In summary,the case represents one of the cases regarded as the worst policecorruption scandal to have occurred in the history of US (Quah,2014).

Police corruptionFormsof Police Corruption

Corruptionwithin the police forces can take different forms, depending on theintended gain. Some forms of police include favoritism, bribery andrelated practices, kickbacks, diversion of resources, as well asdeceptive practices. Firstly, favoritism entails actions whereby anofficer ‘looks the other way’ whenever there is a family memberor a friend who gets in trouble. Another form of favoritism is whenan officer fails to make a follow-up, ‘looks the other way’towards a fellow officer or an influential person in the community.Also, favoritism is evident in a case whereby a police officer useshis/her powers to offer family member, friend or a higher regardedperson, illegitimate help/assistance such as intervention in acriminal justice process. Favoritism may result in personal, group ororganizational gain with police legal power being the most abusedpower (Tankebe, 2011).

Secondly,there are the bribery and related practices of corruption. This formof corruption entails actions such as taking and/or soliciting for abribe for instance, failing to give a speeding ticket for any kindof payment. There is also the practice of extortion of money from thepeople who commit a crime. In addition to the bribery, anotherrelated form of corruption is asking and taking of kickbacks. Thismay entail actions such as police officer accepting payment forfavoritism such as an offered legitimate task i.e. towing work.Payment for delivery of favorable treatment or even issuing anillegal gambling license is another form of kickbacks. Diversion ofpolice resources, on the other hand, takes the form or practices suchas selling resources meant for police unit, selling police servicesto criminals, using police powers and resources to help a personalbusiness or criminal operations for a desirable gain (Neumann, 2013).There is the practice of falsifying evidence and making falsestatements which make up deceptive practices for either personal orgroup gain. Other forms include theft and premeditated criminalactivity among others.

Table1. Forms and Description of Police Corruption



Corruption of authority

This is whereby an officer has received material gain just as a result of the position the hold i.e. free meals, drink services etc.


Payment, services or goods received on or after referring a business chance to an individual or company

Opportunistic theft

Taking advantage of arrested or victims and stealing from them, i.e. accident victims, arrested people, dead people. It’s well known as ‘rolling’

Protection of illegal activities

Protecting perpetrators of illegal actions business such as prostitution, drug dealing and allowing the business to proceed

Internal layoffs

Trade in for prerogatives that are offered to police officers


Accepting a tip, or bribe to cease from making a follow up in any violation of the law

‘The fix’

Undermining of criminal investigations

Direct criminal activities

Engaging in criminal activity for personal gain in a situation that shows a clear violation of criminal and departmental norms


‘Doctoring’ adding details to an evidence to have a favorable result (one that is giving gains in term of money, services or goods)

Trendsin Police Corruption

Accordingto the 2010 NPMSRP Police Misconduct Statistical Report, about 1575cases of police misconduct were reported, in United States. Of thisnumber, about 7.2% of the cases fell into the categorytheft/robbery/fraud. It is in this category that police corruptionis found. The reprt found that there was a rise in the number ofreported cases of police corruption. Also from the report, it isevident that the rate of police misconduct varies with state, with LAhaving the highest rates and Tennessee having the lowest rates. Beloware tables showing the trends of misconduct in the police force aswell as the varying rates of misconduct by state.

TheBeginning of Police Corruption

Ininvestigating the issue of corruption and how it grew strong rootsinto the police units, different aspects of corruption have to beexplored, including the origin. In the early 18th century, policeforce started the employment of private finance police who wouldprofit from the legal aspects of the various cases. This adoption ofprivately sponsored police units which were still part of the largerpolice force led to a lack of supervision or even control in terms oftheir authority. The new status of privately owned police units ledto disparities in the police forces, as the private managed to catchand collaborate with criminals. The early officers that were giventhe authority to work privately and in collaboration with criminalsbenefited from the unlimited authority, and in turn misused it tosteal, extort, intimidate and blackmailing of the public. Since theearly ages, the corruption menace has deluded the community/publicbelief and trust with the police force. The menace has spread allover the globe. According to Transparency International (2006),corruption is more common in Africa than other regions around theworld.

Table2. Comparison of corruption levels in various sectors in differentregions.

Source:TI, 2006.

Causes/Motivators of PoliceCorruption in the United States

Differentfactors have been attributed to the unethical practice of corruptionin the police service. Is it the opportunity, greed or motivation?Scandals like CRASH as mentioned earlier damages the image of thepolice in the eyes of the public and also undermines the community’strust in the country’s law enforcement. Due to inability to abatesuch criminal activities, crime flourishes in communities as thecriminals are protected. This, in turn, may lead to organizedcriminal establishments as a result of the financial gain that isenjoyed by the parties involved. One of the major causative factorsof police corruption is the monetary gain that comes to the illegalor the corrupt undertakings. In most cases, corruption deals have amonetary value attached to them (Jonck &amp Swanepoel, 2016). Moreso, the money is regarded as an extra income to supplement theirincome. With the availability of free and illegal money, ending thecorruption in the police forces has not been easy.

Thereare both Constant and Variable factors that relate to the corruptdealings within the police forces in both America and the rest of theworld. One example of a constant factor is Discretion. Discretionhere means that there has been a lot of power that has been given topolice officers towards making decisions. It is within the powers ofpolice to make decisions as to whether they ought to enforceparticular laws in particular situations. Having the powers to make adecision, in turn, leads to the decision being influenced by thematerial or any other form of the gain coming forth from the scene orcase at hand (Crowder &amp Turvey, 2013). Similarly, workdescription also contributes to some extent of corruption in thepolice service. Some police positions or work description exposescorruption more than others. In addition to discretion, there is alsoissues of insufficient managerial and public visibility, peer groupand managerial secrecy, not to mention status glitches within thepolice forces.

Onthe other hand, there exist variable factors that contribute tocorruption in the police force, such as community structure,characteristics of the organizations, legal characteristicscorruption controls in place, and social organization of thecorruption, as well as legal opportunities that are in place forfighting corruption. Ineffective management of the police unit, thepersonnel, and resources has contributed to low employee (police)motivational levels. One major contribution of poor payment, grudgeswithin the ranks, and favoritism is low motivation among theofficers. This in turn fuels the establishment of alternatives tocater for financial and material needs. When a marginalized policeofficer gets an alternative source of freedom, happiness and income,he/she would be more gland to accept it, hence increasing corruptdealings.


Table3. Variable Factors that cause corruption in the Police Service

Social definition/organization of corruption

This aspect entails two major issues which are events and arrangements.

Corruption controls in place

This is how the guardians of corruption are implemented and guarded themselves.

Community structure

This is the extent as to which the community is developed to fight the menace of corruption, i.e. political ethos and culture conflict.

Organizational characteristics

The organization of the police forces, bureaucracy, career stages and the overall flow of the organization orders impacts the extent in which the practice of corruption thrives.

Legal chances of corruption

When the legal reference to corruption is weak, there is the tendency for the practice to thrive within the police force.

SourceOthman (2014)


Table4. Constant factors that cause Corruption in Police Service

Low managerial visibility

The management ability of the police force has greatly contributed to either success or fueling of corruption within the police force.

Managerial secrecy and Peer Group culture and secrecy within police force

This contributes to an endless police culture which is characterized by high levels of internal secrecy and solidarity among police men and women, which has been known to fuel corruption with police forces. This goes hand in hand with secrecy among the police managers.

Low public visibility

With low levels of public witnessing what the police are into, actions and undertakings, there tends to be an element of un-surveillance of the public

Association with law breakers

The police life is all about involvement with varying people who are in one way or another an interest to the police force

SourceOthman (2014)

Measures to Control PoliceCorruption

Thereare strategies put in place to curb corruption in the policedepartment in the US. Some of these ways include reforming the humanresource through recruitment, training, professional pride and policemanagerial control. Under recruitment, it was suggested that highstandard background screening for the candidates to be a crucialconsideration. Candidates with the age of 21 were considered low forthem to adapt to the adult work, thus a rise in 23 years for thecandidate’s suit. Those who already had a higher education awardwere to be a considerable aspect and those continuing with highereducation to receive awards on completion. “Efforts to reducepolice corruption should be based on analyses of differences in thewho, what, and when of local corruption” (Crowder &amp Turvey,2013).

Additionally,reforming the training and recruitment departments was a majorsolution to curb corruption in the police force. It has beensuggested that most training officers avoid, as much as possible,corruption topic in arguing that the discussion might encourage thesame. For training to highly impact the corruption control in thepolice service, trainers have to explore in great depths all aspectsrelated to corruption and all areas prone to corruption. Ethics andintegrity virtues have to be taught to the candidates through thewhole process, through recruitment, training, all the way tomanagement.

Mostimportantly, a well-established code of ethics contributes positivelyinto laying guidance to how law enforcement should be carried out.The code of ethics contributes to the image portrayed by the lawenforcers to shaping the profession a code of ethics is a purecontributor to developing mutual respect between the police and thepublic, and finally, a code of ethics helps the officers developself-respect (Hickman et al, 2016).

Finally,it is important to fund the police officers sufficiently in order tokeep them engaged in other activities other than corruption. When anofficer is being paid well, he/she becomes proud of his professionand becomes resistant to corruption. Most training must focus onreducing temptation and increasing fear of the consequences thatfollows when an officer is caught committing corruption. Managerialresponsibility is another way of preventing and reducing corruption.When the managers are accountable to their trainees, corruptionlevels might be low in the view that managers would be faced with thefear of handling corrupt deals that do not relate to them, and whichthey will take responsibility (Crowder &amp Turvey, 2013). Beingresponsible for someone else’s actions is logically hard and itcalls for a big deal of carefulness and alertness.

Everyarea of work has to have some policies to govern their employees’ethical practice. Developing some policies to be adhered to by policeofficers might help lower corruption levels. A counter corruptionpolicy helps the police to maintain certain decency in the eyes ofthe public as well as their superiors. A profound code of ethics alsoacts as a reminder for them to understand what is expected of them,and what they are barred from doing. The percentage of the contrabandincentive that police chiefs promise to those who arrest drugdealers, and plant drug evidence on those believed or suspected toknow whereabouts of drugs and dealers for the non-budgeted areas giveway to officers who are corrupt to bulge their pockets with money(Hickman et al, 2016). By withdrawing these incentives, the corruptofficers will see that there would be no gain for them in anyways.Such incentives could be useful in social benefits for activitieslike football for the idle youths, hospitals, non-governmentalorganizations or drug rehabilitation centers.

Tightsupervision at the workplace will instill fear, preventing anymisconduct at the workplace. In the same way, the police officersunder tight supervision would act fearful of being caught and sackedor face many harsh consequences, thus discouraging them from beingcorrupt. This way, the corrupt officers would act accordingly andwith time the greed, and their thirst for additional benefits willfade away if they realize that there is no much or nothing to lose.Publicizing corrupt areas and using force on those engaging incorrupt deals might help curb the menace. Public opinion is highlyregarded, therefore, the corrupt officers will fear the publicjudgment if their corrupt activities are made public. The citizens’involvement in preventing corruption will boost thecounter-corruption efforts. If a law abiding citizen happens toreport a corrupt activity, those who engage in such activities willfear the consequences of their unseen action if in any case theyhappen to be seen. Lastly, the development and implementation ofindependent and non-political oversight would serve as an ideal wayof reducing corruption in the police force (Jackson et al, 2014). Theapproach serves as one of the measures that are focused on reducingcorruption while not being under the influence of police. This would,however, include the police heads so as to understand the reasonsbehind corruption within the forces.

Effectof Police Corruption in the Public, Legal System and Criminal System

Corruptpolice officers often have the tendency to abuse the power given tothem to perform their duties by committing a crime in which they havetheir direct victims. They have access to crime scenes, unlockedbusinesses or even car parking areas and they take advantage to getaway with goods like cars, electronics or even cash when they aresupposed to be investigating. In a recent report, in Nigeria, it wasfound that the public do not believe that they can seek assistancefrom police since it is clear that they end up losing much more thanthey already lost to the thugs. Police officers can, at times, getinvolved with gangsters and rob people of their properties like cars,which in some cases result in murder (Jonck &amp Swanepoel, 2016).

Thepolice also target innocent people to extort money or favors fromthem. There are occasions where the police tamper with the evidenceor reports in questionable areas, and, at times, even plant evidenceto have someone freed if they happen to gain from it. This is toeither strengthen or making a case lighter to the favor of a commoninterest. Victimization also occurs when police agree with bigbusiness owners to act in their favor whenever trouble occurs inreturn for gifts of money or goods. In areas like pubs and casinos,some police might act as bouncers or gate officers to control thecustomers who appear to be violent. These customers are directlyvictimized since the officer will only be fair to the owner ratherthan delivering a fair settlement (Riccio et al, 2013).

Beinga direct police victim is just but unlucky for the defense offered bythe lawyers without any evidence will be impossible to lighten anycase. Police credibility is highly regarded despite his being lied ortelling the facts. Criminal justice is at stake since seeking justicein such situations is not only hard but also hardly possible. This ison much of a contributor to violations to criminal justice.Obstruction of justice by fostering impunity leads to what is secondary victimization (Shim et al, 2015). Assisting crime perpetrators toreceive lighter or no punishment altogether is a clear obstruction ofcriminal justice. It is possible for police officers to interferewith other jurisdictions as to help a crime perpetrator from facingthe law. Fostering impunity in these kinds, damages other policeofficers’ morale, in that they feel that their efforts have beenunderestimated (Stinson et al, 2013). Some will hate their work andfeel worthless given the evidence or strong argument they might haveready to prosecuting the criminal(s).

Somepolice officers mishandle 0or mismanage the resources at theirdisposal by favoring areas or businesses they get fair treatment. Itmostly happens when owners of businesses like pubs offer serviceslike free meals and drinks and in return have much protection fortheir customers. Generally, it affects other businesses in acommunity where they do not receive police services therefore theyare treated unfairly and they receive more threats from the freecrime perpetrators. It is evident that those who receive policeattention are those who are able to buy their services. Police alsouse their resources provided to offer protection to the most wantedcriminals like drug dealers (Lee et al, 2015). They offer escorts tothem by using their vehicles and uniforms and also selling policeregistered rifles, thus facilitating more harm to the society andtormenting the peace of the citizens of a particular community whomight have a strong urge to have some criminal(s) behind bars.

Publicpolice relation is a major aspect of the work of the officer toenforcing the law and order. If the public does not trust the policeservice, their work in that area would be worthless. It is clear thatunless a citizen files a complaint, a police cannot have any case toinvestigate. Bribing citizens for them to acquire what they want is acorrupt act that should be prosecuted. In cases like acquiring afirearm license, a pass through a weighbridge and other petty issuesreduces trust and triggers the honesty, integrity and fair judgmentoften carried by the citizens (Tankebe, 2011). Police trust isdecreasing also on the roads when they put the roadblock not to checkif the vehicle has all the credentials but to get the petty share fortheir greed. It is not often that people call the police forassistance more so during a robbery at night. In the Bowling forColumbine, Michadel Moore encounters a woman who confirms that policetend to very slow and before they arrive at the scene, the situationmight have worsened that’s why they prefer to own firearms toprotect themselves. A recent report also in Nigeria says thatcitizens do not trust the police anymore because they only seemefficient if they have a guarantee of a favor or payment (Agbiboa,2015).

Asthe English saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire. Thissaying applies to any culture of a community. If the police show thatthey can be `bought` therefore, an offender will always have his wayas long as he can afford to pay for any police service. New recruitswill always adapt this habit and the chain will always circulate.Mainly, the common citizen is the most affected as criminals continueto torment them and innocent defendants are unjustly prosecuted(Sundström, 2015).


Corruptionin the police sector is not new, as it has been part of policing aslong as we have had the police. The practice is pervasive as it isnext to impossible to get a police organization that is entirely freefrom corruption. From the research it can be said that corruptionwithin police units is not bounded by rank. However, it is clear thatevery definition adopted for what corruption is, and should entailboth process and financial corruption. The meaning of corruptionshould acknowledge the different means/forms/types of corruption aswell as motives of activities. On the other hand, it is hard toidentify and define the boundary between non-corrupt and corruptactivities. The bad apple theory can, however, not be sorely bedepended upon to explain the source of police corruption.

Itis clear that, different causative factors have been attributed topolice corruption, such as the explanation of ‘BadApple Theory’,as well as actors that are intrinsic to the police employees, thenature of organizations where police work, police culture, existenceof opportunities for corruption to exist as presented by politicalfactor and the task environment. (Väsquez, 2013). Despite the menaceof corruption being everywhere, some areas tend to be more prone tocorruption compared to others. Different measures have been adoptedto control the extent of police corruption, even though there aredifferent barriers towards successful control of corruption withinthe police units. The good news is that there is evidence that policeagencies can be reformed. Reforms to police units that are intendedto fight corruption ought to go beyond the immediate problem relatedto corruption, and address both political and organization itself.and should also be durable. Finally, keeping vigilance and beingskepticism is key to successful reform to the police service. It isevident that police officers have been driven by the corrupt actionsdue to low payment, poor working conditions, safety concerns of theirjobs and families. All these factors contribute to motivationalaspect behind their job, and in turn police forces equally requireboth intrinsic and extrinsic motivation aspects to keep them focusedon ethical work practices, and the aspect that would greatly reducethe extent of corruption in the police service.


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