Police Corruption and Methods of Overcoming It

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Adam Curtis once said, “Nobody trusts anyone in authority today. It is one of the main features of our age. Wherever you look, there are lying politicians, crooked bankers, corrupt police officers, cheating journalists and double-dealing media barons, sinister children’s entertainers, rotten and greedy energy companies, and out-of-control security services”. What is police corruption? According to Ivkovic, police corruption is a form of police misconduct or police deviance typically defined through the motivation to achieve personal gain. The question asked was: ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree, that high levels of police corruption are usually associated with low levels of police responsiveness to the public and ineffectiveness in detecting the crime?’. Therefore, my focus will be on to what extent do I personally agree that high levels of police corruption are usually associated with low levels of police responsiveness to the public, theories to substantiate my response and also, what can be done to prevent police corruption.

Jamaicans may say that the one thing preventing Jamaica from realizing its potential is corruption. Corruption is the least reported crime and the most talked about crime that is mainly conducted in secrecy by the persons involved. Corrupt activities are enjoyed by the persons who engage in it while, it undermines the society at large. Police corruption involves the misuse of authority for personal gain, any activity in which the police employee compromises their ability to enforce the law, and also the protection of illicit activities from police enforcement. According to Hon Robert Montague, “corruption in the police force remains a significant challenge, noting, however, that the vast majority of the members are law abiding patriotic Jamaicans who work diligently in the service of their fellow citizens”. He also stated that, “as we have seen time and time again, the actions of a corrupt few often cast a long shadow over the good works of the force”. E.R. Stoddard linked police corruption to a ladder however, there are four main types that stands out in the Jamaican society. These are favoritism, shopping, extortion and bribery. Favoritism is basically, granting immunity from traffic prosecutions to some group because of their status while, shopping is taking small items from unlocked buildings during rounds. A recent example of shopping in Jamaica was in St. Elizabeth where as a police officer was accused of stealing cash from a premises during a raid. Extortion is using undue influence to get money, gifts or favors for self or the department. Bribery however, is the payment of cash or gifts for past or future help to avoid prosecution.

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There are three main theories for police corruption. They are the rotten apple theory, the deviant subculture theory and the opportunity theory. The rotten apple theory states that the word rotten apple refers to weak individual’s whose presence corrupts everyone else. The rotten apple theory is dominant with officers because it blames the whole affair on one highly unethical person, hence a bad apple. The deviant subculture theory states that the police officers’ subculture is a deviant one and causes corruption. A police officer deals with violence and potential violence every day. Police work is not your average job; police work is shift work, which means they do not always have time for their family and friends. Police officers create a police subculture, whereas they can relate to each other, being police officers. The basis of the deviant subculture is that the police subculture itself causes corruption. The opportunity theory however, is based on the idea that police work in general, causes corruption. Police work is unsupervised. A police officer can seize alcohol or drugs from juveniles and not arrest them and not write a report but keep the seized items for himself/herself. Not only are police seizing alcohol and drugs, police also seize money from drugs. The opportunity theory best explains police corruption because officers are unsupervised with drugs, alcohol, and money each day of their job.

Preventing corruption completely is a difficult task at hand. However, steps can be taken to reduce it significantly. There are a few important ideas that can be implemented which will help to curb corruption. The three areas that need attention are officer training, personal characters, and the incentives program. The first step is to hire police officers of good character, which is difficult for a number of reasons. Officers are human. Giving a person the kind of power that a policeman has can overwhelm one. It is predictable what can happen, as history illustrates so well. What is unpredictable with any kind of reliability is what will happen to a given individual. That is the problem, because that is ideal information to know. It is predictable that some officers will be corrupt. It is also predictable that a large majority will do the job they were hired to do, and do it honestly. Stricter screening methods need to be implemented to decrease the chance that a potential hire will become corrupt. If he can successfully complete all the integrity obstacles, then it becomes more likely that he will be honest. Unfortunately, because policemen are human, no department has been successful in creating test that will reliably predict officer conduct. However, the department can reinforce ethical behavior by example, just like it can reinforce the idea that the Academy does not know what it is like on the streets. Once an officer is hired, the department should do all it can to promote ethics on the job. Officer safety is extremely important. If police are incapacitated, who will be left to protect the citizenry in the future? Along with such indoctrination, ethical indoctrination is paramount. The department must understand that the citizens trust the police to be ethical, and a breach of that trust is unjust. Further, it is not practical to act unethically. People eye the police and their behavior constantly. Corruption in the force makes it easier for a citizen to rationalize acting unlawfully, which just creates more work for the police. If a police officer, who is allegedly the pillar of the law, can deny it, why cannot the citizens who pay for the police services? The credibility of the police vanishes. A corrupt police officer cannot very well express effectively why citizens should obey the law, for he has no consistency and thus no credibility.

The situation of police corruption, specifically policemen planting evidence, stealing contraband for their own personal accounts, and falsifying police reports, is tremendous. I have outlined a few methods to curb the problem and firmly believe if these five officers had been trained differently in the Academy and the field, screened more strictly, undergone ethics indoctrination, and were not faced with the incentive program the likelihood of them facing the situation they did, decreases tremendously. Since corruption of this kind has existed in the police force since ad infinitum, it is conceivable that some or all of these methods have been attempted in some capacity. Another answer, but one that I cannot construct, might be to change the entire ideology and system of policing and punishment. That, I leave to prosperity.


  1. Curtis, A. (n.d.). Police Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/police-quotes
  2. Ivković, S. K. (1970, January 1). Police Corruption. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-1-4614-5690-2_362
  3. Linton, L. (2018, January 25). Scheme to Get Rid of Corrupt Cops. Retrieved from https://jis.gov.jm/scheme-get-rid-corrupt-cops
  4. Matthews, K. (2019, July 6). Cop, Accused of Stealing $95,000 During Raid, Arrested. Retrieved from http://www.loopjamaica.com/content/cop-accused-stealing-95000-during-raid-arrested
  5. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.megaessays.com/viewpaper/19129.html
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Police Corruption and Methods of Overcoming It. (2023, January 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/police-corruption-and-methods-of-overcoming-it/
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