Police Corruption Essay

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Police corruption is a form of police misconduct and involves the abuse and misuse of constitutional authority for personal gain. It involves the breaking of the sworn vows of service as well as the rules and regulations that govern their acts. There are various forms of police corruption and their effects translate to all factions that the law enforcement group represents. According to statistics, it is stated that there are at least ten percent of corrupt police officers in every precinct. There are various forms of police corruption but they are all usually classified under three main categories, namely flouting of the law, soliciting and accepting bribes, and selective enforcement. Examples of different forms of corruption are theft, bribery, fixing, perjury, extortion, frame-up, internal payoffs, etc. These classifications are done through an evaluation of the following aspects, motivation for corruption, level of aggression, consequences, and the regularity of payments among others. Numerous reasons cause this corruption ranging from psychological to sociological but through different government agencies, there are remedies on how to effectively combat it. The following essay is an evaluation of police corruption, its different forms, causes, effects, and possible remedies.

There are three main groupings of police corruption but the most common one is soliciting and the acceptance of bribes, usually monetary. In this category, there are four primary examples, specifically bribery, extortion, shakedowns, and internal payoffs. When in the line of duty, law enforcers, are faced with many challenges, and with this knowledge, the public, as well as the officers, exploits the situation to acquire valuable things such as money, tickets, minerals, and meals, among others. when an individual offers a law enforcer money to influence them into taking or not taking a certain action, it is referred to as bribery. Internal payoffs refer to situations when police officers, offer to sell or buy certain privileges and prerequisites within the law enforcement organizations, for example, holidays and shifts. These two examples are mostly transactional as opposed to extortion and shakedowns where threats and occasional violence are characteristic. Extortion is the use of threats and violence by a police officer to acquire personal gains. Shakedowns, on the other hand, are the frequent threatening of citizens or offenders through possible arrests or vital information for valuables(Sherman, 1974). An example of this form of corruption is when a New York high-ranking police official was arrested in 2016 after receiving free flights, expensive meals, and prostitutes in exchange for certain favors such as a private police force to local wealthy businessmen.

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Flouting of the law and police code of conduct is the second category of police corruption, which happens when law enforcers act with sheer disregard for the law and other regulations. This is especially done to secure confessions or convictions but it is sometimes done for mere personal gain. There are various examples in this grouping, that is, theft, burglary, frame-up, perjury, and direct criminal activity. Whistleblowers within the police department such as Frank Serpico testified that corrupt officers could frisk their victims, dead or alive, or the crime scene for valuables and steal them. It also includes the stealing of pieces of evidence from the precinct. In certain situations, police officers could be actively involved in criminal activities through the help of criminals or their partners for example selling of narcotic drugs, or robbery with violence, among others. The frame-up is the addition of false evidence to effect an arrest. Perjury, which is the issue of false testimony under oath, is mostly done by corrupt officers to protect their partners and themselves as well as convict criminals (Caldero, 2014). The perfect manifestation of these two forms of corruption is when Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, a detective with the Baltimore Police Department, robbed Andre Crowder in his house, planted a gun, and arrested him.

Selective enforcement is the partiality that police officers exercise when executing their daily activities. There are many forms of selective enforcement; fixing, corruption of authority, ticket fixing, etc, and they affect all levels of the police department. Internal affairs officials indicate that complicity in high-ranking officials is also a form of discriminatory enforcement. When on duty, police officers are usually awarded free items by the citizens who appreciate their role in society, however, this kind gesture is double-sided as it might be susceptible to exploitation, by both parties, thus becoming a form of bribery. Therefore, the regulatory organization’s ambivalence eventually leads to the discouragement of the acceptance of these gifts by naming them as the corruption of authority (Klockars, Ivkovic, & Haberfeld, 2003). Unethical police officers have been known to skip court hearings and withhold crucial pieces of evidence to sway prosecutions in a particular direction. These snide actions, which are done as favors or bribes, undermine the power of the courts and can have adverse effects. Additionally, ticket fixing, which is ticket withdrawing, is performed as a favor to family members or other officers’ relatives. It can also be used as a form of a bribe if there is an exchange of valuable goods. Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, who were commonly known as the mob cops are the excellent definitions of various forms of corruption, but especially selective enforcement. Louis Eppolito was the son of a member of the Gambino family, a highly organized criminal group. He was suspected and investigated for sharing crucial information with Rosario Gambino, capo Nino Gaggi, and Paul Castellano, who were high-ranking members of the mafia. However, he was cleared having cited that he was discriminated against due to family background.

The rampart scandal of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) remains the primary example of police corruption as the internal affairs unit’s investigation revealed that almost the whole department was corrupt. The department’s chief, Daryl Gates, formed an anti-gang taskforce called CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums) to fight the rising number of violent crimes that were mainly perpetrated by local gangs. To efficiently gather information the officers selected were to interact closely with the gang members, therefore, they did not wear their uniform or carry a radio. The officers from the LAPD Rampart Division adopted the gang culture; lingo, tattoos, dress, and manners, to reduce suspicion. However, after a while, they succumbed to it and ended up creating their fiefdom. CRASH members started certain police misconduct for example planting and covering up evidence, unprovoked beatings, and shootings, robbery with violence, perjury, theft, selling and distributing narcotic drugs, etc. However, their involvement with criminal activities significantly reduced crime in the region as they would arrest or silence the rival gangs and any opposing force. The task force corrupted its senior officials and supervisors which led to the transfer of good police officers away from the department and the subsequent transfer of corrupt ones. Nevertheless, through the 1999 investigation by the internal affairs police unit, the department was found culpable of many crimes as one CRASH officer, Rafael Perez, provided pieces of evidence in exchange for a reduced time. Through the plea deal, the officer enabled the arrest of over seventy law enforcers through essential information and evidence. The Rampart scandal resulted in over a hundred civil lawsuits which led to a hundred million dollars worth of settlements, the uncovering of corruption in other departments, and the overturning of almost a hundred cases (Ivković, 2018).

Using the Rampart scandal as a case study, there are many lessons, causes, forms, ramifications, and remedies for corruption, that can be learned from the department. Psychologists have indicated that one of the leading causes of police corruption is the psychological state of the perpetrators. In a recent study, researchers identified that the earlier life of the individual, his personality as well as other external factors can significantly contribute to the moral corruption of an officer. People with a rough background, destitute or abusive family, might exploit their positions of power as a way of dealing with their past. After careful analysis of Frank Serpico’s testimony, the Knapp Commission identified that there are two types of corrupt officers; meat eaters and grass eaters. The meat eaters were referred to as aggressive individuals while their counterparts, grass eaters, were the complicit officers who indulged in the spoils. This distinction was further indicated as being heavily related to people’s personalities. There are cases where officers use unethical means for the greater good, for example, to facilitate the conviction and arrest of an elusive criminal. This type of police misconduct is referred to as noble cause corruption. However, there are numerous disadvantages of this method as evident in the Luna v. Massachusetts case, where an illegal search warrant led to the killing of an officer and the consequent dismissal of the cases, as well as the murder (Roebuck & Barker, 1974). Poor management and supervisory duties by the senior police officials also encourage the corruption of their subordinates as witnessed in the CRASH scandal. Lack of proper reviews together with unsupervised officers provide the necessary environment for the corruption of officers. Low wages in the organization prompt financially strained officers to carry out illegal practices to effectively care for their families. Also, close interaction with criminals as well as handling of illegal products can tempt even a law-abiding officer, especially when they need to prove that they are not spies.

Police corruption affects all factions of the community, legal, social, economic, and political. The obstruction of justice by its law enforcers creates a system that undermines the rule of law. Therefore, these unethical officers encourage the community to do injustice, through different forms of corruption as wrong people are falsely arrested while the evil and immoral walk free. These cause an increase in the evils in the society as even the law-abiding citizens start disregarding the law. When the criminals are the people sworn to protect the community, the citizens are left helpless thus creating an environment of fear and terror. The fear, consequently, encourages offenders to exploit the situation leading to the further spread of crime. Since whistleblowers and activists on police misconduct are executed mercilessly people do not know who to trust and they might report any injustice or crime and end up being a target. The unethical actions also damage the organization’s image to the public leading to reduced credibility. Since the police and the judiciary work hand in hand, a tarnished image has adverse effects on the community they represent as the masses lose trust in them.

Various research indicates the numerous ways, society can use to combat police corruption in the nation. However, all require the coordinated effort of all people, policing organizations, the judicial system, as well as internal affairs. Controlling police corruption should start with the thorough screening of its recruits to eliminate any people with signs of psychological complexes such as inferiority syndrome. the police should also encourage routine overall health checkups to identify and treat any psychological issues. Each precinct should encourage a regular review and evaluation of its staff, which will ensure employees are on their best behavior. A supervisory committee can also assist greatly in encouraging honesty and accountability. The federal government should also set rational pay for the police force to reduce the need and temptation for economic corruption(Ivković, 2018). The code of silence that is usually practiced by members of disciplined forces should be discouraged as it creates an environment that can be exploited by cunning and immoral officers. Technological advancement, for example, body-worn cameras, dashboard cameras, and microphones, in police organizations, should also be highly encouraged as they provide crucial pieces of evidence on the actions of an officer during trials.

Police corruption by definition is the misuse of police authority for personal gain. Police corruption, which is a form of police misconduct, has various forms for example theft, bribery, fixing, perjury, extortion, frame-up, and internal payoffs, among others. These many forms are divided into three primary groups; flouting of the law, discriminatory enforcement, and soliciting and acceptance of bribes, using various criteria. Some of the standards used are the motivation for corruption, consequences, the regularity of payments as well as the level of aggression. In soliciting and accepting bribes, there are internal payoffs, bribery, extortion, and shakedowns as forms of corruption. Flouting is the utter disregard for the law and other governing regulations within the police organizations. Its various forms of corruption are perjury, theft and burglary, direct involvement in a crime as well as a frame-up. In selective enforcement, the corrupt officers provide favors to family and friends irrespective of their crimes. It has three forms, which are fixing, corruption of authority, and ticket fixing. Many reasons prompt a law enforcer to break the law and go against their sworn vows for example, the psychological state of the officer, the sociological structure of the society, the individual’s principles on morality, proximity, and close interaction with illegal products, and criminals, poor evaluation techniques as well as lack of supervisory organizations. The effects of corruption ripple across all sections of society, citizens, judiciary, politics as well and economics. It not only tarnishes the image of the power structures but also creates a conducive environment for crime to thrive. The obstruction of justice also disregards the law and creates fear in the citizens. Various tactics can be used to curb police corruption, for example, the set-up of proper supervisory committees, provision of better facilities and equipment, better wages, routine mental health checkups as well as reduced contact with questionable characters and illegal products.


    1. Roebuck, J. B., & Barker, T. (1974). A Typology of Police Corruption. Social Problems Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 423-437.
    2. Caldero, M. A. (2014). Police ethics: The corruption of noble cause. Routledge.
    3. Ivković, S. K. (2018). Police Corruption. Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 42-53.
    4. Klockars, C. B., Ivkovic, S. K., & Haberfeld, M. R. (2003). The contours of police integrity. Sage publications.
    5. Sherman, L. W. (1974). Police corruption: A sociological perspective. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press.   


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