This paper will look into the police corruption in the United States. Theorists such as Kidder and Delartte suggest that there are many reasons as to why a person becomes deviant. Whether it be external or internal influences, many people are faced with daily dilemmas, and never realize it until it is too late. With social media being easily accessible by millions, police have been placed in the public’s eye like never before. No one can deny that there is corruption in the policing of America. We must look into why and how a person becomes subject to negative influences by collogues or foes. Kidder (2009) explains the first step to resolution is recognition of the issue at hand. By finding reasons why officers become corrupt, we can further educate the departments and ourselves on how to prevent and help eliminate deviancy in policing.
“The development of policing in the United States closely followed the development of policing in England. In the early colonies policing took two forms. It was both informal and communal, which is referred to as the “Watch,” or private-for-profit policing, which is called “The Big Stick” (Potter,2013). Corruption has always been a part of humanity. Throughout our lives, we are often put in situations where we will have to make decisions that could potentially alter our lives. In today’s society, police deviance has become normalized by movies, music, and all forms of media. We as a collective, have adopted this false sense of security by saying “that’s sad, but at least it isn’t me”, and continuing our day without asking questions why it happened. Many people are becoming aware of the corruption through videos on the internet which has led them to seek justice. In order to seek justice, we must first look into the factors, which leads an upstanding citizen figure to become another tainted part of the system.
When we think of officers, we think of individuals who are morally and ethically fit. Men and women who possess traits such as character, strength, and honor. For some, their encounters with officers have not all been the best for dinner stories. When a person decides to become a peace officer, there are many tests that he or she must pass in order to be sworn in. These tests include psychological and physical tests which determine who is the best candidate at the time for hire. All these precautions are taken including an extensive background check, which serves as an insurance for the departments just in case there is an individual who becomes corrupt. These individuals are often labeled as the “Bad Apple” of the group just ensure the departments do not receive backlash from the community. “In terms of public trust for law enforcement, recent polls show that only 56 percent of people rated the police as having a high or very high ethical standard as compared with 84 percent for nurses” (Martin,2011). Police departments around the country are failing in investing back into the officers who are currently in the force. Besides having therapists who are available for officers, there are not many programs outside the state of Oregon that test or train officers on being ethically fit after being hired. According to a study conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, nearly 70% of departments surveyed did not offer ethics training beyond the academy (2011). After years of being on the police force, there are things that an officer will see and hear that will alter his or her perception of why they entered this profession. Using data from the DPSST Codes of Misconduct and The Effect of Sanctions on Police Conduct, we will discuss the reasons why police become deviant, whether they will repeat offend, the accountability of police, and what solutions there are that can be used to repair our system.
“Every year, departments across the country spend millions of dollars on tactical training for officers but fail to train these men and women on ethics” (Costanzo, 2018). According to Kidder (2003), to be ethically fit means that you have and continue to train yourself every day to make the right decisions. As a department, it is impossible to expect an officer to display the same integrity in ten years, as he or she did the first day out of the academy without training. When we take a look at violations of D.P.S.S.T. Codes of Misconduct, we can see the factors that play into leading these officers into a path of corruption. Throughout the fifteen volumes analyzed, there were fifty-four cases that contained multiple reasons for investigations and or immediate relieve of duty. Some of these officers had multiple violations before they were reprimanded. Data were collected in order to represent all positions in the law enforcement from hierarchy to years on the force and were categorized by key factors. These factors will include the officer’s gender, untruthfulness during the investigations, misconduct, intoxication on the job, and types of certifications revoked. These violations reported cover many different departments over years. We can use this data to get a better understanding of the deviance in the policing of Oregon and what options there are to either reprimand the officers or to further educate them in areas needed.
Throughout policing in America, there have been officers who have broken the law multiple times and yet have not been reprimanded for their actions. Despite having access to social media and easily accessible camera phones, citizens are still in a battle with a corrupted system. For many of those who now are becoming more aware of the injustices, it is getting more difficult for officials to simply “sweep it under the rug”. Many states have placed faith in their own agencies to conduct internal investigations when an officer is being reported for something. Although we are led to believe that Internal Affairs are the good guys, some of us are staring right through the smoke and mirrors.
“There are several prominent examples of police organizations that have failed to maintain officer discipline, and where subsequent investigations revealed that the disciplinary systems of these agencies were weak or nonexistent in a variety of respects, ranging from failures to properly investigate complaints, to failures to actually sanction officers found guilty of misconduct” (Harris and Worden,2012, pg.1259).
Because of this, the disconnect between officer and citizen is becoming greater, due to the lack of justice served. The agencies that are in place to serve as a deterrent, have time after time, let down the public. Throughout the country, most police disciplinary systems are based on deterrence. In a study using retrospective and longitudinal data from a large police department in the northeast, Harris, and Worden (2012) tested whether harsher punishments on deviant officers, would lessen the likelihood of more officers becoming deviant. The study also looks into both the timing and likelihood of an officer receiving a complaint after having a complaint in the past and if the severity of punishment plays a role in reoccurring of complaints. “Under deterrence theory, an increase in the certainty, celerity, and severity of potential punishment increases the perceived costliness of a contemplated behavior and can thereby discourage it” (Harris and Worden,2012). While swift, certain, and severity may all seem like perfect deterrents, studies will show that Labeling someone could lead to further deviance.
Harsh punishments, in theory, should deter officers from continuing deviant behavior. Although these officers are often depicted as those whom can do no harm, we must remember that these men and women are human just like the rest of us. Where departments are falling short, is holding themselves accountable for the actions taken by their officers in the line of duty. During the past ten years, more and more officers have been put in the public light for being deviant behavior. There are officers around the country who are being fired for deviant behavior without criminal charges, only to be hired on days or weeks later by another department. “Fired but fit for duty” is a term being used by the Oregonian (2017) to describe how the state is handling its corrupt policing problem. With over 10,000 police officers, corrections officers, dispatchers and parole and probation officers in the state, there are only two investigators to oversee all documents and reports.
Although state law requires department officials to issue a report after an investigation, the reports they write for administrative closures tend to offer few details. A handwritten explanation on one reads, in its entirety, “Performance issues only.” Because the department wanted thousands of dollars to provide case files underlying these cryptic conclusions, the newsroom focused its records requests on 40 officers who stayed certified after being fired. State law says the department must decertify anyone fired for cause. Yet the department interprets “for cause” so narrowly that 57 percent of fired officers stayed eligible to carry a gun and a badge elsewhere in Oregon (TheOregonian,2017).
A case that stands out, is of former Eugene Officer, Charles Caruso, who was fired after he was recorded beating a handcuffed DUI suspect he had brought to the jail. Not only did Officer Caruso not see any criminal charges, they did not decertify him for his conduct. Caruso now works as a sheriff’s deputy in Contra Costa County CA after displaying an example of what an officer should never do.
When a cadet graduates from the academy and is hired on to a department, he or she will make a decision that will change their life. To either protect and serve or to just get a paycheck. For most, going into law enforcement is an honor. An honor that is held to the highest degree and is not disrespected in any fashion. But, for the “Bad Apples” out there, the badge gives them a sense of empowerment that was not obtained before.
Like other terms that are used to describe behaviors or actions of law enforcement, deviance is one term that has been becoming more popular in this age of technology. While police and citizens may have their own interpretation of what the word entails, in sociology, deviance describes an action or a behavior that violates social norms, including a formally enacted rule, as well as informal violations of social norms (Wikipedia,2018)