Police Misconduct and Corruption
INTRODUCTION For as long as policing has existed in America, there has been misconduct and corruption associated with any given policing agency. Police officer malfeasance can range from minor cases of misconduct to the downright criminal acts that are considered to be corruption. It is important to state here that not all police officers are guilty of misconduct and/or corruption, but like everything in our media-based society, the “bad” cops are of much more interest and therefore are what this paper will focus on.
Merriam-Webster online (2005) defines misconduct as “1: mismanagement especially of governmental or military responsibilities; 2: intentional wrongdoing; specifically: deliberate violation of a law or standard especially by a government official: Malfeasance; or 3: improper behavior.” Corruption, as defined by Merriam-Webster online (2005), is “1 a: impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle: Depravity; b: Decay, Decomposition; c: inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (as bribery) d: a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct; or 2: an agency or influence that corrupts.” Police corruption encompasses police misconduct. While police misconduct is usually easily identified, police corruption is a gray area because people disagree on what is classified as corruption. This paper will discuss the different types of police misconduct and police corruption. It will also theorize about why police misconduct and corruption occur and the different ways to stop them.
TYPES OF MISCONDUCT AND CORRUPTION There are two types of corruption that most police malfeasances fall under: grass-eating and meat-eating. Defined by the Knapp Commission in the early 1970s, grass-eating is misconduct that occasionally occurs in normal every day scope of police work. (Schmalleger, 2005). Meat-eating is when police officers actively seek out illicit ways to make money, usually through bribes, threats, or intimidation (Schmalleger, 2005).
Grass-eating is usually viewed as...