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The Seven Five

Posted on Aug 2017


            The film ‘The Seven Five’ was produced in 2014 as a documentary by Tiller Russell, and it is a film that looks at the issue of corruption in police force, especially within the New York Police Department in the 1980s. This paper makes use of two characters Ken Eurell and Dowd and four theories namely social disorganization theory, strain theory, rational choice theory and self-control theory.

Characters Analysis using Criminal Behavior Theories

            The documentary helps to understand how corrupt officers work with various gangs and criminals in terrorizing the members of the public or in facilitating illegal trade, such as drug trafficking in exchange for cash. The film brings a clear picture of how corruption is a major hindrance in the fight against crime in the police force. In this documentary, there are two major characters involved in various forms of crimes. They are Ken Eurell and Dowd. The two are police officers who instead of fighting crime they work with drug cartels in facilitating their business. In return, they get a huge amount of money for protecting the drug gangs, where they are supposed to inform them of impending police raids in their area of business. The criminal behaviors of these two characters can be explained using structural as well as individually focused theories of criminology.

            Dowd using Social Disorganization Theory: When it comes to the case of Dowd, one of the structural theories that can be used to explain his criminal behavior is social disorganization theory. According to Schmalleger (2011), social disorganization theory argues that people engage in criminal behaviors because of the nature of neighborhood they live in, whereby, one is more likely to engage in crime if there are high levels of crime in the place of residence. Therefore, Dowd behavior can be explained from this perspective, whereby, he end up engaging in corrupt behaviors because of working in a neighborhood with corrupt drug gangs who are ready to give big money to get police protection.

            Dowd using the self-control theory: The theory argues that persons engage in crime because of lack of self-control in life (Carver and Scheier, 2012). Thus, using self-control theory Dowd criminal behaviors can be explained by a lack of self-control. As police officers, he interacts with people who have a lot of money and get tempted to take the money to protect them instead of arresting them. He fails to overcome the temptation ending up engaging in corrupt practices as a police officer. The temptation might have risen due to working in a disorganized environment. Dowd ends up getting into the crime of taking bribes from drug gangs after failing to control temptation from the drug cartels as the environment he works in is full of drug lords willing to pay any amount of money for his silence and protection.

            Ken using Strain Theory: According to Lanier, Henry, and Anastasia (2014), strain theory argues that society usually makes individual take part in crime as it exerts pressure on persons to attain goals that are socially accepted. However, they do not have the means opting to engage in crime to meet them. Given that Ken is a police officer who wants to live a comfortable and fruitful life, he has to engage in corrupt behavior as the salary he receives is not adequate to enable him to achieve his social goals. Ken as a police officer also has a family and wants the family to live a comfortable life in the future, but, the salary received from the police force is not adequate to meet these needs. Hence, he is forced to take bribes from drug gangs so as to attain some of the socially acceptable goals, such as providing a comfortable life for his family. The society puts a lot of pressure on him to be successful but does not provide sufficient means required, such as financial resources to do so.

            Ken using Rational Choice Theory: On the other hand, the individually focused theories that can be used to describe the criminal behaviors of Ken would be a rational choice theory. According to Boudon (2009), the rational choice theory argues that individuals make informed choices of engaging in criminal behaviors after weighing benefits and risks of engaging in a certain act. Based on the rational choice theory, Ken engages in corrupt practices as police officers after weighing the benefits as well as the risks of his behaviors and realizing that the benefits outweigh the risks. He looks at the financial benefits they are to get from collaborating with drug gangs in New York and the risk of being arrested for being corrupt. He understands that he will have made a lot of money from taking bribes and stealing from people before he can be caught. Thus, he makes an informed choice of engaging in criminal behaviors.


 It is evident that the criminal behaviors of Ken and Dowd engage in criminal behaviors of being corrupt police officers due to the influence of environmental and individual factors. Some of the factors that influence their behaviors include social pressure, working in a corrupt environment and personal choices after weighing on cost and benefits of engaging in corrupt behaviors.  In conclusion, the criminal acts of Dowd and Ken are effectively understood from the structural and individual criminology theories perspective as explained in this paper.