Hundreds of cases related to police brutality, corruption, and abuse, are reported every day. Most of the perpetrators walk scot free around the streets, and nobody bothers to ask them since the law protects them. They also have the power to manipulate evidence put forward against them if it is not sufficient. Those caught in the process also have a way of getting around the laws. For example, in 2014 a Milwaukee police detective was charged with a misconduct of lying to the FBI agent. As the law dictates, this is a crime that leads to investigations which in turn leading to charges against the individual if found guilty. The detective was on paid leave for the few months he was being investigated therefore being paid for months that he has not worked. The element of the case that triggers a lot of interest is that the detective applied for duty disability retirement. In his defense, the inspector argued that being investigated arrested, and being strip-searched left him incapable of being an officer anymore (Diedrich & Barton, 2014).
The detective alleged that the whole process left him entirely disable through physical injuries, psychological tremor resulting from the investigation procedures. The detective was allegedly protecting drug dealers when in his duties. Lying to an FBI agent could lead to a $250,000 fine and a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment (Diedrich & Barton, 2014). However, with the application filled, the officer will continue being paid by the government even though he loses his badge and his part in the police force. The loophole created by the law could serve as an escape route for many officers if they are good at fabricating information. A police officer or anyone in the same capacity could be able to get away with anything. This paper will try to look at some of the misconducts police officers are involved in including corruption and make recommendations on how these issues may be dealt with as they affected the citizens in the day to day life.
The police force plays a critical role in any society whether it is governed by democracy or any other form of ruling. The officers are responsible for keeping security in the country, enforcing laws, maintaining order and channeling any claims of injustice to the right people to handle the cases. Therefore, maintaining trust and confidence to the public is of fundamental importance as when tarnished it may be hard to regain. However, the police system of America leaves a lot of loopholes to be exploited by police officials who either abuse the authority that is handed to them by the law or deviate from the ethical and moral standards set by the law. The misconduct involves corruption, favoritism, physical assaults and abuse from a police officer’s capacity. The misconducts, therefore, put the police force at jeopardy and therefore the need to look at this loop holes for the safety and security of the citizens.
There exists an organization within the police force by the name Commission to Combat Police Corruption (CCPC). The work of the group is to investigate the conduct of police officers within the country where the results of the investigations help in making reforms within the force. In August 1998, the organization released a report on misconducts of police officers within the New York Police Department. The report indicated that most of the misconducts the officers were involved in took place during the times the officers were not on duty. More than 80% of the officers involved in crimes and wrongdoings were not on duty during the time of their arrest. Among the misconducts highlighted by the report was the misuse of the service weapons when off-duty (Stinson, Liederbach, & Freiburger, 2012). A large number of police officers rely on the gun to get what they want. When involved in an off-duty confrontation, when a police officer does not get what he or she wants, he/she may pull out the gun threatening his/her counterpart. The act is considered an offense as it is unconstitutional. The weapon is only supposed to be used while on duty. In a recent case, an officer for Philadelphia police department by the name Dorion Young was charged for using the gun during off-duty hours. Young is said to have pulled out the weapon to his 19 years old son. It is said that Young and his son were involved in an argument and in an attempt for Devine (the son) to get away from his father he was shot twice in the back using a 40 caliber pistol by his father. Young was charged with aggravated assault, attempted murder, simple assault, and possession of an instrument of crime among many other charges. In addition to this, he was given a thirty-day suspension which in those days he would not be paid (Patterson, 2016).
Intoxication is a factor that has led to several misconducts reported nationwide. The report by the CCPC affirmed this where they highlighted that police intoxication misconducts were roughly around one-third of the off-duty misconducts reported. Other researchers like the Mollen Commission and the Fyfe found the same that alcohol contributed a certain percentage to the misconducts. The malpractices reported by all the research were the intoxication and misuse of weapons when off-duty. In an incident in Baltimore, an off-duty police officer by the name Gahiji Tshamba left the bar at around 1.30Am where he was drinking. After Tshamba had left the bar, he saw a man touching a woman inappropriately and confronted him. The confrontation led to an eruption of a heated argument between Tshamba and the man. Tshamba eventually drew his department-issued semiautomatic Glock Handgun and shot his counterpart 13 times. 12 of the gunshot killed the unarmed Iraq war veteran leading to Tshamba being charged with murder (Nuckols, 2016). If the officer had not been intoxicated, there would be a higher probability that the events leading to the shooting could not have happened. Intoxication leads to an impaired judgment which may result in police officers drawing their guns in a small bar fight.
The other misconduct seen with off-duty officers is drunk driving. A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2011 indicated that over 10,000 people die every year due to alcohol-impaired accidents. The report also concluded that among those causing the accidents, 80% of them are binge drinkers, therefore, getting involved in dangerous and reckless driving. The report also indicated that there are over 147 million episodes of impaired drinking among the adults and within this number a share of it is by police officers themselves especially the ones who are off-duty (Stinson, Liederbach, Brewer, & Todak, 2013).
Various scandals have erupted when police officers commit felony due to the influence of alcohol. One scandal that remained in the news tabloids for a very long time was that of a cop by the name Joseph Gray. The incident happened on 4th of August in 2001 when Gray went to drink mid-morning in a parking lot of the 72nd Precinct in Brooklyn. He was accompanied by two other police officers named John Welsh and Edward Sills. The former police officer later went to a strip club which is off limit for police officers. Later on, he decided to go back to the precinct to get some rest before his night shift started. It is during the trip back to the precinct that the accident happened. The police officer ran into a pregnant 23-year-old lady, her 4year old son and her 16-year-old sister with his minivan that instantly killed the three. The infant died 13 hours later in the hospital. The other two police officers were dismissed from their duties while Gary resigned two weeks after the accident. He was charged with second-degree manslaughter to serve a fifteen years sentence. Gray was however released in April 2012 by merit where he had shown improvement in anger management among many other achievements (Donnelly, 2012).
Other scandals that involved a drunken police officer driving include one where a police lieutenant was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol three times in a seven-month time span. He was however not charged in any of these incidents. The lieutenant was however convicted on a DUI charge in an incident that happened three months later. Another scandal involved an officer who joined a high-speed pursuit and ran into three motorcyclists who had stopped at the red lights. He was charged with reckless homicide, but the charges were however dropped. Another case involved a police commander who had crashed into another vehicle and left the scene. With the help of other officers, they staged a phony accident that would cover up for the crush. In his speech, the police commander sounded drunk when giving his speech and had wet his pants during the crash (Stinson, Liederbach, Brewer, & Todak, 2013). Most Cases just like the one discussed above, end up being covered up especially if they involved a high ranking individual in the police force. Therefore the victims end up not getting the justice they deserve.
The police officers when on duty exercise more liberty as compared to when they are not on duty. Most of the offenses they commit are all covered up during their time at work. There are some misconduct that the police officers get involved in among them is sexual assaults and abuse. Several cases are reported of police officers sexually assaulting civilians or even fellow police officers of the opposite gender. One of the many cases was that of police officer Daniel Holtzclaw. The police work on night shifts from 4 PM to 2 AM the following day. During his hours he patrolled around the northeastern side of the Oklahoma City where he encountered some women during the working hours. The police officer is said to have assaulted more than seven women between a within a period of four months while on duty. To make the situation even worse, he is said to have demanded oral sex from a fifty-seven years old lady when he pulled her over. Report from the chief of police Bill Citty indicated that Holtzclaw victimized women from the black community to offer sexual favor and threatened to arrest them if they failed to honor his demands (Carpenter, 2014).
According to various researchers in this field, it is hard to tell how big the problem of sexual assault and abuse is. The victims of this kind of mistreatment from police officers find it hard to report because they fear intimidation. The code of secrecy between police officers is very tight as they view themselves one against a common enemy which is the external forces like the public. Therefore, if a police officer is reported, the issue might end up being covered up by the entire precinct as an attack on one officer may be viewed as an attack to the whole precinct (Lofca, 2002). In 2010, 9% of the police misconduct cases reported involved sexual harassment. The number makes this the second from excessive use of force by the police officers. According to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sexual assaults by the police officers are higher as compared to those perpetrated by the civilians. It is believed that the largest number of police caught sexually assaulting people is repeat offenders like Daniel Holtzclaw. According to Philip M. Stinson a lecturer at the Bowling Green State University, victims of police officers offenders never come forth until the perpetrator is caught and publicized as they fear intimidation by the police officers. For the Holtzclaw case, several of his victims were traced by investigators tracing his contacts with the general public in police patrol (Carpenter, 2014).
The other misconduct the police officers get themselves into is the use of excessive force with the civilians or brutality towards individual people. The issue of brutality has been in our country for a very long but people have not been aware of this. It is only after the new technology like social media that being aware that brutality from the police officers exists. The use of force among the police officers is influenced by a wide range of factors which include, age, gender, social class, race, and intoxication. The male police officers may most likely favor women suspect as compared to men who they might be overly brutal. The officers also tend to be brutal with young people as compared to the older generation. In recent year, some studies have shown that non-white citizens in the country are more likely to be subjected to brutal treatment by the police officers. The case of racism has most especially been seen in the black community where racism has been reported to be the base of brutal treatment. The black people are roughed up by the police officers worse than the other races in the country. Most of these incidences erupt as a result of a resisting arrest. Individuals from a high ranking society are more likely to be treated respectfully as compared to those in the lowers ranking wealth wise (Klahm IV & Tillyer, 2010). Brutally has increased in the recent years making it the first in the list of misconducts police officers are involved.
An example of a case of brutality discussed by scholars is that of Rodney King. On March 3, 1991, Rodney King was drinking with his two friends after which they decided to take a trip driving down to the 210 freeway. Due to intoxication, King was driving the car at a very high speed which resulted in the police officer pulling him over. King, however, did not hide to the command and continued driving further. The police officer called in and requested for assistance as he was in pursuit of a drive that was violating the police officer’s order. King continued speeding even with the red light an incident that almost led to an accident. King finally came to a halt at the gate of a recreational park by the name Hansen Dam Park. At that point, the police officers in pursuit ordered the occupant of the vehicle to get out and lay on the ground. All of them including King got out and did as they were told except for King who refused to lay on the group. The refusal led to an escalation of events as recorded by a video tape recorder of one of the observers of the events as they were unfolding. King was subjected to various forms of physical violence which left him with a few broken bones on the legs and bruises on the face. The brutally was intense such that from there he was taken by an ambulance to the hospital. After the release of the footage, the public took to the streets to protest against the police brutality (Davis, 1994). Things even got worse who the court ruling was in support of the police officers. Numerous brutality cases have risen in the past where the public have taken their grievances to the streets. Some of the cases to remember include the case of Michel Brown, Freddie Gray, Denis Volchkin, Deborah Danner just to mention a few. Most of the people mention above were victims of police brutality and which the police officers who were involved in their misfortune walked scot free due to the support of the law on their side. The victims of the injustices may never get their justice as some of the cases are closed very early in the investigation process.
Corruption is a vice that has eaten up each and every society; it does not matter whether the country is developed or not. In police force too, corruption exists among the rogue police officers who are not directed by ethical or moral codes of conduct but by the need for personal gain. Corruption results from too much discretion and authority given by the law to the police officer or any individual working at an official capacity of the government. The work environment of a police officer offers pressure to the police officer where they are in the middle of two extreme sides. The police officer is exposed to the bad side of the society where they have to deal with the problems affecting the society regarding security. In most cases, the police officers find themselves in compromising situation where they have to choose between crossing the border or choose integrity (United States Institute of Peace, 2012). For example, when raiding drug cartels, the drug dealers offer the officer a better deal if they turn a blind eye on the activities the cartel undertake. The deal may result in a financial gain of which due to the pay the officers receive working for the government may entertain. The cartel may also threaten the police officers if they continue digging up on their businesses. Police officers have been killed in the process, therefore in fear of ending up dead or their loved ones, the officers turn a blind eye on them. Some officers also get a lot more involved such that they help the cartel cover up their tracks. For an agent to turn corrupted this may be due to the police valuing money more that a person of integrity.
There should be a proper scrutiny of the candidates joining the force, o deal with issues with misconducts. Most of the requirements of the force in the current system are physical health and decent grades in school. The roots of these problems of misconducts are associated with the growing up environment where the morality of the candidates is overlooked. The police officers during their time of recruitment may not have significant issues with the authorities, but their problems would be buried inside them depending on the exposure they had when growing up. Some of the police officers come from backgrounds which may be disturbing. Therefore, their growing up was not usual, and they end up showing the effects when they are adults.
The principals of the candidates are also another element that should be put into consideration when recruiting them. Interviews are not enough proof that one is fit to join the force. There should be a series of tests where individuals are tested for their integrity and their ability to be resilient in the police force. As seen earlier, the duties of a police officer are difficult where they have to deal with ethical and moral issues. The police force should have some of these within their curriculum to be able to see the individuals who can be able to resist external forces. Physical resilience is not the only thing that should be trained and tested in the academy.
The police force should also have an oversite organization that monitors the activities of each and every officer’s conduct from time to time. The organization will enable the police officers to stay in line as they would not wish to lose their job. Additionally, the police operations should not only entail strengthened criminal investigations and improved techniques but also support accountability and transparency by the officers. The changes will ensure that every member of the force stays away from the harmful activities that tarnish the name of the force. The country will also be safer for everyone.
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