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Police corruption is a problem facing many global law enforcement systems. Most countries are faced with challenges of dealing with corrupt police women and men who undermine enforcement of the law. Police corruption involves acts of misconduct aimed at obtaining personal benefits, financial gain or advancement in careers which are performed in exchange for selectively pursuing or not pursuing an arrest or investigation (Peter 74). There are many forms of police corruption and one of the most common is acceptance of bribes in order to ignore arrest or investigation of certain criminal activities. In the US, this form of corruption is seen where organized crime such as prostitution or drug activities are concerned. Another common form of police corruption especially in the US is flouting conduct and procedures to gain conviction of a suspect. This may take the form of falsifying evidence which implicates a suspect. In rare cases, police participate in criminal activities.
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Most law enforcement agencies do not state statistics of police corruption due to fear of loss of public support for the force in fighting crime. However, it is acknowledged that police corruption is one of the greatest obstacles to fighting of crime. It is even harder to fight organized crimes since in many cases; police officers receive payment to protect the criminals. In countries such as Mexico, fighting drug use is a serious problem since most police officers are corrupt and protect the drug lords. This paper will evaluate poli8ce corruption, the forms it takes and appropriate recommendations which should be implemented in order to end the vice and ensure equal application of the law. The discussed issues will be summarized at the end.
Forms of police corruption
There are various forms of police corruption which are witnessed in the police force. These will be briefly discussed below;
This is a form of police corruption where officers engage in theft whenever they encounter an opportunity which facilitates the same. This is a major challenge facing the police force since it is difficult to prove opportunistic thefts by police officers in courts of law. An example of an opportunistic theft may occur when officers recover stolen property or money but intentionally undervalue it in order to keep some for themselves. Others may arrive at accident scenes or murder scenes and steal valuables from the injured or dead. In certain cases, police officers steal money or valuables from people they arrest. Such forms of corruption are difficult to prosecute since in most cases there are few if any witnesses who witness the crime (Roleff 16-18).
Protection of illegal activities
Protection of illegal activities is one of the greatest challenges facing established law enforcement agencies across the world. There are many police officers who are involved in protecting perpetrators of organized crime and in many cases, such officers have high authority. This makes it difficult for junior officers to arrest and prosecute such offenders (Jerome 8). Organized crimes such as sale of drugs, prostitution, human trafficking and gambling usually thrive due to protection from police officers. Usually officers are offered cash incentives or other benefits which compromise their principles. In yet other cases, police officers are either blackmailed or threatened with harm to their families or themselves in order to guarantee their protection of illegal activities. Such forms of police corruption are also difficult to prove in a court of law since organized criminals are usually intelligent and hide their activities very efficiently. Police officers who protect them also make prosecuting such criminals very difficult.
Corruption of authority
This is a form of corruption which involves the reception of free meals, drinks and gratitude from people the police are supposed to serve. This form of corruption may or may not be originally be intended to corrupt the police officer. Sometimes the public gives officers free gifts as a means of appreciation for services rendered. However, over time, this culture leads to corruption in the police force since officers feel obliged to serve people who reward them more efficiently than those who do not (Punch 53-58). Some corrupt individuals may also use such gifts as a means of blackmailing officers to perform specific services which may not be lawful. Many police departments have outlawed the reception of gifts of any form by police officers from the people they serve.
Direct criminal activities
There are cases where law enforcers including policemen directly commit crimes which they are supposed to prevent. Such police officers commit crimes while disguised as civilians and this makes it difficult for other law enforcers to arrest and prosecute them. Police officers have sophisticated training beyond that possessed by ordinary civilians and they are likely to leave little evidence when committing crimes which creates a challenge of prosecuting officers who engage in crime. Some officers have also been known to lend their weapons or uniforms to criminals who may commit crimes which masquerading as police officers. Other collaborate with criminals to commit crimes especially crimes involving stealing of large sums of money such as money escort services. Police officers who commit crimes are usually sacked fro the force and prosecuted as civilians. However, as was previously mentioned, their knowledge of handling weapons and gathering evidence makes tracking and prosecuting such officers difficult.
Sabotaging criminal cases
This is a serious form of police corruption which involves directly sabotaging evidence or court processes in order to ensure that a particular suspect is found not guilty and released. Some officers tamper with evidence gathered or intentionally do not follow rules of gathering evidence in order to ensure that suspects are released on a technicality. Other do not attend court sessions when summoned in order to ensure that there is inadequate evidence against a suspect. In extreme cases, officers have been known to aid the escape of suspects from custody. All these are serious offences since they undermine the justice system and prevent guilty people from being prosecuted for crimes committed.
Solutions for preventing corruption in the police force
There are various recommendations which may be useful in discouraging police officers from facilitating or engaging in criminal activities. These will be discussed below;
Legislation is one of the most effective deterrents to crime. Harsh fines and sentences usually deter criminals from engaging in criminal activities. This form of deterrence also applies to corrupt police officers. Heavy punishment and fines against police officers who are proved to be corrupt in court will act as deterrent to other officers who are considering engaging in criminal activities. Legislators should pass laws which encourage stiff sentences to officers who engage in corruption. Local police departments should also develop tough policies which discourage corruption against police officers. These policies should encourage the sacking of officers who are found to have engaged in corruption at any level. This will encourage officers to follow their code of conduct and observe equal application of the law to all.
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In many countries, police officers are underpaid and they are forced to work in dangerous conditions with little or no incentives. In fact, many officers are unable to cater for the basic needs of their families on their income alone and they are forced to supplement their income with income from other activities. This is one major factor which encourages police corruption. Many officers engage in corruption due to an inability to sustain their families with the income they earn (Tim 31-37). They are forced to engage in illegal activities in order to supplement income. Effective remuneration of officers including adequate allowances will reduce their motivation to engage in corruption and it is likely to reduce cases of police corruption significantly.
Sensitizing police and the public
Police and the public should be sensitized on the adverse effects of corruption in the police force as a long term solution to police corruption. This is the most effective solution to the problem of police corruption. The police should be informed that corruption goes against the oath they took and that it destroys the fabric of society. They should also be aware of the consequences of being caught practicing corruption. The public should also be made aware of the harm caused to society by collaborating with corrupt police. They should understand that corruption within the police force makes society unsafe and causes an upsurge in criminal activities (Prenzler & Ransley 78-83). Community policing should be encouraged and communication avenues given to the public to report corrupt police women and men.
Recording contact with public
Recording contact between officers and the public is very effective in reducing corruption. Many officers are unlikely to engage in corruption if they are aware that their actions are being recorded. This is an effective strategy which has worked well in the US where police cars have cameras which record contact between such officers and the public. However, it must be noted that this is not a very effective long term solution to corruption in the police force since police have devised other methods of practicing corruption away from the glare of the camera. It must also be noted that such recordings are usually effective when police officers are dealing with relatively minor offences such as traffic offenses.
Summary and conclusion
Police corruption has been seen to be a serious problem affecting society. Although there are few statistics on police corruption, the effects of police corruption are clear to all. Various types of police corruption have been discussed and these include opportunistic thefts, protection of illegal activities, corruption of authority, direct criminal activities and sabotaging criminal cases. These forms of corruption lead to an increase in crime and few prosecutions of criminals. Solutions to the problem of police corruption include legislation, effective remuneration, sensitizing police and the public and recording contact with public. Once these recommendations are implemented, cases of police corruption will drastically reduce.
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