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Misuse of Authority in Profession

3231 words (13 pages) Essay in Sociology

17/10/16 Sociology Reference this

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Misuse of Authority in Profession


Abuse of authority is a common practice all over the world and is one of the most common ethical concern Pakistan is facing. A qualitative survey was conducted on the internet for literature regarding abuse of authority in different department. Our area of main focus was to elaborate the potential factor, consequences and ways to prevent abuse of authority in police department, political system and workplace misconduct. All of us need to identify the abuse of power and our system needs to inspect the ways to eradicate misuse of power from society. To maintain integrity we should join our hands to remove the root cause of this evil.


Every profession has its own boundaries. Being cognizant of the authorities and power in any profession is necessary but in order to maintain ethical environment in the workplace, one must be aware of the ethical boundaries of his profession. Abuse of authority is one of the most common ethical dilemmas Pakistan is facing and this ethical issue is only aggravating like a contagious disease with every passing day. Using resources, connections, and coinage to get anything illegal done officially is a common practice in Pakistan. The misuse of authority is usually referred to as Corruption. Corruption as defined by McCarthy (1996) is the violation of rules for gaining personal benefits (Ross). Corruption in a broader sense includes misuse of authority, theft, on-duty misconduct, off-duty misconduct, and abuse of colleagues. Depending upon the extent of the threat, misuse of authority may be considered a crime. Patricia Cornwell very aptly put it in the following words, “I believe the root of all the evil is abuse of power.” (The Quotepedia, n.d.)

Corruption through the abuse of authority is a more common type of corruption and is prevalent in many fields including the likes of police department, welfare organizations, mental health institutions, and democratic systems i.e. whole governments. Corruption hinders the progress of a state by benefiting people at only the individual level and not contributing to the general good of the masses. Most of the people are oblivious to the meticulousness of this issue and are promoting it knowingly or unknowingly, regardless of the fact that it is destroying our foundations by weakening our principles that are unity, honesty, justice, and humanity. In a survey conducted in different countries across the globe, it was assessed that the abuse of authority by higher officers in government services and other public sector departments is based on three major factors: Favouritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism (Schulman). Favouritism is the act of favouring someone in lieu of some extraneous feature-membership in a favoured group, personal likes and dislikes, etc. and not because this particular someone is doing their job in the best possible way. Favouritism has always been a common complaint in government service. The second leading factor i.e. Cronyism is a more specific kind of favouritism, and is defined as favouring one’s personal friends and associates. As stated in an older saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know”. Favouritism is a broader form of Nepotism. It includes favouritism to members of one’s family. Both nepotism and the cronyism come in to action at work when candidates are recruited for a job. Eligible candidates are unable to make up to the job because of these factors. All this is the result of the higher officers misusing their authorities and causing a hindrance in the path of a country’s progress by recruiting ineligible candidates which leads towards the destruction of merit system and a downfall in the competence and efficiency of the department.

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Research strategy

A qualitative strategy was opted for the study that involved subjective judgment which cannot be quantized. Social scientists have used these practices because they have long accepted the shortcomings of narrowly-based quantitative methods for studying definite laws and regularities as a basis for valuable research. (Smircich, 1980)

Research design

An illustrative research design has been selected for this study. Illustrative researches build theories that predict natural and social events. (McNabb, 2010)

Data collection

Various articles (as cited) were comprehensively studied in order to find relevant literature concerning the abuse of authority in the Department of Police, bullying at workplace (which also includes workplace harassment), and the misuse of power in the political system.

Department of Police

Police misconduct is delineated as any inappropriate or illegal action taken by officers of the law which does not coincide with their official duties. Police misconduct has been a leading cause towards the elimination of justice and the obliteration of the writ of the state. The public relies on the state’s law-enforcement agencies for the use of power and authority to put law and order into effect in the society. The boundaries of lawful police authority are constrained; there is no argument over the fact that the police have a choice to decide on violence when needed but the ill use of this right is creating an incongruity in the society. The misuse of this authority by the police is prompting unjust behavior and is hurting the reputation of this well-regarded department. Extreme examples of abuse of authority by law enforcement officials involve rape, sexual abuse, false arrests, bribery, extortion, planting and presenting false evidence, police brutality, witness tampering, false imprisonment, off-duty misconduct, and opening fire on unarmed individuals. Police perjury refers to the deliberate untruthfulness of the officers under oath to cover up their corruption. According to a poll jointly conducted by Pew and USA Today in August 2014, it was evaluated that Americans of all races collectively “give comparatively low marks to police departments around the country for considering officers responsible for misconduct, using the appropriate amount of force, and treating racial groups equally”. [1] (John Wihbey, 2015) The reporting of this issue by witnesses with the help of modern technology has had an evident impact on the notability and the subsequent management of police misconduct by the higher authorities. Numerous cases are reported on this issue from all over the world every year. A recent example is the case which surfaced during the2010 G-20 Toronto summit protests, it was reported that the police enacted regulations which theOmbudsmanfound contributing to massive violations of civil rights. (“Toronto G20: Will Police be Held Accountable After Scathing Ombudsman’s Report, 22 january 2010). Past scandals in India includes murder (“Senior IPS officer gets life sentence in Shivani Bhatnagar murder”., 24 May 2008. Retrieved 5 June 2011.). Since its emergence on the globe, no significant steps have been taken in Pakistan to improve the performance of the police and other law-enforcing organizations. It is because of this situation that numerous cases of abuse of authority by the police are regularly observed in Pakistan. More often than not, politicians have been found to be personally involved in the official affairs of the Department of Police and using or sometimes even manipulating officers of the Police Department for their personal interests. This behaviour is giving rise to police misconduct and is causing the annihilation of the criminal justice system in the country. (Mukaram Ali Khan, 2014) A noticeable incident took place in 2014 when a serious case of police violence and professional misconduct by the police force was observed in Lahore in which 2 women were killed at the hand of the police and another 100 people were seriously injured. It is reported that this step was taken by the police to harass the workers of a political party protesting against the government. (Intikhab Hanif, 2014) (Aqil Shah, 2015) Another means of violence employed by the Department of Police in Pakistan is verbal abuse. Police officials are often reported to be harassing the public and are found guilty of inhumane treatment of the suspects in a case. Reports suggest that only a minority of American police officers believe that it is sometimes necessary to use more force than is legally permissible and despite having the knowledge of the ethical values of following boundaries, it is not possible for the Police Department to ignore the inappropriate demeanour of their officers.[2]. Sometimes, undignified behaviour on the part of citizens is also involved in police violence (Hall, 2001). To tackle this situation, educational programs, trainings and seminars are essential to prevent the misuse of authority by officers. It was revealed in a survey that 82.2 percent of the public hold the opinion that making ethical training compulsory in law enforcement training institutes can help in preventing the misuse of authority. (David, Rosann Greenspan, Edwin E. Hamilton, Kellie A. Bryant, & Hubert Williams, 2011) In order to decrease the prevalence of police misconduct, a person should not remain quiet and break the code of silence. 80 percent of the surveys conducted within the Police Departments reported that whistle blowing is important for the smooth running of the department and will help to reduce the corruption rate in police. (David Weisburd & Edwin E. Hamilton, 2000). The government should introduce a metropolitan system of police to take care of this issue. Independent complaint authority offices should be established in order to maintain integrity in the department. There should be a proper check and balance including an annual assessment of the financial assets of police officials and officers of the law should be accommodated appropriately in order to facilitate them so they can perform their jobs effectively. (Khosa, 2015)

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Bullying at workplace

Bullying at the workplace is a common example of the abuse of authority. Officers at higher ranks in many professions intimidate their subservient employees through several means which may include overstraining the juniors by imposing the seniors’ official duties or personal responsibilities on them and later taking the credit on completion of the job.

Such practices at the workplace are not even taken into account in our country, whereas other developed countries have somehow managed to prevent these complaints by employing departments which are specifically dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the workplace. Prevalent accounts of sexual harassment portray male supervisors harassing female subordinates. Working women in Pakistan are the frequent targets of sexual harassment. Bullying is a broader term and it includes several ethical concerns of the society. We studied various survey reports regarding this matter and following is the brief description of these surveys.

The objective of this study was to categorize the types, behaviours, sources and prevalence of workplace bullying among junior doctors in Pakistan. This study also encompassed the analysis of the barriers perceived in making formal complaints against bullying. It was seen that the individuals on higher posts abuse the authority entrusted to them by bullying the junior staff in a number of ways. A cross sectional survey of junior doctors was conducted by convenience sampling in 3 tertiary care hospitals in two provinces of Pakistan. Bullying activities experienced by junior doctors in the 12 months preceding this study were collected using a previous analysis of 20 such reports. The resulting data was analysed using a statistical package for social sciences. A total of 654 doctors participated in this study, 417 of these individuals (63.8 percent) were reported experiencing one or more types of bullying in the past 12 months and 436 doctors (66.7 percent) had witnessed others get bullied whereas 306 respondents (73.4 percent) did not make a single complaint against bullying. The most common source of bullying were consultants (51.6 percent). (Imran N, Jawaid M, Haider I, Masood, 2010)

Bullying among trainee doctors in Southern India: A questionnaire study.

The aim of this study was to measure the magnitude of bullying among the medical community in India. A subsidiary objective was to assess the personality traits of the victims of bullying. An English language questionnaire with a standard written explanation of bullying was used for this study. The results were subjected to a descriptive statistical analysis and the Chi-square test was employed for the comparison of frequencies. A total of 174 doctors (115 PGs and 59 junior doctors) took part in the study out of whom nearly 54 of the men (53 percent) and 35 of women (48 percent) were the victims of bullying. More than 85 of the bullying incidents, which is an alarming 90 percent, went unreported. Workplace bullying is common among trainee doctors and usually goes unreported. Bullying at the national, organisational and individual levels should be tackled in order to avoid the adverse consequences of bullying on our state. (Bairy K L, Thirumalaikolundusubramanian P, Sivagnanam G, Saraswathi S, Sachidananda A, Shalini, 2007)

Misuse of power in the political system

Political Corruption is an abuse to authority by government officials who are involved in ill-using the powers authorized to them for their private gains. There are several methods of corruption in political systems. We can safely say that politics is the most corrupted system not only in our country but also in numerous other countries. Common practices of corruption in the political system include cronyism, nepotism, bribery, preferential treatment, larceny, money laundering, pilfering, bias, subornment, patronage, embezzlement etc. The misapplication of administrative authority to repress political opponents and police brutality also comes under the topic of political corruption. The abuse of power in political systems takes place at varying levels. The abuse of governmental power and authority is involved from the commencement of the election campaign till the formation of the new government. Electoral scams or vote rigging through the use of executive command is an illegal act which affects the result of the elections and the fate of the state by increasing the vote share of favoured candidate and dropping the vote share of rival candidates. Achieving fraudulent election results by the use of administrative power can lead to the derailment of the democratic system and the establishment of dictatorship. Electoral deceit is the interference with the voting process or the vote counting. Sometimes, voters are prevented from casting their votes by the use of force. Misuse of governmental influence implies to the abuse of democracy. Dictatorship is an epitome of power abuse since dictators fix up their entire families in important governmental positions which is severely detrimental to the functioning of the political system, and adding to the dictators’ inability to perform the job of the head of state correctly, leads to the collapse of a state. Abuse of administrative command has become a Canadian norm. (CONACHER, 2013).The instrumental dynamics of political authority abuse are: no check and balance on the officers of higher ranks, illiteracy of the public, hunger for money, nepotism, money laundering, and all of this contributes to the failing of the political system. The possible measures that could put right the use of authority in politics are: By ensuring that no single individual in the government has too much power, by keeping a check on the correct usage of one’s authority. This is the best way to stop the abuse of power in a political system or in any other system. This can be accomplished by forming councils for maintaining the integrity of the system which should work independently under no pressure from any governmental department.

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All of us need to focus on authority and identify the abuse of privileges. Abuse of authority is not just limited to financial scams or organisational frauds but it needs to be acknowledged, curtailed, and eradicated at individual level by the elimination of hypocrisy and double standards. No society is immune to the abuse of authority. The abuse of public power and resources for personal gains is common in every society. Our system needs to be inspected in such a way that the authority should be unaware of conflict of interests. Their singular resolve should be the service to their state and the maintenance of integrity, harmony and egalitarianism in the state. We need to reassess the dimensions of our culture, so that we can imply altruism, uprightness, impartiality, accountability, righteousness, morality, leadership and rectitude. It is very much in our hands to eradicate this evil from our society.


“Senior IPS officer gets life sentence in Shivani Bhatnagar murder”. (24 May 2008. Retrieved 5 June 2011.). Retrieved from http://expressindia.indianexpress.com/latest-news/R-K-Sharma-gets-lifer-in-Shivani-Bhatnagar-murder/287784/

(22 january 2010). “Toronto G20: Will Police be Held Accountable After Scathing Ombudsman’s Report. Toronto : The Real News.

Aqil Shah, B. A. (2015). Pakistan in 2014. University of California Press, 48-59.

Bairy K L, Thirumalaikolundusubramanian P, Sivagnanam G, Saraswathi S, Sachidananda A, Shalini. (2007). Bullying among trainee doctors in Southern India. J postgrad Med , 87-90.

CONACHER, D. (2013, February 5). Abuse of political power has become the Canadian norm. It can be fixed. Retrieved from The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/abuse-of-political-power-has-become-the-canadian-norm-it-can-be-fixed/article8247053/

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Mukaram Ali Khan, S. S. (2014). Police Violence in Pakistan: Forms and Justifications . Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, iiste.org, ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484 (Online) .

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[1] http://www.people-press.org/2014/08/25/few-say-police-forces-nationally-do-well-in-treating-races-equally/

[2] http://www.policefoundation.org/sites/pftest1.drupalgardens.com/files/AOAFull.pdf

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