Police Culture and Police Misconduct M. Collins Criminal Justice 593 Dr. Jiabo Liu April 2008 Outline I. Introduction II. Main Issues III. Analysis IV. Suggestions and/or Recommendations V. Conclusion VI. References 1 INTRODUCTION In the United States, there are city, county, state, and national police forces. They have very difficult and dangerous responsibilities. These public servants are required to perform many different jobs. They enforce laws and maintain order. They teach people how to help prevent crime and to protect themselves ( Mittleman, 2000).
They offer assistance and take charge of many different situations such as car accidents, flooding, and hurricanes. Police officers also help find missing people and settle arguments between people. They watch for speeding drivers on the road and give traffic tickets. Specially trained police officers (detectives) investigate crimes that have already happened, such as robbery, kidnapping, or murder. Police work is very tough, but thanks to them, everyone lives more safely. It is important to bear in mind that law enforcement officers have to preserve order and protect citizens.
Because of this very challenging job, often times, officers find themselves involved in extremely unpredictable and often dangerous situations in which they risk serious injury to their lives so that other citizens may be safe. Many officers are injured or killed trying to protect the public. In order to minimize harm to others and to themselves, law enforcement officers must exercise critical and quick judgment, often when the circumstances are volatile and potentially deadly. Sometimes, police officers do not exercise integrity for their job (Chan, 1997). In this report, I will address police culture and misconduct.
First, I will discuss the main issues, which will include the history and current situation of police departments and misconduct. Secondly, I will analyze theories, cultures, laws, and other relevant data on the topic. Finally, I will share with your recommendations for tackling this growing problem that is plaguing our society. MAIN ISSUES Throughout history, efforts to police societies have been blemished by brutality and misconduct to some degree. In the ancient world, policing entities subjected citizens to terror and abusive treatment to gain control.
In the English-speaking world, most modern-day police departments were first established in the nineteenth century, and in the early days cases of police brutality were recurring. Marilynn S. Johnson, a researcher who wrote, Street Justice: A History of Police Violence in New York City, describes the routine bludgeoning of citizens by patrolmen armed with nightsticks or blackjacks. In the United States, the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919 (the National Prohibition Act) had a long-term negative impact on policing practices.
The demand for alcohol and the rewards gained from the sell of alcohol in the mid-1920s, gave way to growing crime. Understaffed and with meager resources, many law enforcement agencies engaged in the use of unlawful practices. By the time of the Hoover administration, the issue had grown to national concern and a National Committee on Law Observation and Enforcement was formed to look into the situation. Their investigation concluded that police brutality and other miscarriages of justice were prevalent. In the years following the report, landmark legal judgments such as Brown v.
Mississippi helped to cement a legal obligation to respect the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. During the Civil Rights Era in the 1960s, African Americans had to overcome numerous incidents of police brutality in its struggle for justice and racial equality. In the United States, race and police brutality continue to be closely linked, and the phenomenon has sparked a string of race riots over the years. The use of physical force, assault, verbal attacks, and threats were dominant in how many officers conducted their job.
In most recent years, police brutality has often flared at global summits where protesters have sought to challenge the legitimacy of various institutions of economic globalization such as the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, the G8, and international trade regimes such as the NAFTA and the FTAA. An extensive U. S. Department of Justice report on police use of force released in 2001 indicates that in 1999, approximately 422,000 people 16 years old and older were estimated to have had contact with police in which force or the threat of force was used.
In dealing largely with disorderly elements of the society, some people working in law enforcement may gradually develop an attitude or sense of authority over society, particularly under traditional reaction-based policing models; in some cases the police believe that they are above the law. In other cases, police corruption and misconduct may be explained by individuals and individual faults- behavioral, psychological, background factors, and so on.
Since their has been policing entities, it is understood by most that law enforcement officers have been performing a public service that is not easy to carry out. To assist law enforcement officers in diffusing situations, apprehending alleged criminals, and protecting themselves and others, officers are legally entitled to use appropriate means, including force. In discussing police misconduct, this report acknowledges not only the legal grant of such authority, but also the trying circumstances that law enforcement officers find themselves in, which necessitate use of force.
Today, it seems quite clear that we as observant citizens in a democratic society can see that employees who are given the task of preserving peace and the authority to use dangerous and deadly force must be subject to maximum accountability. ANALYSIS “Who will guard the guardians? ” asked the Roman satirist Juvenalis. While the large majority of police officers are untouched by duplicity, there can be little doubt that there are many reported cases of police corruption and misconduct.
Even though the situation with our policing entities is not great, police practices in other nations vary greatly with the American police experience. New immigrants are often surprised to learn of the amount of restraint exercised by American police. Police brutality and corruption are regular practices in many countries. Most police agencies require applicants to pass a written exam; a medical exam; a physical fitness test; a psychological and/or polygraph test; drug screening; and an oral board. Most academies include military marching, inspections, and salutations to senior officers.
Some academies still include military stress drills in an attempt to “weed out” those that can not handle the situation. However, even with all the training, and even though the United States may not be the worst, police misconduct is still a growing concern that needs to be addressed in this country. Historically, countries like Australia largely preferred to trust police to keep their house in order, with some external guardianship administered by the courts and government. Some find this simple approach to be effective.
Others call for improvements in inadequate existing procedures or stronger measures to prevent misconduct from becoming widespread and entrenched in police organizations. Although numerous studies have attempted to understand the causes of various forms of police misconduct, there is still no clear theoretical explanation of police misbehavior. However, Akers’ social learning theory speculates that peer associations, attitudes, reinforcement, and modeling are predictors of delinquency and crime in general, including police misconduct.
The social learning theory gives us insight on police culture, a part of which includes the Blue Code of Silence. It also may explain how police culture may contribute to the current state of police departments. As it is defined in the Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, police culture is “the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thought, speech, action, and artifacts and depends on man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations”(Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary as quoted in Emerson, 1989: p. ). Culture has long been of interest to anthropologists as they studied groups of animals and people throughout the globe. The anthropologist Clyde Kluchohn defined culture as “the set of habitual and traditional ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting that are characteristic of the ways a particular society meets its problems at a particular time” (Kluckhon, 1949:17). Police culture is similar throughout all police departments in America.
It is known by many that this culture harbors themes of isolation, solidarity, conformity, and distrust. Police culture seems to be at odds with codes of ethics. There is considerable opportunity for the values, beliefs, and rituals to be played out in negative forms. It encourages misguided loyalty and is harmful to the community’s welfare. It hinders reform efforts, partly because those that are suppose to be responsible for overseeing police officers will not admit there is a problem. They deny any existence of such a culture.
They would rather blame any misconduct on a few “bad apples” on the force rather than the fact that there is a very real, systematic problem. It is important to understand that all of which is sustained through the way new members are selected, trained, and accepted into the police ranks. Because there is a brewing pot of injustice on behalf of many police departments, there are laws and legislation in place that protect against police brutality and misconduct. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution includes the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses. The Civil Rights Act of 1871has evolved into a key U. S. law in brutality. By law, the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights has established an advisory committee in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The committees are composed of state citizens who serve without compensation. The committees advise the Commission of civil rights issues in their states that are within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
More specifically, they are authorized to advise the Commission on matters of their state’s concern in the preparation of Commission reports to the President and the Congress; receive reports, suggestions, and recommendations from individuals, public officials, and representatives of public and private organizations to committee inquiries; forward advice and recommendations to the Commission, as requested; and observe any open hearing or conference conducted by the Commission in their states.
The Federal Civil Enforcement “Police Misconduct Provision” makes it unlawful for State or local law enforcement officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The types of conduct covered by this law can include, among other things, excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests. In order to be covered by this law, the misconduct must constitute a “pattern or practice” — it may not simply be an isolated incident.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) must be able to show in court that the agency has an unlawful policy or that the incidents constituted a pattern of unlawful conduct. However, unlike other civil laws, DOJ does not have to show that discrimination has occurred in order to prove a pattern or practice of misconduct. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the “OJP (Office of Justice Program) Program Statute” are laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion by State and local law enforcement agencies that receive financial assistance from the Department of Justice.
This maybe harassment or use of racial slurs, unjustified arrests, discriminatory traffic stops, coercive sexual conduct, retaliation for filing a complaint with DOJ or participating in the investigation, use of excessive force, or refusal by the agency to respond to complaints alleging discriminatory treatment by its officers. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability. Section 504 prohibits discrimination by State and local law enforcement agencies that receive financial assistance from DOJ.
Section 504 also prohibits discrimination in programs and activities conducted by Federal agencies, including law enforcement agencies. These laws prohibit discriminatory treatment, including misconduct, on the basis of disability in virtually all law enforcement services and activities. These activities include, among others, interrogating witnesses, providing emergency services, enforcing laws, addressing citizen complaints, and arresting, booking, and holding suspects. These laws also prohibit retaliation for filing a complaint with DOJ or participating in the investigation.
SUGGESTIONS AND/OR RECOMMENDATIONS The issue is no longer one of whether or not the guards needing guarding, but of determining the best kind of guardianship. A diverse range of strategies and systems has emerged. All of which are claiming their effectiveness. However, many have failed for various reasons including resistance to change by organizational culture. I am in agreement with many advocates against police corruption and misconduct when they suggest that they make the complaint process open and responsive, computerize data ollection and improve record keeping, strengthen the position of police auditor, streamline and improve the investigation process, while maybe using a disciplinary matrix (see attachment). Also, they should professionalize and empower the Internal Investigations Section. Due to the growing incidents of police misconduct, I am also in agreement that there is a need for a body independent of police and maybe even politicians. There responsibility will be to serve as a check on the potential neglect or cover up of police misconduct.
I, along with many others, am in favor of such an external body that is not subject to peer pressure and loyalty to police. This body should have the authority to investigate complaints and/or monitor police investigations. There are currently some organizations with some or all of these attributes. A civilian review board is an entity external to the police department’s internal affairs, and consists of citizens from outside the department, appointed by the mayor or other senior government officials.
A civilian review board is generally charged with the duty of reviewing complaints and making recommendations as to disciplinary action after the police department has completed its own investigation and made a disciplinary recommendation. A civilian review board is usually charged with reviewing the same materials or a redacted version of what the internal affairs division examined, although a civilian review board could be given investigative power in order to conduct its own inquiry into the complaint.
Such authority could include subpoena power, and the ability to administer oaths and compel the production of documents. The sufficiency of individual case files, and thus the accuracy of a subsequent review, may depend heavily on what information the board is given and whether it can supplement these files on its own initiative. A key concern with instituting a civilian review board has to do with how much weight the recommendation of the board is accorded by law, that is, how binding.
The activities of the board may be symbolic, as it has indeed been suggested that civilian review boards end up “agreeing with the police department in almost all instances. The importance of the civilian review board, therefore, rests on whether the disciplining officer is forced to accept or to provide a public account of why the recommendation is not accepted. For civilian review boards to be effective, they should be provided the authority to override the recommendations of the police, although such prospects are somewhat unrealistic.
A study of 17 law enforcement agencies found that citizen review boards sustain police brutality complaints at a higher percentage than do the police themselves, suggesting that such boards operate more fairly. Copwatch is a U. S. -based network of organizations that actively monitors and videotapes the police to prevent brutality. Umbrella organizations and justice committees (often named after a deceased individual or those victimized by police violence) usually engage in a solidarity of those affected. Amnesty International is another organization active in the issue of police brutality.
With some modifications, these organizations could work well in protecting citizens and holding police accountable. CONCLUSION It is the duty of police officers to protect and defend the citizens within their community against criminals, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States and to provide leadership and criminal justice services. It is without a doubt that the vast majority of the law enforcement officers in this country perform their very difficult jobs with respect for their communities and in compliance with the law.
Even so, there are incidents in which this is not the case. This paper examines police culture and misconduct, while focusing on the issues, highlighting the laws and theories, and making suggestions that, hopefully, will suffice as an effective means of combating this growing concern. Police misconduct has not changed much since the nineteenth century. It continues to be a chronic problem. Findings suggest that social learning theory provides a useful explanation of police misconduct. Police culture seems to be an offspring of this theory.
This leads to the necessary laws enforced by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) that have been established to address police misconduct and explains how you can file a complaint if you believe your rights have been violated. To help uphold these laws, it is clear that there should be a proactive approach in reducing complaints against police forces by reducing conflict between officers and citizens and by minimizing corruption and misconduct opportunities by zooming in on organizational culture.
Also, an independent police review board at the state and local levels that could monitor instances of brutality and misconduct and report to the public perhaps may help aid in combating this serious problem. Whatever the most effective method chosen, it is without a doubt a difficult and complex task that needs to be done without discouraging valid complaints and without compromising the mission of police forces. REFERENCES Brown, M. K. (1981). Working the Street: Police Discretion and The Dilemmas of Reform. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
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