Police Deviance: How Law Enforcement Administrators Can Address Police Misconduct and Corruption
*The author is a graduate assistant in the Department of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada-Las Vegas. This is a revision of a graduate seminar paper.
Despite the growth of professionalization in American policing, corruption and misconduct in law enforcement continue to remain concerning issues in communities across the nation. Citizens depend on law enforcement to serve and protect in an ethical and lawful manner, and this trust can easily be diminished when even a few officers use their positions of authority to cause harm or violate civil rights. Theories on police corruption generally fall under individual explanations, ecological theories, and organizational theories. Determining which theories and factors can best explain police deviance can assist in findings ways to address and prevent it altogether. Although police deviance is difficult to track, researchers have used various indicators of misconduct to determine which factors may prevent or inhibit deviance. Pre-employment screening, training, and proper supervision are some of the key factors that relate to the prevalence of misconduct and corruption. This paper will attempt to explain these findings and provide the implications for policy changes that police administrators can use to address the problem of police misconduct.
Acts of corruption and misconduct are terms that fall under the umbrella of police deviance in general. In order for corruption to occur, there must be some personal gain for a police officer or group of officers to engage in the abuse of authority. Lawrence Sherman (1974, p. 5) narrowly defined corruption as engaging in acts of bribery. Misconduct could additionally include acts of excessive force, civil rights violations, racial discrimination, and criminal activity. Police deviance also ranges in severity from receiving gratuities in exchange for favors to committing murder. In a study on career-ending misconduct in the NYPD, Kane & White (2009) classified police misconduct into eight categories: profit-motivated crimes, off-duty crimes against persons, off-duty public order crimes, drugs, on-duty abuse, obstruction of justice, administrative or failure to perform, and conduct-related probationary failures (p. 745). The costs of corruption and misconduct are difficult to measure, but they include the financial losses associated with any litigation that results from those actions, the financial and emotional tolls on victims, and the overall trust of the public for officers to carry out their duties with integrity. Some acts of corruption may never be seen and are therefore never addressed by police departments or the public, while at the same time some may exaggerate the level of corruption that occurs.
The Nature of Corruption
The causes of misconduct and corruption have been attributed to various sources, including individual, ecological, and organizational factors (King, 2009, p. 771). Many theories, including traditional criminological theories, have been applied to police misconduct as well. Social learning theory, control balance theory, opportunity theory, deterrence theory, theories on self-control, organizational theories, the life course perspective, and developmental approaches have all been used and tested to explain misconduct and corruption (White & Kane, 2013, pp. 1303-1305). Walker and Katz (2010) discussed six more specific categories of theories that explain corruption (p. 434). Individual officer explanations focus on individual motives and support the “rotten apple” approach, which may easily explain individual instances of corruption but not the environmental context. The social structural explanations theories analyze how criminal law, cultural conflict, and political culture influence police officers’ decisions to enforce certain laws and engage in corruption. Neighborhood explanations theories focus on elements of social disorganization theory, such as poverty and informal social control, in neighborhoods and how they influence police deviance. Theories on the nature of police work consider how the occupational settings and circumstances that are unique to policing, such as citizens' desire to avoid punishment as well as the frequent exposure to negativity, provide opportunity for corruption. Police organizations theories focus on the organizational structure of police departments and the integrity of their leaders and supervisors. Police subculture theories attempt to explain corruption as a result of peer pressure and group solidarity factors that exist within the subculture of police officers (p. 438).
Officer Typologies of Corruption
In his book on the sociological approach to studying police corruption, Lawrence Sherman (1975) categorizes departments into three typologies according to the level of pervasiveness of corruption. The first type, rotten apples and rotten pockets, is characterized by only small numbers of individual officers and groups of officers (p. 8) who engage in corruption. Type II departments contain pervasive unorganized corruption in which a majority of police officials are corrupt, but they have little relationship to each other in that there is no informal organization of engaging in corruption. Type III departments have pervasive organized corruption in which a hierarchical and authoritarian system exists, involving officials from not only within the department but also political figures. Sherman additionally discusses some of the constant factors that contribute to the ease of engaging in corruption. These factors include the discretion inherent in police work, the low visibility of officers by supervisors, the low visibility by the public, the secrecy of officer peer groups, the secrecy of supervisors who were once in their subordinates' positions, and the "status problem" characterized by low pay for officers (p. 12).
The Police Subculture
By explaining deviance in law enforcement through the subculture of policing, Kappeler, Sluder, & Alpert (2010) noted that the development of police character can be attributed to psychological, sociological, and anthropological paradigms. The psychological paradigm analyzes individual personalities of officers and specifically focuses on the authoritarian personality, which is characterized by conservatism, aggression, and cynicism (p. 266). In contrast to this dispositional model of the police personality, the sociological paradigm focuses on the socialization process that officers experience through the academy, training, and experience in the field. This professionalization occurs as officers internalize the norms and values learned on the job. The third paradigm, known as the anthropological or culturalization perspective, refers to the occupational culture of policing and the attitudes, values, and beliefs that are transmitted through the police subculture. Skolnick & Fyfe (1993) also discuss some of the unique perceptions and customs that police officers adopt as an occupational group (p. 90). These rules and norms are sometimes unwritten, particularly when dealing with situations related to gratuities or bribes.
Kappeler and colleagues also proposed several aspects of the police subculture that may explain deviance. First, they note that police view the world through an orientation known as a "we/they" or "us versus them" worldview (p. 270). Additionally the employment screening processes end up only selecting individuals who conform to middle-class norms, and these screening techniques do not predict how well recruits will be able to perform their duties. The police academy itself then calls for further conformity into a new set of standards from the already homogenous group of recruits. Much of this training and preparation involves emphasizing an "exaggerated sense of danger" which is characterized as such because of the overall low likelihood for potential injury. This training orientation disproportionately focuses on practical rather than intellectual skills for officers and therefore leads to citizens being viewed as "symbolic assailants" who are seen as potentially violent and dangerous. This element of symbolic assault, along with the paramilitary model of police organizations, further reinforce the "we/they" worldview.
Police subculture is also known for several ethoses, themes, and postulates that may influence deviance (Kappeler et al., 2010, p. 278). Several ethos guide officers and distinguish them as police professionals. The ethos of bravery relates to the perceived and actual dangers of policing and how officers will handle violent encounters, back other officers up when they face these situations, and use force when necessary. The ethos of autonomy refers to the officers' freedom to decide when to use force and the potential abuses that this discretion can allow. The ethos of secrecy is characterized by the hidden nature of police work created by factors such as a fear of loss of autonomy and the perception of the media. Additionally, the cultural themes of isolation and solidarity refer to the social separateness from society that results from rejection by the community and the seeking of validation by officers from within. Solidarity also involves a sense of loyalty between fellow officers. Postulates, or "expressions of general truth or principle that guide and direct the actions of subcultural members" (p. 283), can shape the ethos and themes mentioned above. The postulate "don't give up another cop" can be said to contribute to the ethos of secrecy and theme of solidarity while "protect your ass" supports the theme of isolation and "be aggressive when you have to, but don't be too eager" contributes to the ethos of bravery.
History of Addressing Corruption
In his book on police accountability, Walker (2005) described some of the accomplishments and limitations of American police agencies, courts, and legislative bodies in dealing with misconduct in the past. The professionalization movement had made significant progress through the 1960s, only to be questioned during the civil rights movement (p. 21). Among the administrative shortcomings of police departments were the failure to adopt well-established principles for patrol management (i.e., the continued use of two-officer patrol units despite the established safety of single-officer units), to meet established standards for on-the-street supervision (i.e., exceeding the span of control in sergeant to officer ratios), to maintain meaningful personnel evaluation systems, to respond to high costs of litigation, and to discipline officers found guilty of misconduct (p. 26). During the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court became part of the judicial strategy to facilitate police reform through constitutional decisions like Miranda v. Arizona (1966) by the Warren Court. Additionally, civil tort litigation for civil rights violations has been used in an attempt to reform police practice, although the impact may not be significant (p. 32). Criminal prosecution of officers for excessive force has similarly had little deterrent effect, but federal pattern or practice litigation has resulted in consent decrees, memoranda of understanding, and settlement letters that have facilitated reform. Legislative efforts have included blue-ribbon commissions, such as the LAPD’s Christopher Commission of 1991 which investigated the Rodney King beating, as well as external citizen oversight agencies, which are actually limited in investigative and deterrent abilities (p. 37). Many empirical studies have been conducted to better understand corruption in order to find methods that would more effectively address and prevent it.
A study by Arrigo & Claussen (2003) looked at the pre-employment screening technique of psychological testing to prevent corruption. They propose that antisocial behavior, an undesirable trait in recruits, and the personality trait of conscientiousness, a preferable characteristic in potential officers, can be measured through psychological tests administered by police departments during applicant screening (p. 272). First, the researchers linked antisocial behavior; which includes lack of guilt, irresponsibility, and a lack of conscience; to various types and severities of corruption (p. 274). They then link conscientiousness to high levels of job performance which would not support the involvement in corruption. Specifically, those who have high levels of conscientiousness are "organized, reliable, hard-working, self-governing, thorough, persevering, and tend to have a great amount of integrity" while those low in conscientiousness tend to be "lazy, careless, lax, impulsive, and irresponsible" (p. 277).
Arrigo & Claussen recognize the popular use of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI, MMPI-2) by police departments in their hiring practices, but they noted some of the limitations of this personality assessment. For example, the MMPI is meant to assess psychological disorders, not job performance, and it does not measure conscientiousness (p. 278). They instead proposed the use of two other measures that specifically measure both antisocial traits and levels of conscientiousness. The Inwald Personality Inventory (IPI) is specifically designed to measure the personality traits and behavioral patterns that relate to the duties of law enforcement officers, and it can specifically measure antisocial characteristics in candidates. The items used in the IPI instrument are therefore a better predictor of job performance, and the IPI has been shown to be more accurate than the MMPI in identifying those who will be terminated from positions in policing (p. 280). Since the IPI does not measure conscientiousness, however, departments should also use the Revised-NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R), a test used for police selection in New Zealand that measures conscientiousness along with the other four of the "Big Five" constructs: neuroticism, openness to experience, and agreeableness (p. 281). The researchers cite the high validity and reliability of the use of this personality instrument and emphasize its use in finding highly conscientious officers for positions in law enforcement.
Many studies have looked at the educational levels of officers in relation to police performance, use of force, and misconduct. One of the first studies of the relationship between higher education and misconduct is Sanderson's (1977) study of the Los Angeles Police Department which found that officers with 4-year college degrees received fewer complaints than officers with 2-year or no college degrees. Kappeler, Sapp, & Carter (1992) provided further support for these results when they found that officers with a four-year degree had significantly fewer rates of citizen complaints than officers with only two-year degrees (p. 49). They attributed findings like this to the types of skills that students learn and apply in college (p. 50). A more recent study by Manis, Archbold, & Hassell (2008) also supported findings on higher education after finding statistically significant differences between officers who had achieved two-year degrees and those who obtained four-year degrees regarding the types of complaints filed against them. This study analyzed both formal complaints, which included those that were made through traditional processes with the department, and informal complaints, which include only phone calls made against officers. Researchers found that officers with four-year degrees had less formal complaints against them than those with two-year degrees, but educational level did not influence informal complaints (p. 516). Additionally, those with only two-year degrees were more likely to have their complaints sustained against them (p. 519). No differences in the number of complaints, however, were found when comparing those with criminal justice majors to those with non-criminal justice majors, a finding that further supports the argument that officers learn a general skill set in college regardless of major.
Early Intervention (EI) Systems
Early intervention (EI) systems are management tools used by police agencies that use data to recognize officers who are exhibiting performance problems (Walker, 2010, p. 181). These systems analyze use-of-force reports, citizen complaints, and other indicators to identify these officers and intervene through counseling or training to correct any issues. Research by Harris (2012) looked at patterns of police misconduct based on complaints as they related to the variables of residual career length (RCL) and residual number of offenses (RNO) to determine whether the career features could predict future misconduct when comparing them to the selection criteria used by EI systems (p. 323).
He found that as officers gained experience, they were less likely to engage in misconduct (p. 330). Additionally, the number of complaints remaining in officers' careers did not decline in the same pattern for all officers. One of the criticisms of EIs pointed out was that exceeding the threshold on any one criterion, even though multiple indicators could be measured, can result in an officer being flagged. The study concluded that neither the career features based on RCL and RNO nor the system criteria for EI systems predicted misconduct well, although those based on RCL and RNO did slightly better. Future career lengths and numbers of complaints are therefore difficult to predict, but Harris recommended that EI systems should use more discriminate criteria and a variety of indicators in order to increase the predictive validity of these systems (p. 331).
The focus on individual-level theories has been criticized for focusing too much on the "rotten apples" and not taking into account the social context, specifically the organizational and occupational factors that may be influencing misconduct (Klockars, Ivkovich, Harver, & Haberfeld, 2000, p. 1; Wolfe & Piquero, 2011, p. 337; Lee, Lim, Moore, & Kim, 2013, 387). Klockars et al. (2000) conducted surveys on 3,235 officers from 30 police agencies across the country in order to assess their perceived seriousness, severity of discipline, and willingness to report 11 scenarios of misconduct (p. 4). The results revealed that the more severely officers perceived the misconduct, the more willing they were to report it (p. 3).
The 11 scenarios could be categorized into three levels of seriousness based on officers' responses. Cases with the least seriousness included the off-duty operation of a security system business, receipt of free meals, receipt of holiday gifts, and cover-up of an accident due to driving under the influence. Scenarios with an intermediate level seriousness included the use of excessive force on a car thief after a foot pursuit, the granting of time off by a supervisor in exchange for maintenance on the supervisor's car, accepting free drinks for allowing a bar to close late, and receiving a kickback. The most serious cases included stealing from a found wallet, accepting a financial bribe, and stealing a watch at a crime scene (p. 3). Most officers said they would not report the less serious misconduct, and a majority also said they would report the worst types of deviance. Researchers also found significant differences in the environments of integrity in agencies (p. 9).
In another study that looked at the officers' attitudes toward corruption, Lee et al. (2013) used the data from the study by Klockars and colleagues to determine the relationship between officers' and their supervisor's attitudes toward misconduct as well as whether there were any effects of a "code of silence" (p. 386). They found that officers were more likely to perceive scenarios seriously when their supervisors were more likely to discipline the misconduct more harshly. Additionally, officers were less likely to see the scenarios seriously when fellow officers were unlikely to report the behavior. Interestingly, the "'code of silence' overshadowed the impact of supervisory discipline when both variables were simultaneously examined" (p. 397).
Wolfe & Piquero (2011) focused on the link between organizational justice and police misconduct by using survey data from 483 officers of the Philadelphia Police Department (p. 332). They also assessed two additional phenomena that relate to organizational justice and misconduct: the code of silence, which is characterized by a subculture of loyalty towards fellow officers, and noble-cause corruption, which involves a "moral commitment" to ensure public safety (pp. 334-335). Organizational justice is based on the nature of distributive, procedural, and interactive justice as they relate to fairness and respect by supervisors in organizations (p. 336). According to this theory, if subordinates, or officers in the context of policing, perceive their organizations or departments as unfair, they will be more likely to violate rules and norms by engaging in misconduct. For the study, misconduct was measured through formal citizen complaints, internal affairs division (IAD) investigations, and violations of department disciplinary code (p. 339). After utilizing Likert-type scale questions to assess the above variables while also controlling for age, gender, race-ethnicity, ranks, years of service, and deviant peer associations, the researchers found that organizational justice predicted both code-of-silence attitudes and beliefs in noble-cause corruption, and it was significantly associated with all forms of police misconduct (pp. 343-345). Wolf & Piquero concluded that "[o]fficers who viewed the PPD as distributing decisions fairly, engaging in procedurally just managerial actions, and interacting in a polite and courteous manner toward subordinates were more likely to have been involved in few incidents of police misconduct" (p. 346). They also found that deviant peer associations, measured through vignettes as a control variable, had a significant influence on attitudes related to the code of silence and noble-cause corruption beliefs.
An additional organizational perspective was discussed by King (2009) who used the literature on high-reliability organizations (HROs) to propose the concept of "mindfulness" in the organizational culture of policing (p. 773). The theoretical aspects are based on an organization's abilities to prevent accidents through informal influences among employees. Without intervention, small problems may eventually turn into more serious problems, and fellow employees, or officers in policing, are in the best positions to identify and address these problems. King asserts that HROs "ensure that all employees are focused on detecting small aberrations in the environment, performance, or conditions, and employees are empowered to act when they encounter any of these aberrations" (ibid.). He therefore proposes the adoption of an HRO framework while considering police acts of misconduct as "accidents." The challenges of implementing this model were recognized, but King proposed that future research should empirically verify whether officers actually recognize fellow troublesome officers, and he proposed that these officers should be empowered to "correct, coach, and reign in bad officers" (p. 774).
Martin (2011) has also discussed the important roles of leadership and ethics in dealing with and preventing corruption. He attributes police misconduct to factors relating to the work environment, particularly by the push for results by administrators and the lack of emphasis on how those results were obtained (p. 14). The police subculture is also mentioned in the context of a strong loyalty and solidarity, and the "us versus them" component can exist even within the department when commitment to fellow officers overrides the mission of the department or the supervisors who support it. Martin proposed that police agencies could promote officers' ethical behavior by creating and clearly communicating a policy of the department's ethical mission, by ensuring that strong and ethical leadership is in place, and by hiring ethical individuals as well as appropriately dealing with officers who do not display ethical standards (p. 16).
On-Duty versus Off-Duty Misconduct
Acts of misconduct by police officers are also known to occur when they are not on-duty and in uniform. There have been unique characteristics associated with offenses that occur off-duty. A study by Stinson, Liederback, & Freiburger (2012) looked at a sample of 2,119 news stories on criminal cases that involved the arrests of 1,746 on-duty and off-duty officers from agencies throughout the United States (p. 147). Researchers focused on the characteristics of off-duty offenses, which included 1,126 cases, or over half (53.1%) of all cases. They found that most of the off-duty officers (82.7%) were at the patrol level while the remaining were supervisors and managers in their agencies (p. 148). When looking at the types of offenses, researchers found that off-duty officers were more likely to be involved in alcohol-related offenses (86.5%), while crimes that were motivated by profit, drug-related offenses, and sex crimes were more likely to be committed by officers who were on duty (p. 150). Violent crimes were not significantly associated with any duty status. The misuse of firearms was, however, found in about 110 (10%) of all off-duty crimes in which officers had used their weapons to threaten or intimidate others. Researchers emphasized their findings that crimes related to alcohol such as driving under the influence, drunkenness, and liquor law violations were more likely to be committed by off-duty officers. They also found that alcohol intoxication by officers was involved in many cases of both aggravated and simple assaults, harassment or intimidation, and property damage or vandalism offenses (p. 154). The relationship between the nature of policing and the use and abuse of alcohol by officers is therefore a very relevant issue when considering the likelihood of off-duty misconduct.
Drug-related misconduct is another type of deviance in which researchers found particular interest. Stinson, Liederbach, Brewer, Schmalzried, Mathna, & Long (2013) looked specifically at the 221 drug-related arrest cases from the previous study to find which factors influenced officers in drug-related corruption. Over two-thirds (64.3%) of the cases involved officers who were on-duty, and the most serious offense charged was not a specific drug or narcotic offense in over half (55.7%) of the cases (p. 498). These cases involved offenses such as rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and theft. Over one-half of the cases (58.7%) also involved stimulants such as cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine; another 39.8% involved cannabis while 22.4% involved narcotics. Other drugs involved were hallucinogens (8.2%), anabolic steroids (7.7%), and depressants (3.6%) (p. 500). Although more than one form of misconduct was found in almost half (47.5%) of all cases, the most recurrent pattern of corruption was drug trafficking (48.9%). The second category, thefts and shakedowns (29%), included acts involving warrantless searches, offenses against street-level drug dealers, and acts related to car stops and drug couriers (p. 502). The third category involved drug use by police (27.6%). The most common specific drug related to all cases was cocaine, which was also the most predictive variable when looking at five of the six most prevalent forms of misconduct analyzed through CHAID models. Researchers concluded that drug-related corruption "tends to instigate the perpetration of a wide range of crimes by police including robberies and other types of violent predatory crimes, sexually motivated crimes, and those designed to otherwise facilitate drug trade" (p. 507).
Studies of Misconduct in the NYPD
Robert J. Kane and Michael D. White conducted several studies that looked at factors which relate to career-ending misconduct in the New York City Police Department, America's largest police force (Kane & White, 2009; White & Kane, 2013). After matching 1,542 officers who were separated by the NYPD with 1,543 officers who served honorably between 1975 and 1996, these researchers looked at various factors that relate to termination (Kane & White, 2009, p. 743). One of the main findings of the first study was that career-ending misconduct is a relatively uncommon event in the NYPD, with the 1,543 cases making up less than 2% of the 78,000 officers who were on the force during the study period (p. 750). Additionally, among eight categories of police misconduct, the most common charges against the officers fell under administrative offenses (30%), drugs (19%), and profit-motivated crime (16%) (p. 751). Interestingly, on-duty abuse included only about 5% of the charges. Kane & White explain that this finding may be due to less use of force being used by members of the department compared to those in urban areas, or that it may be due to the difficult nature of proving abuse by police (p. 761). Conduct on probation was the smallest category, making up only 2% of the charges. These researchers also found that the strongest risk factors for misconduct included being Black, having an average of one or more complaints per year of service, and working in inspector precincts; other factors included being assigned to deputy inspector (DI) or captain precincts, being assigned to academy or field training units, having criminal and public order offense histories, and having prior disciplinary and reliability problems in employment (p. 756). In contrast, the protective factors identified include increased years on the job, having an Associate's or Bachelor's degree when hired, and increased age at hiring (p. 757).
In the second study, White & Kane (2013) looked further into the patterns and pathways that are likely to lead to misconduct that ends law enforcement careers specifically in the context of timing (p. 1301). They looked at the same 3,085 officers and used Cox regression survival analysis to discover which risk or protective factors related to termination or continued employment during three different time frames. They compared several variables with officers who were terminated quickly (within 2 years of being hired), those who were fired between 2 and 10 years, and those who were terminated after 10 years on the job. Risk factors for being fired quickly included being Black or Hispanic, having a criminal history, having problems in previous jobs, a Background Investigator's recommendation against hiring, receiving a citizen complaint within the first 2 years of employment, and being assigned to the academy or field training (p. 1312). Across all three time frames, the risk factors that remained consistently significant with termination included the race of the officer, prior criminal history, and citizen complaints (p. 1316). The protective factors identified across all periods included having a college education and getting married, while factors that had no effect on termination included sex, military background, father in the NYPD, credit card debt, prior police experience, and performance in the academy (p. 1313). Some protective factors that were associated with early separation but not firing included assignment to a proactive unit and following an "upwardly mobile career path" (p. 1316). Although military service was unrelated to early and middle career stages, it was found to be predictor of misconduct after 10 years of employment. Also, older age at appointment was only a protective factor later in these officers' careers. Another interesting finding is that officers who were fired early in their careers were more likely to have committed administrative violations while those who were terminated after a decade were more likely to have engaged in serious criminal offenses.
The above findings have numerous implications for agency practices that address and prevent police misconduct. Research by Arrigo & Claussen (2003) provides a model for more valid and reliable methods of psychological testing when screening police recruits for conscientiousness and antisocial personality traits. The findings on educational levels of officers, specifically regarding the benefits of hiring those with four-year degrees, can also be considered by administrators who establish minimum requirements for higher education. The research on early intervention systems (Harris, 2012) should also prompt departments to carefully develop and evaluate their EI systems to determine whether they are accurately identifying problem officers. Research findings by Klockars et al. (2000) as well as by Lee et al. (2013) that the code of silence may have more influence on frontline officers than their supervisors' attitudes against misconduct indicate a need for proper training in breaking this code and enhancing the supervisory effects of sergeants and other upper administrators. Police leaders may also use the findings by Wolfe & Piquero (2011) to ensure that officers are fairly promoted and assigned to new positions while also ensuring officers understand these decision processes; administer disciplinary actions fairly and with explanation; confirm that investigations of officers are procedurally fair and that officers understand those procedures; ensure that the policies and regulations of the agency meet the goals of both justice and fairness; and "honestly show subordinate officers that the agency cares for their well-being and that their opinions are taken seriously" (p. 349).
The findings related to off-duty misconduct (Stinson et al., 2012) and specifically on the use of alcohol might assist administrators in setting appropriate policies for off-duty alcohol consumption, assistance programs for officers who misuse alcohol, and training for supervisors on recognizing these issues in their officers. Administrators may also develop relevant educational and training programs when considering Stinson et al.'s (2013) findings on drug-related arrests. Kane & White's (2009) findings on prior arrests and employment problems point to the importance of background investigations and hiring decisions regarding new recruits with criminal histories. Additionally, White & Kane's (2013) findings on the factors that influence quick time to termination also specifically relate to addressing citizen complaints as red flags that should prompt appropriate investigation and increased supervision (p. 1317). Police departments can take both a preventive and proactive approach against misconduct and corruption by using these evidence-based recommendations to change policies and practices.
Limitations and Future Research
Although much has been discovered about police misconduct and corruption, there is still much to learn about the mechanisms and factors that influence this deviance. Many of the studies discussed were conducted fairly recently and are therefore very relevant, but there were some limitations with them as well. Research by Klockars et al. and Lee et al. may be less generalizable because the studies focused mainly on police agencies from the Northeastern part of the country, and the surveys did not measure actual misconduct. Studies by Stinson and colleagues are limited to looking only at criminal misconduct cases that resulted in arrests and that were covered by the media. Although they provided detailed qualitative details through content analysis, the small sample size may not accurately represent nationwide misconduct. Kane & White's studies looked only at misconduct that ended in termination and not on acts that may have led to disciplinary action. Additionally, the focus on misconduct does not necessarily separate "good" cops from the "bad" ones. The quality of policing in individual officers is a separate issue that cannot be addressed by focusing only on the negative aspects. The survival perspective by White & Kane also assumes, to an extent, that those who "survived" their careers without termination did not engage in termination, but their policing methods may not have necessarily been "good," and misconduct may have never been discovered in many cases. Future research on police misconduct should retest the methods of these studies in order to improve generalizability and establish causal mechanisms for the findings that have already been discovered.
Police deviance and corruption will likely continue to be issues that concern both the public and police administrators. These acts of misconduct vary widely in how they are perceived when considering the type, severity, and harm caused. The negative consequences of acts of misconduct go beyond the litigation and damaged reputations of law enforcement agencies when considering the individual victims who have been affected. Research has taken various perspectives and approaches to studying police deviance, and many studies have revealed significant factors that may influence misconduct. Police administrators can use what has been learned about misconduct and corruption to implement improved hiring practices, training methods, and organizational goals to both address and prevent misconduct. Agencies that implement these policies may simultaneously enhance trust with the communities they serve while creating a culture with more professional and morale-driven officers.
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