Police Corruption Research Paper

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Police corruption is a form of police misconduct or police deviance typically defined through the motivation to achieve personal gain. Police corruption includes many heterogeneous forms of behavior that could be classified on the basis of several criteria, including the motivation for corruption (i.e., economic corruption v. noble-cause corruption), regularity of payments (i.e., pads v. scores), consequences (i.e., distortive v. non-distortive corruption), and the level of aggressiveness (i.e., grass-eaters v. meat-eaters). Barker and Roebuck developed a typology of police corruption which recognizes corruption of authority, kickbacks, opportunistic theft, shakedowns, protection of illegal activities, the fix, direct criminal activities, and internal payoffs. Punch added flaking (i.e., planting of evidence) or padding (i.e., supplementing of evidence) as the ninth type of corruption.

Theories explaining the causes of police corruption could be classified into four larger groups: (1) theories oriented toward individual police officers and their characteristics (i.e., “individualistic theory” or “rotten apple theory”), (2) theories examining the relation between opportunities for corruption and police corruption (“occupational theories”), (3) theories focusing on the relation between the characteristics of a specific police agency and police corruption (“organizational theories”), and (4) theories concerning the relation between the society at large and police corruption (“social structure theories”). Despite the existence of extensive literature on the theories of police corruption, research that tests the theories is very limited. Police corruption could be measured using several different methodologies. A relatively simple, yet very inaccurate way of measuring corruption is through the official data such as the arrest rates, complaint rates, and conviction rates. Somewhat more promising attempts to assess the actual level of corruption are public opinion surveys, police officer surveys, field studies, and investigations by independent commissions.

Police Corruption


Police corruption is a form of police misconduct or police deviance typically defined through the motivation to achieve personal gain (e.g., Barker and Carter 1986; Goldstein 1975; Klockars et al. 2000; Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2005; Sherman 1974). The definition contains several essential elements.

First, corrupt behavior could be defined as a violation of the penal codes, administrative agency rules, or the codes of ethics. Like other citizens, police officers could violate norms of federal and state criminal codes. In addition, federal and state codes establish certain crimes which only public officials can commit (e.g., bribery of public officials and witnesses, Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Chapter 11, Section 201, 1999; extortion by public officials, Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 872, 1999; deprivation of civil rights, Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Section 242, 1999). Police agencies, particularly large municipal agencies, have administrative rules and policies compiled in the standard operating procedure manuals. These administrative rules channel the use of discretion, describe appropriate conduct of police officers, prohibit inappropriate conduct, instruct officers to complete written reports after critical incidents, and require supervisory oversight (see, e.g., National Research Council 2004). Even in the agencies with extensive rules, the rules could be ambiguous or fail to regulate certain aspects of corruption. Lastly, the International Association of the Chiefs of Police has developed the code of ethics for the US police officers, which explicitly asks of police officers to promise that they would not engage in corruption, bribery, or gratuities themselves nor condone such conduct by their fellow police officers.

Second, while corruption is typically viewed as corrupt behavior (thus suggesting that something is being actively done), corruption can include both active (i.e., act) and passive (e.g., omission) forms. A police officer who fixes a felony ticket in exchange for a bribe provides an example of an action, while a police officer who does not write a ticket in exchange for a bribe from a motorist caught speeding provides an example of omission.

Third, various definitions discuss the gain resulting from corrupt activities in terms of explicit personal gain (e.g., Goldstein 1975; Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2005; Moore 1997) or implied personal gain (i.e., the definition rests on the idea that the money/goods from the corrupt act are to be consumed by the individual officers; e.g., Barker and Wells 1981; Roebuck and Barker 1974). Several authors (e.g., Bracey 1995; Carter 1990) included organizational gain in their definitions as well.

The goal typically has a monetary value; it typically involves “some tangible object, either cash, services, or goods that have cash value” (Barker 1996, p. 25). However, it is also possible that the gain is nonmonetary. While monetary value could usually be attached to, or calculated for, most of the items, in some instances it is difficult, or borderline impossible, to determine it. For example, fixing a speeding ticket for a sergeant’s niece could have different price tags attached to it, depending on the extent of sergeant’s gratitude and the ways in which he is ready and willing to express them. It can potentially lead to preferential treatment by the sergeant and the early promotion, thus yielding thousands of dollars in gain.

The size of the gain may be an important factor. The discussion in the literature about the minimum amount, that is, the amount below which the gifts of this value would not be considered as corruption, is intense. The Code of Ethics is explicit in prohibiting the acceptance of gratuities (“.. .never accepting gratuities”; 2011). Although the value of these gratuities may be small in each individual case, if such gifts are given on a regular basis (e.g., Ruiz and Bono 2004) and/or to a large number of police officers (e.g., Pennsylvania Crime Commission 1974), their total value vastly increases their individual value. Furthermore, the purpose of the gratuities may be to influence the police officers’ decisions, as was illustrated on the examples uncovered by independent commissions (e.g., Knapp Commission 1972; Mollen Commission 1994; Pennsylvania Crime Commission 1974). Barker and Wells (1981, p. 11–12) argue:

Police corruption for many officers often begins with the shared belief among the police peer group that “policemen have a right to a break,” and the progression along the continuum of corruption is often so gradual that an officer is deeply involved before he realizes it.

The acceptance of gratuities could start “the slippery slope of corruption,” leading from the less serious forms of corruption toward the more serious ones; “… [i]t is claimed that the acceptance of small gratuities such as free cups of coffee by police officers will increase the likelihood of, or lead by degrees to, or is not significantly different from, corruption of the worst kind (Kleinig 1996, p. 174). There are several steps in the process of “becoming bent,” as Sherman describes it (1985), from the acceptance of minor “perks” and free drinks to regular payoffs and the involvement in the distribution and use of narcotics. As Michael Dowd (a former NYPD police officer who stole money and drugs, participated in larger drug rings, became a drug dealer, and was eventually caught, tried, and sentenced to 14 years in prison) emphasized in his testimony before the Mollen Commission, he would test the new officers with initial temptations which were but trivial violations of the NYPD’s policy (Mollen Commission 1994). Once the officers crossed the line between the allowed and the forbidden, it was easier for them to continue and justify to themselves their further involvement in various violations of the Department’s policy.

Proponents of the acceptance of gratuities (e.g., Kania 1988, 2004) argue that the acceptance of gratuities contributes toward the development of a friendly bond between the police and the citizens. Kania (1994, p. 2) continues that, although the “cheerful waves, warm greetings and welcome smiles,” and letters of appreciation may result in better service just as likely as may the free drinks, police administrators obviously do not want to discourage such friendly gestures.

Typology Of Police Corruption

Police corruption is a group of heterogeneous activities, from the acceptance of a bribe for not issuing a speeding ticket to leaking the information about the upcoming raid to the drug dealers. Literature has used several different ways of classifying these diverse activities.

Economic v. Noble-Cause Corruption

Corruption described in this research paper is economic corruption or material-reward corruption. Its primary motivation is the material reward, be it in the form of money or other goods and/or services. Noble-cause corruption is different; it is defined as “corruption in the name of the moral rightness of good ends” (Crank and Caldero 2000, p. 5). When police officers behave in a manner consistent with noble-cause corruption, their actions are no longer regulated by the law; instead, they “act if they are the law” (Crank and Caldero 2000, p. 75). Police officers attempt to rationalize this “noble-cause corruption” as follows (Moore 1997, p. 63):

I did something wrong, but justice demanded it, not tolerated it but demanded it, because I could put the guy away who otherwise wouldn’t be successfully prosecuted. I, the police officer, wouldn’t gain personally from it; I didn’t get anything from it. I only acted for the community in the community sense of justice to accomplish this goal.

The relation between the police and the law changes in the case of noble-cause corruption (e.g., Crank and Caldero 2000). Police officers violate the law to achieve higher purposes or ends of policing. The causes of economic corruption and noble-cause corruption are different, as are the efforts used to control them.

Pads v. Scores

In terms of the regularity of the payments, corrupt activities could be divided into “pads” and “scores.” If the payment takes place just once, as the opportunity presents itself, it is called a “score.” The Knapp Commission (1972, p. 66) described the “score” as “a one-time payment that an officer might solicit from, for example, a motorist or a narcotics violator. The term is also used as a verb, as in ‘I scored him for $1,500.’” On the other hand, if there is an established arrangement between a citizen and a police officer and the payments occurs on a regular basis, they are called “pads.” The Knapp Commission (1972, p. 66) described “pads” as “regular weekly, biweekly, or monthly payments, usually picked up by a police bagman and divided among fellow officers. Those who make such payments as well as policemen who receive them are referred to as being ‘on the pad.’”

Distortive v. Non-Distortive Corruption

This classification focuses on the outcome of the police officer-citizen interaction. If, compared to the interaction without corruption, the outcome of the interaction with corruption is different, then such corruption is called “distortive corruption.” For example, a police officer stops a motorist for speeding and wants to write a speeding ticket. If the citizen does not offer a bribe, the police officer will write the ticket.

If, on the other hand, the citizen offers a bribe and the police officer accepts it, the police officer will not write the ticket. Thus, the outcome of the interaction (i.e., ticket v. no ticket) is different, depending on whether the bribe was offered and accepted. In cases of distortive corruption, the police officer does something that he was not supposed to do (e.g., revealed an undercover operation to a drug dealer, issued a permit to a nonqualified applicant) and does not do something he was supposed to do (e.g., did not arrest a citizen caught violating the law, did not issue a license to a qualified applicant).

If the outcome of the interaction is the same, regardless of whether the bribe was given or not, then such corruption is called “non-distortive corruption.” For example, a police officer issues a passport or a liquor license to a qualified applicant. The police officer does what he is supposed to be doing or does not do something that he is not supposed to be doing. The reason for the bribe is that the citizen wants to secure something that he has a legal right to but may need to speed up the bureaucratic machine (hence the “grease money” term used for this type of corruption).

Grass-Eaters v. Meat-Eaters

According to the Knapp Commission (1972, p. 4, 65), dishonest, corrupt police officers can be classified as either “grass-eaters” or “meat-eaters.” “Meat-eaters” are police officers who aggressively misuse their police power for personal gains, while “grass-eaters” simply accept the payoffs the circumstances of police work throw their way (Knapp Commission 1972, p. 4). A police officer like Michael Dowd who beats up drug dealers and steals their money and drugs (e.g., Mollen Commission 1994) would be a clear example of a “meat-eater.” A police officer who is on the pad and who accepts the money that the bagman is giving him every 1st of the month (see, e.g., Knapp Commission 1972) would be an example of a “grass-eater.”

A strong support of the code of silence and reluctance of honest police officers to report their corrupt colleagues, on the one hand, and an aggressive misuse of police powers by “meat-eaters,” on the other hand, provide an atmosphere in which it is very easy and natural for “grass-eaters” to accept payoffs. The Knapp Commission (1972, p. 65) suggested that “grass-eaters” continued to accept the gain from corrupt activities out of their feeling of loyalty to their fellow officers and that the “grass-eaters” are “the heart of the problem” since “[t]heir great numbers tend to make corruption ‘respectable’” (Knapp Commission 1972, p. 4). According to the Knapp Commission (1972, p. 65), unlike “meat-eaters,” “grass-eaters” are not willing to take considerable risks in order to obtain illegal gains, and their behavior is considerably more likely to be affected by a change of atmosphere/ attitudes in the department.

Barker And Roebuck’s Typology

The most frequently used typology of police corruption has been developed by Barker and Roebuck (1973; Roebuck and Barker 1974). In their joint work, Barker and Roebuck (1973; Roebuck and Barker 1974) point out that corruption takes many forms. Based on several dimensions (e.g., acts and actors involved, norms violated, support from peer group, organizational degree, police department’s reaction), they specify eight types of corruption: corruption of authority, kickbacks, opportunistic thefts, shakedowns, protection of illegal activity, the fix, illegal criminal activity, and internal payoffs.

The first type involves cases of corruption of authority. Barker and Roebuck (1973, p. 21) describe it along the following lines: “the officer’s authority is corrupted when he receives officially unauthorized, unearned material gain by virtue of his position as a police officer without violating the law per se.” Thus, the actions are not violations of criminal law, but they do violate departmental policies. Examples of such activity would include acceptance of free drinks, free food, discounts on merchandise, or providing property protection for a fee. According to the findings of the Knapp Commission (1972) and Barker and Roebuck’s study (1973, pp. 22–23), the practice seemed to be widespread (31 % of the businessman in a study openly acknowledged providing favors to the police), and the corruptors, typically respectable citizens, according to Barker and Roebuck, give these gifts for a reason. Police officers perceive these gratuities as informal rewards and approve of and support them within the peer group; police officers who refuse such gifts are perceived by their fellow officers as deviant.

The second type of police corruption involves kickbacks. They are defined as the acceptance of goods, services, or money for referring business to various businesses and service providers, including towing companies, ambulances, garages, lawyers, and doctors (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 24). These activities do not violate criminal laws, but they do violate departmental policies. According to Barker and Roebuck (1973, pp. 24–25), the corruptors are legitimate businessmen and professionals whose purpose is to develop and maintain a good working relationship with the police. These payments are perceived by police officers as clean and are, therefore, supported by the peer group (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 25), whereas the departments typically either condone or overlook these kickbacks, provided that they are made by legitimate businesses discreetly. In the case of goods and services, the department’s reaction ranges from acceptance to mild sanctions, with cash rewards resulting in a more severe punishment.

The third type of police corruption involves opportunistic theft from arrestees, victims, crime scenes, and unprotected property (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 26). These behaviors violate both the departmental rules and the criminal rules. The disciplinary measures vary from mild to very serious (including criminal charges and dismissal).

The fourth type of police corruption involves shakedowns. Shakedowns occur upon the police officer’s discovery of both the criminal violation and the violator, and they result in the police officer’s acceptance of a bribe in exchange for not making an arrest (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 27). One of the characteristics of shakedowns is that the victim is rather unlikely to complain, because the victim and the police officer could be found guilty of another crime – bribery. These actions are, of course, violations of both the departmental rules and the criminal codes. The peer culture and the department itself may react differently to the “clean” money than to the “dirty” money, which are distinguished by the source of the money. Officers who are publicly exposed receive severe punishment, including potentially dismissal, and may face a criminal prosecution (Barker and Roebuck 1973, pp. 28–29).

The fifth type of police corruption involves protection of illegal activities. Individuals involved in illegal activities reward police officers in order to be able to operate without police harassment (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 29). The corruptors may be citizens with long criminal records, as well as legitimate businesses operating illegally. Some of the activities protect the illegal services and goods which citizens desire or perceive as necessary. This form of police corruption involves a high degree of organization; police members must be coordinated and know which places enjoy police protection. Departmental reaction depends on the “degree of its own involvement with criminal organizations or legitimate businesses that operate illegally, informal definition of clean money, identity of the corruptor, and whether or not there is public disclosure of flagrant violations” (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 33).

The sixth type of police corruption involves the fix. The fix may include “the quashing of prosecution proceedings following the offender’s arrest and .. .the taking up (disposal of record) of traffic tickets” (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 34). The corruptors are arrestees who want to avoid the court action in their case, and the police officer involved typically “fails to request prosecution, tampers with the existing evidence, or gives perjured testimony” (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 34). The peer approval depends on whether the case to be fixed is a felony, misdemeanor, or a traffic case. Departmental reaction to the fixing of criminal cases is generally severe (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 35).

The seventh type of police corruption is the police officers’ involvement in direct criminal activities. Barker and Roebuck (1973, pp. 35–36) argued that “policemen directly commit crimes against the person or property of another for material gain, acts which are clear violation of both departmental and criminal norms.” Because the profit coming from this transaction is perceived to be “dirty” money, the fellow police officers would typically provide very little support for this type of police corruption and even the departments that may tolerate other forms of police corruption, will react severely by firing the police officers and pressing criminal charges (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 36). Some organization is typically required for this type of police corruption to be carried out, and it involves small groups of police officers.

The last, eighth type of police corruption involves internal payoffs. In the case of internal payoffs, both the corruptors and the corrupted are police officers who sell or buy assignments, offdays, holidays, promotions, etc. (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 36). Peer groups either do not support this type of police corruption or perceive it as necessary and inevitable if they are engaged in other forms of police corruption (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 37). In the departments in which other forms of police corruption flourish, this form exists as well and is highly organized. Possible reactions by the departments may range from informal approval to dismissal and pressing criminal charges (Barker and Roebuck 1973, p. 38).

Punch (1985) added flaking (i.e., planting of evidence) or padding (i.e., supplementing of evidence) as the ninth type of corruption. According to Punch (1985), this type of corruption is particularly evident in drug-related cases.

In a nationwide study of more than 3,000 police officers from 30 diverse US police agencies, Klockars and colleagues (2000) found that shakedowns and opportunistic thefts were evaluated to be the most serious types of corruption in all 30 agencies, while the acceptance of gratuities – be it on a regular basis or only for the holidays – was viewed as the least serious form of corruption in all 30 agencies, with the cases of internal corruption and kickbacks lying somewhere between these two extremes. These results are very consistent with results of surveys of police officers from 13 other countries as diverse as Croatia, Finland, Japan, Pakistan, and South Africa (Klockars et al. 2004).

Causes Of Police Corruption

The National Research Council (2004, p. 271) points out that “[t]he research literature [on causes of police corruption] is long on theory and short on evidence about what causes police corruption.” The existing literature proposes several different approaches toward understanding why police officers engage in corrupt behavior, ranging from police officer individual characteristics to characteristics of the police agency itself and its larger social environment.

The first group of studies focuses on individual police officers and their characteristics (e.g., Muir 1977). The literature in this area tries to ascertain the features which make police officers prone to corruption, such as their prior criminal record and weak moral values. The Knapp Commission (1972) called this the “rotten apple approach.” Over time, scholars discovered that psychological screening tests, traditionally used to prevent future “rotten apples” from entering the police organization, are not accurate predictors of future behavior.

The second group of studies examines the relation between opportunities for corruption and police corruption. By its nature, policing is viewed as an occupation rife with opportunities for corruption (Klockars et al. 2000). Crank and Caldero (2000, p. 63) provide an example:

When we think of police corruption, graft typically comes to mind. The police, in their day-to-day pursuits, are exposed to great temptations, and there are few observers to watch what they do. Imagine this. You’re a street officer. You’ve just made an incredible drug bust. Your reputation in the department is assured, and you’re feeling charged! There’s a pile of money on the floor. All you have to do is reach down, scoop up a handful, and put it in your pocket, and you can put your kid through college.

The opportunities for corruption vary assignments, ranks, units, and police agencies. Detectives, particularly those assigned to narcotic units, have especially extensive opportunities for corruption (General Accounting Office 1998), as do police officers in charge of laws without moral consensus and vague-defined laws (Knapp Commission 1972).

The third group of studies analyzes the relation between the characteristics of a specific police agency (“rotten barrels” or “rotten orchards,” Punch 2009) and police corruption. This approach argues that police agencies have the dominant role in addressing police misconduct by creating systems that establish rules, enforce rules, detect corruption, and control the code of silence (e.g., Klockars et al. 2000; Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2005; Sherman 1974; 1978). The police chief and his top administrators have critical roles (e.g., Goldstein 1975; Knapp Commission 1972; Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2005; Pennsylvania Crime Commission 1974), while the roles of first-line supervisors (e.g., Knapp Commission 1972; Mollen Commission 1994) and peers (e.g., Chen 2003; Klitgaard 1988; Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2005; Stoddard 1974) are not negligible either.

The fourth group of studies examines the relation between the society at large and police corruption. The police agency is part of the larger environment and is influenced by the legal norms (e.g., Knapp Commission 1972) and public expectations (e.g., Goldstein 1975; Sherman 1977). Sherman (1977) proposed that communities differ greatly in their expectations, from “communities with a more public-regarding ethos” (like Charlotte, North Carolina, Kansas City, Missouri, and Portland, Oregon) to communities with more “private-regarding” (like New York City and New Orleans, Louisiana). The same argument could be used to explain differentiation in corruption rates across the world; in the study of International Crime Victim Surveys, Kutnjak Ivkovic´ (2003, p. 612) reveals that “the countries with the reputation in the international business community of being more corrupt, as indicated by a low score on the 1999 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) … appear also to have a higher percentage of the respondents who said that they had been asked to pay a bribe to a police officer last year.”

Measuring The Extent Of Police Corruption

The measurement of the extent of police corruption could be attempted at different levels (Fig. 1).

Police Corruption Research Paper

The data sources seeking to assess the actual level of police corruption include citizen and police officer surveys. The results of citizen surveys portray a heterogeneous picture of the extent of police corruption across the country; in the 1960s, fewer than 2 % of Caucasian respondents nationwide perceived that most of the police were corrupt (President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice 1067b), in contrast to 93 % of New Yorkers in the 1990s who perceived corruption to be widespread (Kraus 1994).

The public opinion surveys indicate that, on the one hand, the public tends to have a relatively positive opinion about police honesty, while, on the other hand, the public perceives that police officers frequently engage in corruption. A 1987 survey of Philadelphia citizens (Moore 1997, p. 62) revealed that the public provided very positive ratings of the police service, although one-third of the respondents thought that police officers often took bribes. Similarly, a 1994 survey of New York citizens showed that, while 93 % of the surveyed citizens perceived that corruption is either “widespread” or “limited,” about one-half of these same citizens estimated that the police are doing a “good” or an “excellent” job (Kraus 1994).

On the comparative front, the International Crime Victimization Survey asked the respondents whether they have paid a bribe and, if so, who the recipient of the bribe was. About one percent of the respondents or fewer from Western democracies, including the USA, reported paying a bribe to the police, while the corresponding percentages were dramatically higher (between 10 % and 20 %) in some East European, Asian, and Latin American countries (Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2003). In addition, the Gallup International 50th Anniversary Survey (1996) reports that approximately one-third of the respondents in the West European countries and Israel, and more than two-thirds of the respondents in the East European countries, the Far Eastern countries, and the Central and South American countries assessed that police corruption was widespread in their countries.

According to the results of the police officer surveys, it seems that the perceived frequency of occurrence of corruption was negatively related to perceived severity of corruption. In the 1994 Illinois study (Martin 1994, p. 33), fewer than 0.4 % of the respondents said that they saw a police officer accepting a bribe, stealing property, or purchasing stolen merchandise in the past year, while 81 % of the police officers said that they saw a police officer accepting free coffee or food from a restaurant. Similarly, Ohio police officers participating in the 1996 survey (Knowles 1996) reported observing serious types of police corruption (acceptance of a payment to overlook illegal activity, purchase of stolen merchandise for personal use or gain) very infrequently (less than 0.6 % observed it last year; less than 4.7 % observed it during their careers), while they reported observing police officers accepting free coffee or food from restaurants quite frequently (71 % observed it over the course of the last 12 months; 87.3 % observed it during their careers).

Surveys of citizens and police officers alike are burdened with the methodological problems (see, e.g., Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2003; National Research Council 2004, p. 269). For various reasons, neither police officers nor citizens (participants or potential witnesses) have motives to report a corrupt transaction; in fact, they have motives not to report it (e.g., Klockars et al. 2000; Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2003; Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2005; Stoddard 1974). In addition, most of the existing surveys focus on one country and are conducted locally, usually with the purpose of surveying the population of a particular city.

Another source includes independent commission report. While providing the results of an indepth investigations, these independent commissions are limited because they refer to a specific police agency, time period, and are bound by the resources and powers granted to the commission. The Knapp Commission (1972) and the Pennsylvania Crime Commission (1972) find widespread corruption in the NYPD and Philadelphia Police Department, respectively, and the presence of a strong code of silence. In contrast, the Mollen Commission (1994) reports that most police officers in the NYPD are honest but still found pockets of police officers aggressively seeking opportunities to obtain money and drugs.

A potential source of information about corruption includes field studies of the police. Typically, they focus on a small number of police agencies and involve a combination of methods (e.g., observation, interviews, analyses of documents). The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice made a push for field studies of the police in the 1960s. Reiss’s study of the police (1971), originating as one of the studies submitted to the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, also contained the data about the frequency with which police officers engage in police misconduct. The rates of corrupt behavior per 100 police officers, based on the observations by the researchers, self-reports by police officers, and allegations of misconduct by others (calculated from the data provided in Reiss’s study 1971) were 22.8 in City X, 20.5 in City Y, and 15.6 in City Z (see Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2003).

Another level of measuring corruption is through the official data, be it arrest rates or the complaint rates. At the federal level, there were between 83 and 150 officers convicted annually in the period from 1993 to 1997 (General Accounting Office 1998, p. 11). A comparison of the official data with the reports by independent commission implies that official data may be just the tip of the iceberg. When the Knapp Commission (1972) reported widespread corruption n the NYPD, the prosecutors filed charges in only about 30 cases of corruption annually (Kutnjak Ivkovic´ 2003). Similar problems could be expected for the police agency’s internal records of corruption complaints. At the same time when the Knapp Commission (1972) discovered widespread corruption in the NYPD, the complaint rate in the NYPD was less than 1 per 100 officers.

The most novel approach is to measure the extent of police integrity instead. Developed by Klockars and Kutnjak Ivkovic´ (Klockars et al. 2000), it measures the level of police integrity and avoids the methodological problems associated with the direct measurement of police corruption. A study of 30 police agencies (Klockars et al. 2000) revealed that police agencies varied considerably in the contours of their police integrity.


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  32. Sherman LL (1977) Police corruption control. In: Bayley D (ed) Police and society. Sage, Thousand Oaks
  33. Sherman LL (1978) Scandal and reform. University of California Press, Berkeley
  34. Stoddard ER (1974) A group approach to Blue-Coat crime. In: Sherman LW (ed) Police corruption: a sociological perspective. Anchor Press, Garden City

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