Police are not flawless. There are occasions where the police commit unethical behavior. They have their times of being accused of police brutality, misconduct, and corruption. Sometimes the use of force is necessary for police officers but the question becomes how much is enough force to control the situation? There are situations where little to no force is necessary but a police officer may get carried away and that is where the misconduct and brutality accusations begin. Police are vulnerable to corruption in the form of bribes, theft, and burglary. Unethical behavior is not exceedingly common amongst law enforcement but occasionally it does happen.
Corruption and misconduct are more common than many individuals might think. Corruption can be as simple as bribing a police officer to not give a speeding ticket or as complex as a drug dealer bribing multiple officers for protection. According to Katz and Walker (2011), eleven police officers in New Orleans were convicted for accepting money to protect a drug dealer’s warehouse where he was storing cocaine. Legitimate business occasionally bribe police officers with free things or money in exchange for extra patrolling of the area or simple for more police presence (Katz & Walker, 2011).
The use of force by police officers is something that is necessary on certain occasions. Whether it is somebody who is resisting arrest or an individual trying to assault a police officer, police sometimes need to use force to subdue people so they are no longer a threat to the officer or bystanders. Police brutality comes in to question when an officer uses excessive force for situations where little to no force should have been used or if an officer uses excessive force without a justified reason. In 1991 four police officers were caught on tape beating Rodney King, who they claimed was on PCP after displaying “superhuman” powers (Grant & Terry, 2012). This beating led to the Christopher Commission being established to look in to the wrong doings of these officers and the LAPD. The commission found evidence of racism and biased throughout the LAPD as well as a lack of accountability to the community (Grant & Terry, 2012). The Christopher Commission recommended widespread reform in the department’s structure, recruitment, and accountability mechanisms (Grant & Terry, 2012). The commission also found that police management was poor and the officers were hardly reprimanded for complaints of excessive force (Grant & Terry, 2012).
In 2014, two San Francisco police officers were found guilty of multiple corruption charges. According to Egelko (2014) they were charged and convicted of “stealing property and thousands of dollars in cash from drug-dealer suspects to enrich themselves and defraud the city.” Because of the scandal with these two officers over one hundred criminal cases had to be dismissed. During the trial, neither of the two accused officers testified or tried to prove their innocence. The individuals who bribed them and were their victims testified against them and proved the two officers were also guilty of wire fraud. The two former police officers were sentenced to forty one months in jail and a $25,000 fine. Considering the two officers spent nearly two decades on the police force, and did not steal from normal citizens, I would have to approve of their sentencing. They were stealing from criminals and while that does not make it right, it could have been much worse.
In 2013, a former Meriden officer was sentenced to 14 months in prison for using unreasonable force and obstructing justice for trying to cover up his actions (Altimari, 2013). The officer that was charged and convicted pushed a prisoner into a cell at the police department so hard he slammed his head on to a concrete bench. The officer then proceeded to drag him around his cell and make it look like he did nothing. The attorneys claim if the officer would have owned up to his mistake, he would not be going to prison. The problem was he attempted to cover up what he did. I agree with the 14 month sentencing purely because he attempted to cover up his actions and lie about what happen. I understand that in the heat of the moment things tend to happen, but as an officer of the law you should never lie about it. The worst case scenario is being reprimanded in that instance.
Police officers are not perfect, and some do commit unethical behavior. They have their times of being corrupt, whether it is being bribed, stealing or working for criminals. They also have times when they commit police brutality on an individual. Whether it is protecting a drug dealer’s warehouse, stealing money and property from drug dealers, or shoving a man in to a jail cell, police do commit unethical behavior.