Raise your right hand and repeat after me. “I, (name is stated), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
By honoring the oath of office, the U.S. evolves toward a corruption-free law enforcement model, unlike many parts of the world. Nevertheless, police corruption does exist within individual U.S. officers and occasionally entire police units. In the last 17 years or so, the Chicago Police Department (2), the Los Angeles Police Department (3), and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office (4) have suffered the effects of corrupt special police units.
In the old days, police corruption expressed itself as pay-offs from organized crime or the extortion of individuals and businesses. Today, those endeavors pale in comparison with the massive amounts of cash and drugs that can be stolen from drug dealers. Former Police Chief Joseph McNamara wrote in his piece entitled, “Gangsta Cops,” (5)
The Drug War is not only ruining society, it is corrupting police forces across the country and it will continue to do so as long as our current policies are in place. (5)McNamara states,
In my research I've been horrified to uncover a pattern of thousands of
predatory crimes committed by police officers in the past 30 years that are all connected to the Drug War. In studying these crimes, I've discovered two things: (5)
First, the nature of the Drug War encourages, almost demands, corruption. (5)
Second, the corruption bred by the Drug War is happening across the country, from police officer to police chief or sheriff. (5)
This corruption exists not just among a few individuals scattered across the country, but among corrupt gangs of cops. These gangs have surfaced in big cities and small towns as well as rural areas across America. We cannot end cop gangsterism by merely plucking a few bad apples from the barrel. We can only end it by ending the Drug War policies that breed it. (5)
Now, that’s a damning indictment on the part of Chief McNamara.
The Chief is an out-spoken opponent to the “War on Drugs” and as such he seems to overstate the pervasiveness of drug related police corruption. He qualifies his statements with,
It is true that it's only a small percentage of the total number of police officers that ever commit these crimes. But they do enormous damage-not only to their victims and the community, but to honest cops. (5)
There is a minority of officers operating as rogue cops. But, police corruption does not appear suddenly and fully developed. It is a progressive developing cancer.
An entry level scenario for officers just stepping onto the slippery slope of corruption might go something like this. An officer detains a person known to be a drug user without advising his Dispatch personnel. The person is either legally or illegally searched and a minor amount of drugs or drug paraphernalia is discovered. Confiscating the contraband, the officer does not arrest the individual, but instead gives him a personal cell phone number. The subject now “owes” the officer and is expected to call when he gets some information about someone selling narcotics. When the officer receives the information, the subject is directed to arrange for the purchase of illegal drugs. After learning where and when the drug transaction is to take place, the officer miraculously happens upon the prearranged location and arrests a narcotics seller for the possession of illegal drugs.
The above scenario is pretty good police work, don’t you think? However, there are those nasty details about: unlawful detention; illegal search; destruction of evidence; inducing criminal acts; entrapment of individuals; false police reports; and perjury.
What was it that Chief McNamara said? “…the corruption bred by the Drug War is happening across the country, from police officer to police chief or sheriff.”
So how does a police chief or sheriff become corrupt? It could be dirty money in the form of campaign contributions for a sheriff and perhaps kickbacks to both for influencing who may or may not be targeted in the Drug War. I doubt that there is too much of that, but law enforcement managers are playing into the corruption in another way; it is called “stats,” short for statistics.
It is incontestable that illegal drug usage drives the crime rate, for which law enforcement is judged. Too high a crime rate causes police administrators to come under pressure from their political bosses. Often times, the police manager’s simplistic answer is to demand an increase in the number of arrests (stats.) Today’s preferred term is “productivity,” which is a polite way to say arrest anyone for anything. The officer failing to meet the expected “productivity” is judged negatively. Conversely, the highly productive officer is lionized, regardless of whether or not he makes disguised, unlawful and unethical arrests.
Corruption among our narcotics officers will go on no matter what. So long as cops are pressured to fulfill a drug arrest quota, they'll feel justified in making illegal searches and committing perjury concerning the circumstances of the arrest. They'll commit these felonies as long as they produce the kind of statistics that the brass wants. And many will follow the road of temptation, from theft right on down to murder. (5)That holds true for all officers, not just narcotics officers.
Potential corruption issues are magnified when a law enforcement agency establishes a special unit to specifically increase agency “productivity” if the unit is staffed in part with unethical officers and supervisors. In such cases, it won’t be long until the foot on the slippery slope of corruption degenerates into a full-blown scandal. Rogue units are a direct result of inept management, at best. Rather than inept, if a manager knowingly sets the stage leading to unlawful police activity, he is corrupt. The corrupting factor may not be money, but it could be the desire for personal power or to protect his job.
Early stage police corruption violates civil rights, destroys the public confidence and undermines respect for the law.
I’m grieved that some officers raised their hands, gave the oath of office, were accepted into the Sheepdog fraternity, and eventually abandoned and abused the sacred trust. Inept and/or corrupt managers and officers no longer support and defend the Constitution. They no longer qualify for the honorable “Sheepdog” appellation. These people are now “Jackals,” a close and vile relative of the “Wolf.”
Uu-ah Sheepdog! (6)
Hunt the Wolf and the Jackal!
Links in the Blog:
(1) Sheepdog Barking header
(2) Chicago Police Corruption Probe Under Way
(3) City Will Pay $810,000 in Rampart Lawsuit
(4) Deputies Portrayed as Criminals Trial
(5) Gangsta Cops
(6) Uu-ah to All You Civilian Sheepdogs