Police corruption

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A 1902 cartoon depicts a police officer whose eyes are covered with a cloth labelled "bribes"

Police corruption is a form of police misconduct in which law enforcement officers end up breaking their political contract and abuse their power for personal gain. This type of corruption may involve one or a group of officers. Internal police corruption is a challenge to public trust, cohesion of departmental policies, human rights and legal violations involving serious consequences. Police corruption can take many forms, such as bribery.


  • At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the USA have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade, an investigation by USA TODAY Network found. Officers have beaten members of the public, planted evidence and used their badges to harass women. They have lied, stolen, dealt drugs, driven drunk and abused their spouses. Despite their role as public servants, the men and women who swear an oath to keep communities safe can generally avoid public scrutiny for their misdeeds. The records of their misconduct are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside their departments. Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed.
  • Police misconduct takes on many forms, from unjustified violence, murder, torture, sexual assault, theft of evidence—usually cash or drugs—and extortion, to actively assisting or participating in organized crime. However, this article will focus on a narrow segment of the many-faceted police misconduct problem—misconduct that leads to wrongful convictions.
    This includes everything from withholding exculpatory evidence all the way to planting evidence and inventing fictitious crimes. The misconduct might be the result of laziness or have a more sinister intent. Either way, police officials rarely pay for their misdeeds. The same cannot be said about their victims, who often pay with years or even decades of their lives, or, sadly, with their very lives. Thus, the issue of wrongful convictions caused by police misconduct is literally a matter of life and death.
  • Nearly 800 criminal cases involving 25 police officers suspected of corruption are set to be thrown out in Baltimore, according to the city’s chief prosecutor. The 25 officers include eight who were in the now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force, six of whom pleaded guilty to corruption charges and two who were convicted in February 2018, said Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Prosecutors said those officers used their authority to rob suspects of drugs and money.
    • Baltimore prosecutor seeks to throw out nearly 800 criminal convictions By Josh Girsky, Taylor Romine and Jean Casarez, CNN, Fri October 4, 2019
  • Police corruption is ubiquitous and is a serious problem for numerous reasons. One is that police officers are often armed and can therefore pose a physical threat to citizens in a way that most other state officials do not. Another is that citizens typically expect the police to uphold the law and be the “final port of call” in fighting crime, including that of other state officials: if law enforcement officers cannot be trusted, most citizens have nowhere else to turn when seeking justice... According to Transparency International’s 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, more people pay bribes to law enforcement officers globally than to any other public officials, rendering the police the most corrupt branch of the state in many countries.
  • Police corruption assumes numerous forms, from relatively benign but irritating demands for bribes from motorists to improper procurement procedures and—most dangerously—collusion with organized crime gangs in the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans.... The “Dirty Harry problem,” is applied when police officers deliberately bend or break the law not for personal benefit but in the belief that this is ultimately for the good of society.
  • Actions by police officers, including witness tampering, violent interrogations and falsifying evidence, account for the majority of the misconduct that lead to wrongful convictions, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Registry of Exonerations that focused on the role police and prosecutors play in false convictions in the U.S.
    Researchers studied 2,400 convictions of defendants who were later found innocent over a 30-year period and found that 35% of these cases involved some type of misconduct by police. More than half – 54% – involved misconduct by police or prosecutors.
    The findings by the National Registry of Exonerations, a project that collects data on wrongful convictions, come as protests over racial injustice and police brutality spread across many cities for several months following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody.... Misconduct that leads to wrongful convictions rarely comes to light and doesn't usually lead to mass protests and a racial reckoning, although they involve the same reliance on secrecy and deception

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