An anti-corruption system for police organizations

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Recent and not so recent commissions of inquiry into police corruption, including the Knapp and Mollen Commissions into the New York Police Department, the Rampart investigation into the Los Angeles Police Department, the Fitzgerald Commission into the Queensland Police Service and the Wood Commission into the NSW Police Service, have uncovered corruption of a profoundly disturbing kind. Police officers have been involved in perjury, fabricating evidence, protecting pederast rings, taking drug money and selling drugs. In South Africa, police have been involved in murder, armed robbery and rape, as well as theft, fraud, fabrication of evidence and the like. High levels of police corruption have been a persistent historical tendency in police services throughout the world. Corruption in policing is neither new nor especially surprising. Indeed, a number of causes of police corruption have been identified. In order to do their job effectively, police have been given a number of rights and powers - such as the right to use coercive force in ways forbidden to others, and the power to do so - and wide discretion in the exercise of these rights and powers. Police have many opportunities to abuse these powers; to harass the innocent with threats or trivial charges, to turn a blind eye to serious crime, and so on. They also face considerable temptations to avail themselves of these opportunities. They may be offered material inducements, such as the offer of money or favours in return for protection, or dropping of charges, for example. They may be tempted by the opportunity to express some personal prejudice, against (say) a particular racial group. Or they may be influenced by the chance to avoid what we could think of as the costs of police work. After all, a lot of conscientious police work is unpleasant - dangerous, or tedious or time consuming. The temptation to take short-cuts to avoid these costs, or to seek benefits to offset these costs, is considerable. My general concern in this chapter is with police corruption and the methods used to combat it. The principal institutional anti-corruption vehicle is what can be referred to as an anti-corruption system. Such a system lies at the core of a so-called integrity system; the latter being a system for the promotion of ethical behaviour and the prevention of unethical behaviour, more generally - corruption being an especially serious form of unethical behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesigning in ethics
EditorsJeroen Van Den Hoven, Seumas Miller, Thomas Pogge
Place of PublicationCambridge, United Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9780511844317
ISBN (Print)9780521119467
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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