Corruption is existent in different sectors in society and it alludes to a broad scope either in the form of criminal acts, procedural irregularities, or common infringement. Its meaning and behaviour could differ depending on which sector one is looking at and the manner of its commission or omission but its nature and its effect are always the same – it is not legally justified and it lowers trust in the law as well as the quality of life of its victims. Looking into corruption in the police force, how can we define it? How can we identify its forms and how can we gauge its seriousness?
According to Štefan Šumah, the word corruption is derived from the Latin word “corruptus,” which means, in legal terms, the abuse of a trusted position in political or other organizations with the intention of obtaining material benefit which is not legally justified for itself or for others.” Corruption can also be defined as “dishonest or illegal behavior especially by influential people including the police officers.” Looking into corruption in the police force, it can be defined as an act by members of the police force who have abused the power given to them or who have deliberately omitted to deliver their responsibilities and duty to serve the public. The police are responsible for protecting the public, preventing the commission of offenses, and bringing justice to crime victims. However, some police officers use their power to harass, abuse, and neglect the public.
Corruption can be a criminal act, a procedural irregularity, or a common infringement. It can take many forms i.e. harassment, bullying, mistreatment, neglect, fabricating or destroying evidence, receiving/taking money, disclosing evidence and other private matters, or even by turning a blind eye to their colleagues’ wrongdoing, etc. Corruption can be seen as severe when it falls under a criminal act, while it can be seen as less severe if it falls under an unethical act. Criminal acts are those actions that are against the law, such as coercing someone to have sex, employing a relative against recruitment procedures, taking money from criminals, being involved in drugs, and faking evidence. Unethical acts are those actions that fall outside what is morally right as a police officer, or it violates their code of ethics; these can be misconduct, discrimination, or negligence.
Any act that abuses their power and violating their duty can be classified as corruption. The police can only do these acts by using powers; hence, all forms involve abuse of power. In some cases, the police do these over people who have complained about their wrongdoings or vulnerable people, such as domestic violence victims, those with health issues, and young persons.
Some forms of Corruption may be trivial, and some may be serious to the public, but its consequences are the same; the police can lose the public’s trust and confidence and affects the quality of life of its victims. As the police rely on people’s trust and confidence, and the people rely on them for their protection, each form of corruption has a severe effect on both of them; hence, we should take all of its forms as serious ones. If the public loses their confidence and trust in the police, they are less likely to assist them in upholding the law. Who will the police serve if it happens? Who will the people call if those who must protect them ignore and neglect them?
Safeguards Against Corruption in the Police
Honesty in the police administrations is essential to guarantee that the individuals who work for the police maintain the estimations of the police administration, administer the interests of equity and reasonableness in all circumstances, and appreciate – at the individual and institutional levels – the certainty and trust of the public they serve.
To achieve and maintain trust, the police force must be free of corruption and uphold the highest integrity and accountability standards. Here are some tips on how you can stand against the corruption in the police:
- Inform the higher ranks who have a positive duty to challenge corruption.
- Report to PSD of the police force who have a positive duty to investigate reports.
- Appeal to the IOPC if the report’s result to PSD did not produce the expected outcome.
- Establish measures to increase transparency in the police service, including publication of the national professional police standards of conduct and ethics, national registers of dismissed officers, and availability of outcomes of misconduct hearings and proceedings.
- Support the drafting and implementation of national codes.
Countries’ effectiveness at controlling corruption must have receptiveness, transparency, and data access. Admittance to data builds the responsiveness of police force’s administrative bodies while at the same time positively affecting the degrees of public cooperation in a country.
Moreover, reinforcing public’s interest against corruption and engaging to help build joint trust among the public and the police force would be one of the best moves to battle corruption. For instance, a local area keeping an eye on police misconduct and abuse of power contributes to the decrease of wastage of public’s money and police forces’ assets as well as improve the quality of service of the police forces to the public.
This article was prepared by the Association Against Abuse of Police Powers and Privileges (AAAPPP), a UK not-for-profit organisation specializing in assisting victims of abuse of power and corruption in the UK Police.