The ethical conduct of public officials, such as the police plays a significant role in determining the performance of such public agencies. Police deviant behavior refers to activities that a police officer may undertake during the line of duty that is not consistent with the societal values and ethical principles, which can be from the police professional code of conduct or the general societal viewpoint.
As an important criminology theorem, it is not only important to study why individuals break the laws that govern society, but also vital to have an insight into why such people break the laws that govern their social setting. Since the police have the sole purpose of protecting people’s rights from violation by others, the police force needs to uphold such integrity by not being the source of the violation. This implies that any deviant behavior by police officials is bound to have an impact on the police force and the public (Weisburd, 2000).
The cycle that exists between the police, the public, and criminal entities plays a significant role in ensuring public safety and appropriate enforcement of law and order, implying any deviance in police conduct may have dire consequences concerning enforcing law and order and ensuring public safety. Because police deviant behavior has been a subject of minimal research, this essay investigates the impacts of police deviant behavior (Punch, 2009).
One of the most common impacts of police deviant behavior is that it affects the integrity of the police force. The integrity of the police force determines the reputation that it receives from the public about ensuring public safety. Ethical behavior is a paramount attribute for reputable policing in society since it fosters a reputable police department and at the same ensures that the sole purpose of the police force is kept into consideration. Police deviant behavior makes it impossible to establish a value-based law enforcement agency that comprises ethical police officers who reflect the ethical values and principles of society.
A police force whose integrity has been ruined by the deviant behavior of its members suffers many setbacks that serve as an impediment to the effective execution of the duties and responsibilities of the police officers. For instance, a lack of integrity in the police department impairs effective communication with the community due to a lack of trust from the public (Weisburd, 2000).
This denotes the significance of upholding the code of ethics by the police officers since the public is bound to believe that the police officer is unfair and lacks morals. Simply put, deviant behavior by the police officers reduces their ability to conduct their duties and responsibilities because the community will have lost their confidence and respect for the police officers.
Respect and confidence are integral aspects of policing that determine the effectiveness of a police unit or any other law enforcement agency. The underlying principle is that police officers have to carry out themselves in a style that is consistent with the societal norms that are expected from them, to earn trustworthiness and integrity from the public (Weisburd, 2000).
There are various types of police deviant behavior, irrespective of the type of the behavior; it is bound to have negative impacts on both the society and the police unit itself. One of the most common types of police deviance is police gratuity, which is sometimes called corruption; referring to the fringe benefits that a police officer receives in the line of duty.
They are a violation of the police code of ethics for the reason that they entail financial rewards. In addition, it is considered corruption because it places the police officer in a compromising position where he can solicit favors during the line of duty. Police gratuities have significant impacts on the police force and the public.
One of the most common effects of police gratuities is that it results in victimization. This takes place when police officers exploit the authority vested in them, which can result in the police officer committing criminal acts that have a direct impact on the public (Sinan, 2005). Victimization serves as a setback to the criminal justice system since the police can use illegitimate methods to carry out investigations, let suspects go free in return for favors, and tamper with evidence to solicit
bribes. Such actions are bound to cause arrests that are unlawful and have no justifiable grounds. Generally, police gratuity can result in incidences associated with bribery, police theft, and police colluding with criminal offenders. Such acts serve as an impediment to the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
Another impact of police gratuity that should not be overlooked is that corrupt police officers tend to convert honest police officers into their deviant ways to foster a uniform police department (Stoddard, 200). Such a scenario does not form healthy grounds for law enforcement and public protection.
The second category of police deviance is police shakedown, whereby the police officers carry out extortion from business owners for the sake of protection. Police extortion is rampant among locations that run illegal or substandard businesses that require police for inspection.
For instance, in cases whereby the police have the responsibility of inspecting business premises to evaluate compliance to business regulations, police officers can threaten such business owners for pay-offs to bypass the inspection process or manipulate the inspection reports to meet the compliance regulations. Police shakedowns are common in illegal gambling dens, strip joints, and areas that have rampant prostitution (Syed, 2005).
A common effect associated with police shakedown is the victimization of the public. However, the most significant impact of police shakedown is that it promotes the prevalence of criminal activities, which in turn impairs public safety and law enforcement, which are key objectives of policing.
Police shakedown serves as interception in the occurrence of criminal activity; this means that in case the offender faces the criminal justice system, the offender may enjoy the defense of the police by their involvement in the crime. It can be argued that police shakedowns tend to promote crime rather than eliminate crime in society (Syed, 2005).
The third type of police deviance is police perjury. Police perjury is somewhat similar to corruption since they are performed knowingly. Police perjury involves eliminating some vital piece of information intentionally to aid the offender during a criminal prosecution. Police perjury can take many forms such as the police officer testifying false information, presenting the wrong evidence among other interventions aimed at “fixing” the criminal prosecution.
The problem with perjury is that it affects the integrity of the police unit as a law enforcement agency and the greater criminal justice system. This has an impact on the criminal justice system since can result in a lack of truth during sentencing, false prosecutions and ultimately jeopardize the credibility of the justice system (Syed, 2005).
Even though other actors in the system such as supervisors and criminal court judges are sentient concerning police perjury, little efforts have been done to combat the vice. This is impeded by the fact the police officer gets good credit for his arrests, and the prosecutor bags a win in courts, portraying an image of an effective criminal justice system. A defective criminal justice system like that is bound to let more criminals go free, which poses a threat to the safety of the public that the police have a responsibility of upholding (Weisburd, 2000).
Police brutality is another type of deviant behavior that is common among police officers. Police brutality is broad and includes offenses committed by the police such as the use of unwarranted force during policing, disrespect to the public, abusive language, and others police practices that serve as a violation of due process.
In a more specific definition, police brutality refers to the extreme violence that has does not warrant a sincere police function, including unreasonable and pointless use of physical force during law enforcement practices. Police brutality has a significant impact on policing practices. One of the most common effects of police brutality is that is a hindrance to public safety since it can result to harm in cases where police officers deploy extreme physical force.
It is also evident that policing using brutal force affects the relationship that exists between the police and the public, and this significantly hinders community policing due to the brutal nature of the police. As a result, there is underperformance during the execution of police duties and responsibilities; this serves as a chance for criminals to carry out their activities (Weisburd, 2000).
Research studies suggest that police brutalities usually follow a particular pattern such as race, social status, and another social variables. For instance, an African-American is more susceptible to police brutality than whites are. Such divisions during policing do not provide a better environment for the coexistence of the various members of the public.
Police profanity is an example of police deviance characterized by the use of profane and obscene language during the execution of policing duties. Police profanity has a significant impact on how the public perceives the police unit. Using profane language during communication with the public serves as an insult to them, and may hinder effective communication between the police and the public. In most cases, police officers who use profane language intend to create a dominant-subservient kind of relationship with the public.
Such an approach to policing is preferred because police should aim at establishing a mutual relationship between them and the public to foster information passing. Generally, police profanity and brutality affect the way the public relates with the police and the expectations of the public from the police. Police profanity with the intent of attracting public attention is good, but it should not be done for offensive reasons (Weisburd, 2000).
Police deviance is also evident in cases that involve sexual misconduct when on or off duty. Sexual misconduct can take place between the police and the public and within the police departmental levels itself. Police sexual violence is also an increasing deviant behavior whereby police officers tend to solicit for sexual favors from female offenders such as prostitutes to let them off the hook, commonly referred to as sexual shakedowns.
Police sexual violence can take many forms such as cases where police officers of the opposite sex strip search members of the public. Police sexual violence is an insult to the privacy of the victims (Syed, 2005). In addition, cases of police sexual violence and sex act when on duty causes embarrassment to the police department, which in turn taints the police image and corrodes the trust that existed between the public and the police department.
Other types of police deviance include sleeping while on duty, drug abuse while on and off duty, and misusing or disclosure of confidential information. Sleeping and drug abuse while on duty affects police performance when undertaking their duties, and this can increase the chance of criminal activities taking place without the police being informed; implying that they affect public safety (Sinan, 2005).
It is widely evident that police deviance has significant impacts that affect the public such as victimization, and the police unit itself such as police integrity, trust, and respect from the public. In addition, police deviance serves as an impediment to effective communication between the police and the public. This implies that effective policing requires that police officers do not engage in deviant behaviors.
Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Oxford Journals, 4(4), 328-330.
Sinan, D. (2005). The culturalization process of the police and its impact on police deviance. Kentucky: Eastern Kentucky University.
Stoddard, E. The Informal Code of Police Deviancy: A Group Approach to Blue-Coat Crime. Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, 201-213.
Syed, T. (2005). Not Victimless: Understanding the harmful effects of police corruption. Servamus, 91(1), 67-90.
Weisburd, D. (2000). Police Attitudes Toward Abuse of Authority: Findings From a National Study. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.