Police Misconduct


Grass Eater or Meat Eater? 

Police officers are sworn to serve and protect. They are looked up to by the children who aspire to be them, but as long as there has been a police officer, station, and jurisdiction there has also been a long history of police corruption and bribery. In the earlier times of policing, police officers were decided by who held political power, police officers gambled and drank while on their beat and helped keep the politicians they favored in office by intimidation and pay-offs.

The Progressive Era was major influential in helping rid police forces of corruption and bribery. Most political ties have been removed from most cities but bribery still exists amongst the police force. In April of 2005, two police officers in Chicago stood among the 14 reputed organized crime figures indicted in a major investigation of unsolved mob murders. One officer was accused of being a spy for organized crime within the police department and the other officer reportedly passed information to mob leaders who were in jail. (Lighty, April 25th, 2005)

      Bribery is not easily recognized, for example; Say a police officer walks into a doughnut shop in uniform, for a late breakfast. The woman behind the counter gets the officer a jelly filled doughnut, waves her hand and says, “Free of charge”. The officer nods and gladly accepts. That is called a form of “Grass Eaters” bribery taking things that come their way. Mostly always harmless but still a form of corruption and bribery. “Meat Eaters” take things and use their badge and power to get a hold of it by persuading others and bribing them to get what they want. (Smith, 2007)

      Jose Olivas Jr. is a Border Patrol agent in San Diego who was being bribed into helping smuggle illegal aliens from Mexico into California. He had been an agent for 10 years, was respected by all, and when his co-workers were questioned they were all equally shocked and only had good things to say about him. When he was questioned by the judge for his reasons behind his actions, he admitted the extra money helped pay bills he was no longer able to because of the economy. (Bergman, May 27, 2008)

      With corruption still among the police force, how are the police being policed, even being Border Agents? The Department o f Homeland Security’s inspector general has nearly 170 investigators to police 208,000 department employees, including other large agencies like FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), and the Secret Service that gets to try all first cases. When it passes on an investigation the case is then picked up by either the Immigration or Customs Enforcement’s office of professional responsibility or the Customs and Border Protection internal affairs unit. (Bergman, May 27, 2008)

      Corruption still infiltrates all Police Agencies anywhere around the world. It is not always the fault of the agency because even the best officers can be manipulative and vindictive. It will be a problem that is not going to be easily solved, and it may never be. You cannot help what a person thinks morally, and every right or wrong differs from person to person. People are not an exact science, you can predict what a person may do and how they may deal with the confrontation of being bribed, but until they voice their own opinion about it, no one can ever be sure.  


Police corruption is a problem that society has been faced with for many years and to this day it still exists. Police corruption is the misuse of authority in order to produce personal gains for themselves or for others (Walker & Katz,2008). Some forms of police corruption are extortion, receiving or fencing stolen goods, selling drugs and bribery (Police Corruption and Misconduct). When mentioning bribery we mean a police officer accepting a bribe to hide illegal activity, allowing it to continue or when they accept money as an exchange for not writing a traffic ticket.

An example of this type of corruption is in the case of a police officer in California who is accused of bribery. It was alleged that after stopping a women for a traffic violation he wrote up a citation and days later the officer called the women and offered to get rid of the ticket if in exchange she cleaned his home. Due to this a criminal complaint was filed against him and he could be facing two to four years in prison with a fine of $2,000 to $10,000. (Hall, 2007)

      Some reasons why police officers fall into this type of behavior can be because of the area they may be patrolling. They can be influenced by the negativity in an area, which is partially the reason why they get moved around often.  Another reason can be because of the plain nature of their work and that they aren’t under constant supervision and surrounded by crime. This allows them to fall into a pattern of accepting any types of bribes, pay offs, or getting involved in criminal activity. Being under bad supervision or bad management can also lead them to such acts because they think they are less likely to be caught.

      Negative side effects of accepting bribes include many. These are to the law enforcement departments, the communities and to the police officers themselves. By behaving in such misconduct they are not doing their work and therefore going against any rules and regulations that their department has. They in the long run can also give their law enforcement departments a bad reputation for disorderly officers. To the community they give the people a reason for them to not trust the police. They will become less willing to cooperate with them. This can also affect any type of relationships that the police and community as a whole may have. Another negative effect of this is that by taking bribes to cover up illegal activity they are not serving the community and protecting it, on the contrary they are adding to the problem. This is bad because it can lead to more crime and even preventable deaths when it comes to drug trafficking. They could also be aiding in the increase distribution of drugs and to the distribution to minors by covering up and letting this happen.

      It is really hard to try and stop police officers from accepting bribes because they are not under constant watch. This action takes place when they are out in the street on duty. The only form to try and help stop bribery and other forms of police corruption is for agencies to better supervise their officers. Also informing and educating the community and prospective police officers of the negative effects of such actions. One form in which they already help prevent this is in the recruiting process. They perform various screenings and background checks on the candidates to take out the ones that in the future will likely commit these acts of corruption but you cant always predicts what a person will be like in the future. While bribery is a problem in police agencies in the United States it is not as bad as other countries. In an international study the US ranked 17th out of 41 countries (Walker & Katz, 2008)

Bribery has been hand and hand with police agencies for as long as the police have been around. Most people have this concept that police are too honorable to be bribed, but this is not the case. People get this assumption because they see the uniform and forget that police are still human beings. They are not above taking money. Police being bribed happens in every society on the planet. Bribery is defined as: a form of pecuniary corruption is an act implying money or gift given that alters the behavior of the recipient (Bribery).

      Bribery can happen anywhere there is power. Politicians take bribes all the time, so don’t get caught because they have found loop holes. A manager could take a bribe from a coworker so that they don’t get in trouble. Teachers are receiving bribes now-a-days to raise the grades of their students. This section of the paper is solely on the basis of police officers taking bribes.

      One study found that bribes are gateways to police to commit further unethical actions. It seems that when police first start taking bribes, this is the time when the police also start to drift further from their moral compass. The study shows that the first unethical action a police officer takes, is taking a bribe. This could be a small bribe for a simple speeding ticket and the police officer just thinks of it as nothing, that it could do no harm. These police officers are further from the truth. When the police officers ethics start to become blurry, then this is the start of even more trouble (Melton).

      Even though bribery has been around for as long as police, it seems that the government has spent the past couple of decades on cracking down on these officers. With every year that passes, more and more police officers are being charged with bribery in court. This is not due to more police officers taking bribes but the amount of agencies that are using these officers as an example. These agencies are not taking bribery as light as they used to. Some agencies are looking at the past and charging ex-officers with the crime of bribery. Not only are the police officers being charged, but more and more people are being charged with attempted bribery of an officer (Mason).

      Bribery is a major concern and should not be dismissed. Even though the government and most agencies have done a lot over the years to stop it, police bribery is a big problem no matter where a person lives. Police officer need to understand that them taking bribes might help them financially in the beginning, but in the long run they are making things worse for all police officers. 

While bribery may be one of the lesser offences comprising police corruption, the bribe may be keeping the public from achieving justice and bribery is in no way a new concept: It has been suggested most notably by the Knapp Commission that the New York Police Department (NYPD) in particular suffered from corruption from the outset: systematic payoffs from brothels and gambling dens and shakedowns of small businesses were documented from the end of the nineteenth century through to the 1950’s (Newburn, 1999). 

      While the current situation of accepting a bribe may be for a small incident, the overall effect on the public perception of police can be extensive. “The cost to the public of police theft and extortion is not just the value of the item stolen or the money extorted, it is a betrayal of the public trust” (Cohen, 1986). When police abuse authority the public loses respect for the department and the positions. This may lead to disrespect and cruelty towards all officers. Police departments may launch anti-corruption campaigns. However, “the problems of administrators taking a strong stance against corruption include acquiring evidence, maintaining morale, and assessing the integrity of the supervisory personnel” (Goldstein, (1975).