Police misconduct refers to unacceptable conduct from police officers in their line of duty. Police misconduct could occur in many ways like assaulting civilians, corruption, off-duty misconduct or obstructing justice. Police officers are required to maintain law and order in the states. If they become undisciplined, civilians will be vulnerable and have no one to protect them. In 2005, a study was carried out and it was found out that police are loyal to each other and cannot report misconduct. After making enquiries, this claim was denied by their superiors.
This issue is a serious problem to the society. There are reported cases where police collaborate with criminals and they cover up their actions. For example, police officers receive bribes to be silent about drug dealers in their area of jurisdiction. Many people are aware of police malpractices but they overlook them. Some defend and say police officers cannot be perfect. This attitude creates a suitable environment for police officers to be lenient with their duties. It also makes them go unpunished when they become in discipline (Kuhns & Knutsson, 12).
It is embarrassing to report police misconduct and then receive threats for this. This action discourages people who are willing to stop this problem. Some of the police officers are against overlooking police mistakes and they are helping to stop this trend. One former police officer has introduced a website where civilians can report police misconduct. The most common place with police misconduct is Los Angeles Police Department (Gerdes, 57). There has been many complains until the department was placed under federal review. The greatest case so far is the incident on Rodney King.
The incident with Rodney Kings aroused great concern on taming the wild behavior in police officers. They brutally handled King during arrest, which is totally against laws governing police officers’ actions. Although King was against the law, the police officers had no mandate to violate his human rights. They flogged him until he was seriously injured. According to the law, a police should arrest a suspect, charge him then he should be arraigned in court. This was not what happened to King. After being arrested, he was beaten with batons and electrocuted with a laser. King sued for compensation and the officers were charged for assaulting a suspect.
Another recent incident displaying police misconduct was in New York. A teenager was shot forty one times by a police officer. The police claimed he had received information from Anti-Narcotic unit officers that the teenager had a gun. He had been seen adjusting his waistband and the officers thought he had a gun. The officer chased him up to his home bathroom in Wakefield neighborhood. This could be a case of racism because the officer was white and the act of shooting unarmed black teenager forty one times, must be out of racism.
Abner Louima was Haitian who was harassed because of his race. Some white officers arrested him and took him to Brooklyn Station House. They beat him while he was in the bathroom. The officers used a toilet plunger to shove it in his rectum and then in his mouth. Police officers have no right to harass any one because of his color, gender or ethnicity. They swore to protect all citizens. In the two cases, the officers involved were arraigned in court and sentenced for their brutal actions. They should be an example to other violent officers who are yet to reform.
Misconduct in the police department has been seen to originate from various sources. According to White (31), it could be their personal background, education or from their environment. According to a certain observation, it was discovered that police officers with advanced education have lesser cases of misconduct. A disorganized society is likely to trigger police misconduct. This is because the residents may not concentrate on fighting police misconduct. Therefore, the police will be indiscipline and not face repercussions. Another contributing factor to this issue is minimal supervision and discretion among police officers.
According to psychology experts, police misconduct is sometimes triggered by their psychological perception. They argue that law enforcers have more freedom than ordinary citizens do. This makes them abuse their powers because they feel they have a certain amount of immunity. For instance, police officers have mandate to drive in high speed and use force when a suspect resists arrest. Officers are found driving dangerously even when it is not related to their duties. The commonly abused power is using force unnecessarily or excessively.
Police misconduct has deteriorated security and well-being of conduct. Civilians feel they cannot trust police officers. The police department incurs loses when it has to pay damages done by police officers. The sense of justice is eroded by the existence of police misconduct. People tend to lose confidence with the judicial system. This mainly affects case, which involve obstruction of justice. For instance, if a police officer testifies falsely he or she is obstructing justice. The public needs to have confidence in the judicial system and it should start from good conduct of the police officers.
Action has been taken against police misconduct in every state. The police departments are working hard to reform their agents and regain public confidence. In Columbia, a board has been formed to collect public complains on police misconduct. After the board receives any complaint, it sets up an interview of the plaintiff, witnesses and the defendant. One of the cases this Board has handled was filed by Bill Turner who complained an officer threw him on the ground unnecessarily when he answered a call. Such techniques of fighting police brutality will reduce and finally eliminate cases of misconduct in the police force (Walker et al, 117).
In USA, it is difficult to get statistics on police misconduct cases. This is because the government does not collect data frequently. One body called National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project gathers information using newspapers. The reports done on the newspapers are collected by this body and it uses them to make estimations on misconduct cases. Their findings stated that police officers stand at better chance of committing than an ordinary civilian. This could because they may be tempted to abuse their powers. However, there are laws put in place to limit their powers and immunity.
Non- governmental groups have formed to monitor police officer actions. One of the groups is Black Panther Party (Roleff, 89). The members carried out patrols using people from neighborhoods. Police officers were followed especially those who went to assist Black Americans who were victimized because of their race. Another current group is Copwatch, which uses video cameras to capture significant scenes for documentation. In 2004, the public gave an opinion that officers with many misconduct cases should be flagged and investigated. Another body found effective is the citizen review board. Any officer reported with indiscipline is reviewed by this board. If the officer is found guilty, he or she is charged and in severe cases, police officers are decertified.
There exists a statute protecting civilians from police misconduct. It is section 1983, which not only protects civil rights from police officers only but also the government and other vigilante groups. When police officers brutally attack suspects or other civilians, they are depriving them of their rights and they can be charged for defying this statute. It is also illegal for an officer to arrest an individual falsely or detain him or her without due process. False accusations are among the common complaints from the public. According to White(81), police officers mostly do it to conceal their mistakes.
Police misconduct should be addressed in police training. More emphasis is required in teaching good conduct and the significance in this career. Police officers in training should be made to understand the repercussions of their actions. The police administration should provide workshops and counseling services for officers in the various stations. Some officers commit these offenses because other psychological issues bothering them. Therefore, they need to be counseled and advised how to deal with their challenges.
The police force has been appointed to protect people’s rights and assure them security. Unfortunately, it is full of unethical practices, which jeopardize the public’s welfare. If police engage in corruption, they encourage crime and law breakage. Crime will increase in the country because of police’s reluctance (Roleff, 112). The civilians have lost confidence with the police force and they feel vulnerable. This issue has inspired them to take actions of mitigating police misconduct. The groups formed to monitor officers have greatly contributed in reducing misconduct.
Despite these situations, stern measures have been put in place to ensure the officers are reforming and doing their duties as required. The government cannot carryout these reforms on their own. It requires great assistance from the people when they report any cases of misconduct. One major reason that makes police indulge in misconduct is the hardships in the police department. They complain about low salaries and difficult working conditions. However, they need to understand that misconduct could render them jobless after they are decertified (Fitzgerald, 213)
Fitzgerald, Sheila. Police Brutality. Detroit: Greenhaven Press/Thomson Gale, 2007. Print.
Gerdes, Louise I. Police Brutality. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Print.
Kuhns, Joseph B, and Johannes Knutsson. Police Use of Force: A Global Perspective. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2010. Print.
Roleff, Tamara L. Police Corruption. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2003. Print.
Walker, Samuel, Spohn , Cassia, and DeLone, Miriam. The Color of Justice: Race, Ethnicity, and Crime in America. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2007. Print.
White, Michael D. Current Issues and Controversies in Policing. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon, 2007. Print.