Police misconduct can be described as a violation, by a police officer, of a legal, ethical, or moral code while on duty. Police misconduct can still occur while off-duty so long as the officer uses, in some way, their status as a police officer to break these legal, ethical, or moral codes. Examples of misconduct include police crime, occupational deviance, corruption, abuse of authority, and dereliction of duty. During the actual act that constitutes misconduct, whether it is stealing from the scene of a crime, taking a bribe, or improper use of force, misconduct can be boiled down to either knowledgeable or born out of incompetence (Fyfe 1986). Yet it is the underlying institutional characteristics and police culture that determine if the misconduct is either knowledgeable or due to incompetence.
When discussing misconduct, it is best to think about it on a spectrum. At one extreme we have police officers who engage in knowledgeable extralegal activities and understand that what they are doing constitutes police misconduct. Not only do they go through with it, they want to do it and take pleasure in the act. An example of this is nicely illustrated by Elijah Anderson in his work, The Police and the Black Male. In it, perspective accounts are taken from residents of a city that claim that police from the "downtown" district go out of their way to break the law (1990).
[...] Lersch, Kim “The Myth of Policewomen on Patrol.” Pp. 89-96 in Demystifying Crime and Criminal Justice, edited by R. M. Bohm and J. T. Walker. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury Publishing Company. MacDonald, Heather “The Myth of Racial Profiling.” City Journal 11(2). Retrieved November (http://www.city- journal.org/html/11_2_the_myth.html) Muir, William Kerr, Jr “Four Policemen.” Pp. 181-96 in Policing Perspectives: An Anthology, edited by L. K. Gaines and G. W. Cordner. New York: Oxford University Press. [...]
[...] Gaines and G. W. Cordner. New York: Oxford University Press. Barlow, David Melissa Hickman Barlow “A Political Economy of Community Policing.” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 646-74. Bittner, Egon “The Functions of the Police in Modern Society.” Pp. 14-33 in Policing Perspectives: An Anthology, edited by L. K. Gaines and G. W. Cordner. New York: Oxford University Press. Chambliss, William J “Policing the Ghetto Underclass: The Politics of Law and Law Enforcement.” Social Problems 177-94 Fyfe, James J ”‘Good' Policing.” Pp. [...]
[...] In it, perspective accounts are taken from residents of a city that claim that police from the "downtown" district go out of their way to break the law (1990). One young man said: Yeah, they lookin' for trouble . We call them Nazis . They stand there and watch a white cop beat your brains out. Never see'um again, go down there, come back, and they ride right back downtown, come back, do their little dirty work, go back downtown, and put their real badges on (Anderson 1990). At times police officers have been observed while harassing local young black men, even punching them. [...]
[...] Here it is even harder to blame the individual officer for their misconduct than for those in the knowledgeable extralegal misconduct category. Blame should be distributed amongst all those that contributed to the incompetence of the officer. Finally, officers are sometimes presented with a situation that requires an instant decision or action. Many times in these situations, a police officer that reacts in the wrong way faces a consequences of loss of life or limb of either themselves or others. [...]
[...] Rabe-Hemp, Cara “Survival in an ‘All Boys Club': Policewomen and Their Fight for Acceptance.” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management 251-70. Sherman, Lawrence “Learning Police Ethics.” Pp. 301-10 in Policing Perspectives: An Anthology, edited by L. K. Gaines and G. W. Cordner. New York: Oxford University Press. Skolnick, Jerome Justice without Trial: Law Enforcement in Democratic Society. New York: John Wiley and Sons. Wilbanks, William The Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System. Monterey, CA: Brooks/ Cole Publishing Co. Wilson, James Q “Dilemmas in Police Administration.” Public Administration Review 407-17. [...]
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