Transcript of "Ethics in Policing, Corrections, and Criminal Justice"
Ethics is made up of many different components including the leadership of
high level management, and the choices that they make, as well as
individual officers, whether correctional or police.
It is when upper level management lets their officers do what they want
without any instruction, then things get out of hand.
Although there is corruption in police departments, it is the media that
constantly shows bloody and violent media on television. It is this police
corruption mixed with bloody violence on television that enhances the bad
image of the police in the eye of the public.
According to author Peter K. Manning, “A natural event, once filmed, can
reappear, edited and formatted, thousands of times on many channels”
The law locks up both man and woman, Who steal the goose from off the Common, But lets the larger felon loose
Who steals the Common and leaves the Goose.
-An Old English quatrain
South Carolina Police Captain Kevin Marsee said, “that he always required ethics training
in his department, and hardly any police departments in South Carolina offered any ethics
In his article, author Peter K. Manning talks talks about the chokehold, and states that
between 1975 & 1982, the chokehold caused fifteen deaths. Although in Training Day
(2001), L.A.P.D. Officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) beats up two junkies who try to rape a
young teenage girl, and uses the chokehold as a defense tactic. His corrupt partner,
L.A.P.D. Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), did not bother to help him, as he was
getting beat-up by the junkies. After Alonzo lets the junkies go, he says to Jake, “I noticed
you used that chokehold. I thought that was a no-no procedure.” Jake says, “I was getting
beat up.” Alonzo then says to him, “You did what you had to do.”
It is this shoot-first, ask questions later attitude that gave the L.A.P.D. a bad name.
Although, Detective Alonzo Harris was based on Officer Rafael Perez who was caught
stealing cocaine from the L.A.P.D. evidence locker. Moreover, Rafael Perez was caught up is
what came to be known as the L.A.P.D. Rampart/CRASH scandal.
Even though the L.A.P.D. Rampart/CRASH scandal is over, and the officers that were
involved are now in prison, or have charges against them, there will be police corruption in
departments as long as it allowed by police administrators, or if those administrators are
corrupt themselves. However, those that are corrupt will be caught, and will be made a
media spectacle. “Crime is as contagious as the pest. No one can commit it without having
to pay for it”- Napoleon Bonaparte.
In his philosophical article, Deputy Inspector Brandon Del Pozo of the
N.Y.P.D. argues if it is ethical for officers to accept gratuities and free
Retired Deputy Sheriff Rick Jacobs said almost the same thing as
Inspector Del Pozo. When offered free food just because was a police
officer, he would decline.
There are even times when police have been known for engaging in
sometimes what come to be known notorious cover-ups, where police
officers protect their corrupt fellow officers, and their crimes.
In the police culture, The Blue Wall of Silence is known as police officers
keeping quiet and not “ratting” on their fellow corrupt officers.
Experts say, the Blue Wall of Silence must be broken in order for there to
be honesty and reporting of police corruption in the police force.
NYPD Chief Spokesman Paul J. Brown says that the police department is
different since Officer Frank Serpico was on the force, however Serpico
disagrees, and says that, “The blue wall will always be there because the
system supports it” (Kilgannon, 2010).
In cinema, there have been many films cop movies that portray the police as
gangsters and vigilantes, and in some cases, police films influence people to go
into Law Enforcement.
South Carolina Police Captain Kevin Marsee states that, “It is important to
recognize these types of officers either before they are hired or if that
behavior is seen when those officers first start in the department.”
In the 1971 Clint Eastwood thriller Dirty Harry, there is a scene where Harry
tortures a psychopathic killer to find out where the killer had taken the girl
hostage. Moreover, he does this with audience approval.
This scene in Dirty Harry (1971), just goes to show that audiences want justice
the same way police do. Additionally, audiences have given approval many
times to police officers in police-style vigilante films.
Three general categories of prison corruption
Acts of misfeasance-these are illegitimate acts that prison officials are supposed to be doing yet they
willingly violate for personal gain. This type of corruption is common among high ranking prison
officials such as wardens and executive directors.
Acts of malfeasance-these are criminal acts or acts of misconduct that officials knowingly commit in
violation of state laws and/ or agency rules and regulations. This type of corruption is usually
committed by officials in lower or middle management.
Acts of nonfeasance-these are acts of omission or avoidance knowingly committed by officials who
are responsible for carrying out such acts. These can be committed by all hierarchy of prison faculty.
There was a case of a Georgia Prison Commissioner who had beat up an unresisting inmate very
badly. This Commissioner also watched other correctional officers beat and kicked inmates; some of
those inmates were handcuffed as well. As he walls were filled with blood, the Commissioner
applauded the guards at a chicken dinner to celebrate what they had done to the inmates.
“As a police lieutenant, I was expected to educate inexperienced (and even veteran) officers in the
fine art of creative report writing so that the truth was never allowed to get in the way of a
rendition designed to conceal missteps or wrongdoing (a role, incidentally, which I played in a
manner considered “legendary”) (Nolan, 2009).
L.A.P.D. CRASH Rampart Scandal during the 1990’s.
Rafael Perez arrested in Rampart scandal August 1998.
L.A.P.D. CRASH unit disbanded March 2000.
Rodney King beating March 1991.
N.Y.P.D. Detective Frank Serpico shot in the face during a drug bust February
Frank Serpico who became a whistle-blower on corruption in the N.Y.P.D.
testifies before the Knapp Commission (early 1970’s).
Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq 2003.
At Hays State Prison in Georgia, the commissioner and fellow correctional
officers took part in a “gang-type” beating, while they kicked, punched, and
stomped inmates, some of who were handcuffed. The commissioner then
applauded the correctional officers at a chicken dinner to celebrate what
they had done.
Other misconduct incidents include police making the wrong arrests, as well
as breaking into the wrong houses to conduct drug raids (Gerhardstein &
“I don’t read the newspapers because they all have ugly print.”
–DJ Shadow featuring Mos Def Six Days Remix
In order to fully have honest police officers, police departments must honest leaders in the first place, as
well as leaders who do not fall into corruption.
Police officers should use discretion when accepting free food, however as Inspector Del Pozo states, “de
minimis non curat lex,” which is translated to “the law does not concern itself with small matters.”
“A free cup of coffee from a grocer whose streets you patrol is just such a thing” (Del Pozo, 2005).
Media changes the real truth convoluted by using electronic technology, and it often seems as if the
police are all bad or corrupt.
Corruption might go on for periods as long as ten years, however, the corrupt police officers involved in
these scandals will eventually be caught, which include corrupt police chiefs that put their cop friends
who might not be qualified for the job in a high level position. This is called “cronyism.”
Considering that the N.Y.P.D. has changed their ethics policies since the 1970’s , and Frank Serpico was
made an unpopular whistleblower.
While there is no clear answer to stopping corruption in Policing or Corrections, a start to institute ethics
classes in police departments, jails, and prisons. The biggest issue is when Police Chiefs or Wardens end
up being corrupt. As Serpico has stated, and I say this again, “The blue wall will always be there,
because the system allows it” (Kilgannon, 2010).
“They took the job I loved the most. I just wanted to be a cop, and they took it away
from me.”-Frank Serpico
Del Pozo, B. (2005). One dogma of police ethics: Gratuities and the "democratic ethos" of
policing. Criminal Justice Ethics, 24(2), 25-46. Retrieved: 23 March. 2013.
Gerhardstein, A. & Krings, D. (2012, April). Uncomfortably true police misconduct cases. PM Magazine,
94(3), Retrieved from http://www.icma.org
IMDB, ."Training Day." IMDB.com . Internet Movie Data Base. Web. 30 March. 2013.
Jacobs, R. (2013, March 25). Interview by N.A. Tancredi [Personal Interview]. Ethics in
Kilgannon, C. (2010, Jan 22). Serpico on serpico. Retrieved from
Manning, P. K. (2000). Review essay/virtual justice, violence, and ethics. Criminal Justice
Ethics, 19(1), 44-54. Retrieved: 15 March. 2013.
Marsee, K. (2013, March 30). Interview by N.A. Tancredi [Personal Interview]. Ethics in
Miller, S. (2010). Integrity systems and professional reporting in police organizations. Criminal
Justice Ethics, 29(3), 241-257. Retrieved: 24 March. 2013.
Nolan, T. (2009). Behind the blue wall of silence. Men and Masculinities, 12(2), 250-257.
Retrieved: 17 April. 2013.doi:10.1177/1097184X09334700.
Souryal, S. S. (2009). Deterring corruption by prison personnel a principal-based perspective.
The Prison Journal, 89(1), 21-45. Retrieved: 17 March. 2013.
Young, R. (n.d.). Rafael perez: In the eye of the storm. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org.
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