Over the last couple of years, headlines in the media, those in newspapers, social sites, magazines and journals have been shedding light on the corruption issues, associated with prosecutors, judges, and the police force. This trend serves to illustrate the magnitude of the problem within law enforcement officials and the entire criminal justice system (Bassett and Prenzler, 2002). It all begins from the lowest levels (roots), spreading to other vital parts where the growth and development occur. In an effort to achieve ethics in the society, more so in the criminal justice system, the study subject must be well understood. Criminal justice, law, ethics and police investigations are closely related. The prevalence of corruption within the Police force, correctional facilities and the entire law enforcement department are the much debated issues and the one that is frequently rife with the numerous problems.
Research teams and study groups often disagree on the definition of the term “corruption”, particularly on the behaviors that amount to corruption, since different people define corruption differently. Therefore, to be able to answer the questions about corruption, it is important to properly define the term. Police corruption is any kind of intentional dishonest, deviant, criminal, improper or unethical behavior by an officer (Porter, 2005).
Corruption may have several causes and opportunities for its occurrence. However discretionary authority bestowed upon the police force by the government is the main cause for corruption. Police work is rarely monitored and therefore opportunities for corruption are bound to appear. Several factors motivate an otherwise ethical officer to participate in corruption and unethical behaviors. Ranging from lack of trust to the system, an individual’s desire to gain advantage to total volatility in a country’s identity, corruption can be explained in terms of officer’s engagement. For a correctional officer to participate in corruption, he or she must have personal motivation, found in the uncontrollable desire to gain an unfair advantage over others. This occurs through extortion, bribery or embezzlement. Other motivations include the lack of punitive measures and the discretional authority available to the officers. Transparency and accountability are not assured since monitoring is minimal. All this combined create one big dysfunctional system that accelerates the vice (Fisher, 2003).
Considering corruption as an issue of the criminal justice system, one quickly notes that it appears in different forms and therefore results in various consequences. There is a number of forms of corruption and they can be divided into nine different categories. Corruption of authority where an officer of the law gets some benefits due to his/her position but does not necessarily break any law. Referral corruption or kickbacks appears where officers benefit from sharing information, opportunistic theft from arrestees, shakedowns where officers ignore criminal violation in exchange for benefits. Protection of illegal activity results from for the desire of benefits, undermining investigations on crimes, commission of crime by an officer, internal deals or payoffs and adding/planting evidence. It can be easily concluded that although all kinds of corruption are unethical and against the law, some carry larger consequences than others and are therefore worse. A correctional officer who allows a phone call to an inmate in exchange for a few dollars cannot be compared to one who allows drug gangs to continue running their business, even though both are cases of corruption (Zimring and Johnson, 2005).
Problems in everyday running of the government are taking place if the government is not only inefficient in its activity, but is also corrupt and irresponsive. In this kind of environment where officers and law enforcement officials have discretionary authority corruption is inevitable. Good governance involves the control over every arm and/or agency of the government for better and fair provision of services and without losing public trust while incurring minimal losses. For the criminal justice programs and system to be effective, increased monitoring and supervision of day to day activities per officer must be applied. Hopefully, this would help to curb the ever rising cases of corruption.
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