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The Correlation Between Police Brutality and Police Corruption

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The purpose of this argumentative essay is to demonstrate that police brutality and police corruption are correlated. Most discussions on police brutality link it to racism/racial bias. This argument builds on the understanding of police brutality further by demonstrating that it is has a reciprocal relationship with police corruption. The specific areas of discussion include the concept of “noble cause” corruption, extortion, sexual gratification, intimidation, firearms, investigation processes, officer emboldening, politics and scapegoating. The paper identifies important implications for major stakeholders.

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Police Brutality and Police Corruption

The recurrence of police brutality has drawn the attention of numerous stakeholders including lawmakers, politicians and other key players in the criminal justice system. Such attention is warranted because police brutality is linked to numerous adverse outcomes including death. Specifically, 1, 147 people were killed by police in 2017 (Mapping Police Violence, 2019). This number rose to 1, 164 people in 2018. These statistics demonstrate that it is vital for different stakeholders to develop deeper understandings of the phenomenon in order to address it comprehensively. Undoubtedly, police brutality has been researched extensively, but most of the research takes the racial dimension. Most discussions about police brutality show that black men are victimized by police officers at higher rates than members of other races. For example, though black people make up only 13% of the total population in America, they are three times more likely to be killed by police officers than members of other races this implies that the racial dimension to police brutality is warranted. However, there is minimal focus on the correlation between police brutality and police corruption. Thus, the purpose of this argument is to demonstrate that police brutality goes beyond the dynamics of race. Police brutality is practiced by individuals who also engage in police corruption. In the context of this analysis, police brutality is defined as when a police officer uses excessive force illegally against civilians, while police corruption is when police officers break protocol for personal gain. By arguing in support of the correlation between these two phenomena, relevant stakeholders will be better positioned to develop and implement interventions to mitigate both ills successfully. Police brutality is linked to police corruption in relation to concepts such as “noble cause” corruption, extortion, personal gain through sexual gratification, intimidation, firearms, investigations, emboldening of rogue officers, politics and scapegoating.

First, police brutality is linked to police corruption because the former is characterized as “noble cause” corruption. Noble cause corruption is corruption that is associated with noble causes and one such cause is public safety. In many instances, police officers who engage in brutality cite that their actions were noble because they were aimed at protecting members of the public. Whitehead (2018) states that police officers are expected to protect members of the public from harm as supported by the law. However, police officers may abuse this provision and in turn engage in unwarranted brutality which can be justified as a noble cause. Even in cases when victims do not pose any threat to members of the public, they may be brutalized as a manifestation of police corruption. Police officers may act on the presumption that individuals are dangerous or are wielding weapons. In such instances, they may kill or brutalize victims without proof of any danger to the public. In such cases, police officers may defend themselves by citing their noble acts as protectors of members of the public. A related perspective is police officers’ argument regarding their own safety. Police officers may engage in brutality and claim they were protecting themselves from harm even though this may not be the case. In this case, “noble cause” corruption is characterized by deceit regarding perceived danger. Additionally, Kleinig (2002) refers to the drug war and notes that police brutality is often associated with the war on drugs even though this may not be the case. In some contexts, drugs are planted on individuals who are brutalized by police officers. A good example is given by Herman (2017) who presents a video of a police officer who is seen planting drugs and then finding them. In such a case, a police officer may engage in brutality and claim that he was acting in a manner that would protect the public or one that would contribute to the noble fight against drugs. Clearly, police brutality is partially supported by “noble cause” corruption among police officers. A close look at “noble cause” corruption reveals that perhaps some police officers want to be recognized as “heroes” even in situations when there are no heroic acts to be completed.

Next, police brutality and police corruption are related to one another because the former is used to advance extortion as a form of corruption. Police brutality undoubtedly inflicts pain on victims. In some occasions, police officers use brutality for purposes of extortion. People may be compelled to give money to police officers in order to stop the latter from using excessive force on them. This is supported by Aras (2001) who acknowledges that though police officers are supposed to fight crime, they may choose to participate in varied forms of crime through extortion. For example, there are cases in which police officers know drug traffickers. Instead of arresting them, police officers may use violence to engage in extortion. In such representative cases, police brutality amounts to a form of corruption meant to facilitate the attainment of monetary gain.

In addition to the concepts above, sexual violence is a unique form of police brutality that is associated with corrupt attainment of sexual gratification for a personal gain. It is observed that, ‘a case from New York proves to be a perfect example of how some police officers abuse the power given to them for their own sexual gratification. Two police officers were indicted last week for sexually assaulting a young girl during a traffic stop for loose pills and cannabis”. This case illustrates how police corruption is used to facilitate police brutality in the form of sexual violence. Specifically, police officers have been given the mandate to serve members of the public, but they use their positions to engage in sexual violence. Interestingly, such officers stretch corruption further by using the law to protect themselves from prosecution. In the stated case, the police officers denied the allegations of sexual abuse, but once the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) test results revealed that there was sexual contact between them and the teenaged woman, they argued that their sexual encounter was consensual. In a different case, two police officers travelled to Seattle in order to question a woman who had been raped in New York, and one of the officers also attempted to rape the woman after getting excessively drunk (Blanks, 2017). This second case also demonstrates police officers’ use of the authority given to them to exploit women sexually. Clearly, police corruption serves as a tool that can be exploited by police officers who prey on helpless victims and violate them sexually.

Furthermore, police brutality is used to intimidate victims by limiting chances of exposing police corruption. Brutality instills fear among individuals and it may serve as a tool used to fuel further corruption by intimidating potential witnesses. According to the United States Department of Justice (2019) police officers engage in corruption at the level of investigation. In such instances, brutality may be used to stop victims from exposing corrupt officers. In other cases, people who are in custody are subjected to “substantial harm” by police officers in the course of investigation. Corruption emanates from police officers’ claim that they are acting in their in their official capacity. Resultantly, victims may not expose brutal police officers for fear of further victimization by police officers who are acting in their “capacity” in corrupt ways. Additionally, police officers may violate the constitution by obstructing justice through brutal force. Police officers may use guns and other weapons to prevent witnesses and victims from reporting their misconduct, to support information fabrication or to conceal different forms of misconduct.

Moreover, police brutality is linked to police corruption in relation to firearms. In America, firearms feature prominently in cases of police brutality. Consequently, police brutality is closely associated with corruption relating to firearms that are planted next to or on victims of police brutality. Hafner (2019) supports this idea by noting that in some situations, police officers plant guns near victims of brutality and then tell lies about the extent of danger posed by the victims or the crimes they engaged/were about to engage in. Specific reference is made to a case that took place in Baltimore where a police officer struck a man with a police vehicle. Thereafter, the police officer planted a gun near the body of the injured man then asked witnesses to lie about what events had transpired. In this particular case, the police officer ran over the man in question purposely and framed him for possession of a gun (Hafner, 2019). This case demonstrates that police corruption can be used to facilitate brutality in relation to firearms possession. In other situations, firearms are hidden. Such situations exemplify the association between police corruption and police brutality. Firearms may be used to kill victims, but the police officers may obstruct justice by failing to report incidences and simply dissociating themselves from them. It is stated that in many cases, police departments are required to engage in reporting voluntarily. This means that police shootings and other cases of brutality may go unreported albeit intentionally due to corruption (Sullivan, et al., 2019).

To add to the above, police corruption perpetuates police brutality by affecting investigations negatively. Police brutality is a crime to a significant extent. The United States department of Justice (2019) points out that physical assault by a police officer or police officers is a crime. When physical assault takes place, the victim may be subjected to excessive force by police officers. Such assault may be experienced by victims while in custody, during arrest or in other contexts (United States Department of Justice, 2019). Another form of brutality that is considered a crime is sexual misconduct. Examples of such crime were listed earlier. The United States Department of Justice (2019) acknowledges that police corruption may limit the extent to which investigations into police brutality can be conducted. Police officers may stop investigations or interfere with evidence.

Next, police corruption increases police brutality by emboldening brute police officers. It is stated that, “Unfortunately, policies can work in favor of officers instead of citizens even those who break the rules and allegedly harm civilians” (Blanks, 2017). This statement shows police officers may be aware of the advantage they enjoy in cases involving brutality.

Although many approaches towards addressing police violence have been suggested, current debates do not fully engage an essential element in police violence and extensive barrier to accountability which are use of force policies. These policies explain what is permitted to be used against civilians which are classified in different levels and/or types of force such as deadly force. These rules, help train the police, advise them how to go about interactions with their community and help monitor how often force is used, as well as determining whether or not it is extreme.

In the quote above, Obasogie & Newman (2017) suggest that the laws governing police behavior pave way for police corruption and brutality. When police officers are trained to use brutal force, they easily use the law to support their actions and become bolder while doing so. This perspective is supported further by Panwala (2002) who presents a case study that demonstrates how police corruption increases other officers’ boldness in the context of police brutality.

Panwala (2002) cited the case of New York City police officers who tortured Abner Louima in the bathroom. The officers responded to questions about the case of brutality by stating that they were not there, or that they did not know what had happened (Panwala, 2002). This particular case was handled in a delayed manner, and its evaluation revealed that the police officers acted in a bold manner while executing their brutality which suggested they could easily get away with the “heinous offense”. Clearly, police officers who practice police brutality are made bolder by their abilities to engage in corruption successfully to some extent.

An interesting perspective linking police brutality and police corruption is politics. Police brutality and police corruption are tools used together to support negative politics. In order to understand this stance in an in-depth manner, it is vital to explore a brief history of American police brutality and in turn police corruption. It is stated that brutality was developed decades ago in order to develop the authoritarian nature of the police force. Eventually police brutality transformed into a form of corruption in itself thereby making the two phenomena political tools (Jennings, 2016). It is acknowledged that police brutality and police corruption were merged and transformed into political machines as far back as 1840. Eventually, police brutality and police corruption were used as tools for repression aimed at preventing workers from striking, stopping workers from protesting and during rallies. This reveals the political use of police brutality and police corruption by politicians and the capitalists to infringe the rights of citizens. This link between police brutality and police corruption has remained steady over the centuries. According to Cruz (2016), the performance of the police force is crucial in any advanced democracy. Thus, when police brutality and police corruption are rampant, they are closely associated with the regime in place. The regime in place may negate police corruption and police brutality, but in other occasions, the regime may support both aspects for varied reasons. In America, Donald Trump has been criticized for supporting police brutality overtly. Some argue that this support is in line with racism which is exists as an undertone within the government. Regardless of whether this is true or not, historical information shows that indeed, police corruption and police brutality work side by side to support the attainment of specific political ends.

Finally, police brutality and police corruption are linked to one another through scapegoating. In particular, police corruption is used to facilitate scapegoating in cases of police brutality. This idea is supported by Sarre, Das & Albrecht (2005) who state that “rank and file police officers are used as scapegoats by their superiors whenever specific acts come to light”. The implication of scapegoating is that it transforms into a form of justification for both police brutality and police corruption which continue to be exercised in different parts of the country. When senior officers use corruption to sideline police brutality, then police brutality is merely branded as something that happens in isolation but not as something that warrants extensive attention and in turn interventions. When scapegoating is exercised, then further police corruption is exercised because investigations may not take place. In this case, police bosses may shift blame to junior officers and vice versa. In other instances, the blame is shifted to the victims of police brutality.

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In conclusion, the arguments above show that despite the centrality of racial bias in occurrences of police brutality, there is also a strong correlation between police brutality and police corruption. The paper focuses on several areas of correlation between police brutality and police corruption including the advancement of “noble cause” corruption, extortion within the realm of crime, the underlying role of corruption in police officers’ sexual exploitation of female victims, intimidation of witnesses, participation in firearm-related crimes, interference with investigations, emboldening of brutal officers, politics and scapegoating. The discussion has important implications for various stakeholders. The first implication is that the federal and state governments should acknowledge the links between police brutality and police corruption in more overt and profound ways. At the moment, the focus is on racism, and though it is the most overt ill linked to police brutality, police corruption should not be sidelined. The discussion also implies that the fight against police brutality should be accompanied by the fight against police corruption. Due to the correlation between the two phenomena, fighting one and leaving out the other one limit the probability of attaining positive outcomes. Combining the fight against the two ills alongside racism will increase the efficacy of attaining desirable outcomes. Nevertheless, it is vital to acknowledge that police brutality and police corruption also have strong foundations on individual and societal value systems. Thus, stronger vetting and monitoring of police officers is necessary. Moreover, there is need for broad interventions within the police force to ensure that officers develop strong value systems.

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