Nowadays, policeman’s work is often described as slippery slope, or the gradual development of behavioral dysfunction or even social pathology (Derschowitz, 1996). In fact, working in the area of criminal justice, officers daily face the evidence of the darkest sides of human nature like willingness to deprive another person of their life. Officers, in turn, begin to adapt to these conditions. The indirect “result” of such adaptation is provided by the Rampart Independent Review (2000) that describes the cases of law enforcement deviance. The present paper is designed to discuss the circumstances, under which this type of behavior appeared and flourished.
As identified by the Rampart Independent Review Panel, there is evidence of two types of deviance. First of all, it is stated that police officers in response to the blossom of street gangs began to use excessive aggression when dealing with such criminals and literally used the violent methods of the gangs: “Rampart CRASH officers developed an independent subculture that embodied a “war on gangs” mentality where the ends justified the means. They resisted supervision and control and ignored LAPD’s procedures and policies” (Rampart Independent Review Panel, 2000, p.1). Another type of deviance was detected at the level of coordination and management:
“because the Department’s managers ignored warning signs and failed to provide the leadership, oversight, management and supervision” (Rampart Independent Review Panel, 2000, p.1). For instance, there was an episode, when CRASH policemen shot unarmed suspects, and the leaders, instead of reporting this violent action, decided to ignore it. Due to the fact that the violation of the code of ethics took place at two different levels, it is possible to assume certain professional deformation amongst policemen.
In fact, there is a number of other instances of such deviation. Police brutality is amongst the most popular forms. It is defined as excessive use of force, sarcasm, and ridicule (Trautman, 1997). In his book, Trautman provides the following example: in Miami, an African-American man was riding his motorcycle, and as the official police report states, he suddenly showed an obscene gesture to police officers. “More than a dozen Miami patrol cars gave chase. When caught, at least six white officers jumped him, splitting open his skull.
He died four days later. It came out at trial that the police fabricated an explanation that he fell, splitting his head, of his own accord, but an all-white jury acquitted the officers. Three days of racial rioting erupted” (Trautman, 1997, p. 116). In addition, on March, 3, 1991, another African American man, was detected speeding on a Los Angeles highway, but refused to obey to the orders to stop and contact officer.
More than eleven helicopters began to persecute him, and, once caught, he refused to get out from the car. For such behavior, he was very roughly dragged out, battered, even using electricity. While the four officers were beating him with their sticks and electricity, the other members of the group (twenty-seven policemen) were just standing nearby and watching the “show”. As a result, the “criminal” survived persistent brain damage and fractures in sixteen bones, whereas the officers were found innocent in the trial. Consequently, a number of riots erupted.
The behavior, demonstrated by the managers in the Rampart Independent Review , can be classified as police perjury. The classical forms of perjury refer to keeping important evidence in secret, and the perjury principle in criminal justice might even be extended to judges and higher levels of supervisors, who tend to believe their officers or demonstrate passiveness when learning about the evidence, which has been previously hidden.
According to Dershowitz (1996), there was a case in 1982, when a group of law enforcement specialists were conducting shakedown for quite a long time and even shared their “shadow salary” with their supervisors. The crime had been kept in secret for quite a long time, as judicial reviews and other entitled commissions had believed the managers until the direct evidence of the “common plot” was disguised.
The alleged permissiveness of police deviance lies in the social stereotype of freedom of actions, given to law enforcement specialists. In fact, it is often stated that police officers make no mistakes and are particularly righteous specialists (Dershowitz, 1996); moreover, there exists a number of justifications for law enforcement crimes like Noble cause crimes: “Noble Cause Deviance refers to situations where a police officer may bend the rules in order to attain the “right” results” (Derschovitz, 1996, p. 345). Thus, even judges have much more trust for police officers that to civil citizens.
In conclusion, it is important to note that law enforcement deviance can not be eliminated completely, as officers are highly motivated to commit such misconducts, but the major remedy against this phenomenon is the promotion of law enforcement ethics and culture. Policemen should be positively motivated to observe these principles, so it is necessary to introduce additional awards and benefits for the most ethically-oriented officers. Furthermore, in order to prevent professional deformation and social dysfunction, it would be useful to introduce more intensive psychological counseling and stress management workshops for policemen.
The development of psychological resistibility might appear the most workable tool. In ideal, law enforcement specialists should also be given opportunity to change their profession after 10 years of practice, as this sphere is considered most stressful and frustrating. Reference list
Dershowitz, A. (1996). Reasonable Doubts. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Rampart Independent Review Panel. (2000). Report of the Rampart Independent Review Panel. Executive Summary. Available online at: http://www.lacity.org/oig/rirprpt.pdf
Trautman, N. (1997). The Cutting Edge of Police integrity. FL: Ethics Institute.