Police Misconduct Effects Criminal Justice Negatively

The United States Department of Justice considers police misconduct very seriously. Not only is it considered a civil offense, but in many cases it is also considered a criminal offense. Any person under uniform of the law is required to uphold the law and maintain order in a civil and legal manner. By acting or not acting a way the law describes constitutes a variety of disciplinary actions, including but not limited to monetary fines, suspension, employment termination, and incarceration. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, 2000)

There are many different laws that are broken on an everyday basis within the police force. One is depriving a citizen of their rights. By restraining a person who does not need restraining or beating a person who is unarmed and cooperating during an arrest, a criminal complaint is filed and an investigation takes place. Under some circumstances, the officer or officers will receive suspension with pay, and other times suspension without pay until the investigation is complete.
Police misconduct harms a community. When people see police acting “out of line” they become untrusting of the police and even afraid of them. How can police keep the crime rate down and enforce the law when they do not uphold the law themselves, whether on or off the time clock. Being a representative of the Department of Justice, an officer of the law is required to act responsibly at all times.

If an officer is not working but is arrested for driving while under the influence, a community will not take that officer seriously, especially if it becomes a repeated offense. Who is to say that officer will not go to work the next morning with a hangover unable to do his job, and the community also does not know if that officer is drinking while he is working as well.

Other things that count as police misconduct are force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests. The problem with this is that it does have to be more than one isolated incident. It must be recurring in order for a police officer to be charged with misconduct. (U.S. Dept of Justice, 2000) The problem with this is that if it happens once, why would we not try to stop it before it happens again? Especially it abuse situations or harassment, if it happens once, statistics show that it will happen again, but the next time the crime could be more serious.

Police brutality is one form of misconduct that always receives a federal investigation and sentencing. Police brutality is the beating of a citizen to where the citizen is bruised, bloodied, and many times needs hospitalization. This force can be caused by a baton, handcuffs, the end of a gun, or even physical such as kicking and punching. There are many different laws in different states for the misconduct of an officer of the law; however police brutality is one that is outlined as a federal law. (Hart, 2001)

The Preamble of the United States Constitution states that the general welfare of the public shall be protected. This includes protection from the law and law providers and enforcers. Crime rates will rise if people do not believe that the police will actually do their jobs properly. No one is there to enforce and no one is there to protect. If the majority of the police force represented misconduct, the United States would be an entire riot.

Another form of misconduct in the police force is that of “dirty cops.” A “dirty cop” is a police officer who is involved in criminal activity. This can range from drug sales and using, to illegal selling of weapons, to child pornography, to organized crime. An officer who is guilty of these offenses also will receive a harsh sentence if found guilty. How can the government expect to keep drugs and illegal weapons off of the streets when the police force is involved in keeping them on the streets? Many times, drug involvement occurs when police are undercover investigating drug rings. They are dealing with drugs on an everyday basis and may give in and become addicted.

Children who see police behaving incorrectly will absorb what the police are doing. We teach children that police will help us and are there if we need them. If I child sees a police officer smoking a joint or constantly drinking and driving, that child is either going to think it is okay to act in such a manner or he or she is going to start doubting the police force. If they doubt the police force, which parents and the community instilled in them, they will start doubting everything that adults have told them. As they age, the crime rate is sure to rise. The relationship between the police and the community needs to stay in good-standing, however by acting in irresponsible and illegal ways, that relationship is damaged and will be very hard to repair. It would take years before the police force will be able to get into good standing with its community again.

There are a few ways that I found in which we can establish proper behaviors of a police force. (NCCJ, 2002) Those I was interested in are as follows:

1.Lobby a police force. Discuss certain policies. Anytime any form of force is used (whether needed or not), a report needs to be written, recorded, and filed. This will show any insubordinate behaviors and their patterns.

2.Create a civilian review board. This board would discuss, form, and establish codes of behavior for their police department. They would also act as the “eyes and ears” of the public. If they hear of police misconduct or suspicion thereof, they would report it and request an investigation of the behavior. This also would prevent innocent officers from being charged wrongly.

3.Establish a policy for the decertification of police officers. If an officer is found guilty of police misconduct, he or she should have their police certification revoked to prevent him or her from getting hired in another department in the United States. This is done for doctors who are charged with malpractice, as well.

4.Require a diversity training program. There need to be certain training programs for officers that have many different instances in which police misconduct could become a problem and we need to address different solutions to defer this type of behavior from happening. By requiring training in this subject, we should be able to reduce the statistics of police misconduct.

There are many different ways to prevent police misconduct, although every way will not always be successful. At least by offering different incentives versus severe punishments, we should at least be able to maintain a lower level of police misconduct. No matter what type of employment, there will always be misconduct in any type of working environment. Police are the ones that are required to take care of situations such as this and therefore must strive to avoid misconduct at all costs.
Every year thousands of reports of police misconduct are filed nationwide. In 1999, there were 12,000 civil rights cases filed, however only 31 officers were convicted or pled guilty. (Human Rights Watch, 2001) This makes me feel that there is not only misconduct in the police force but also in the judicial system. There were hundreds of videos of police brutality in 1999; they were caught on tape! Yet, only THIRTY-ONE were actually charged as guilty. How can this be? In my opinion, I would not be surprised if there were pay-offs, incentives, and forms of bribery in order to get the hundreds of videos to be considered inadmissible or unproven.

In conclusion, I feel that the misconduct of law officials and policemen of the law needs to be considerably lower than what it is. If we as citizens cannot trust police and our children cannot look up to the police as role models, than how can our justice system work efficiently and successfully? We need to really look at our police before they are hired. Extensive psychology tests should be performed and background checks should be completed.

I know many companies, including police departments, require their employees to sign a paper to allow background checks to be completed, but I also know that many of these companies and departments do not want to spend the money or take the time to actually go ahead with a background check. Upon interviewing my mother-in-law, Christina Goodban, who owns an auto body and emergency roadside assistance company, I found that the only time she ever did a background check on an employee was when AAA actually requested and paid for it because of their age. Now these employees work very closely with the state police and also with crime scenes, such as homicides due to driving while intoxicated or vehicle theft.

I personally, feel that police misconduct is not just how an officer acts, but also how he or she does not act. When my house was broken into in 2002, I was sleeping in my bedroom and my children were in theirs. My husband works on the road and was out of the state at that time. When I woke up at 6:00 in the morning, I noticed that my back window was wide open along with my refrigerator door. A case of beer from two years prior was stolen, along with two remote controls, $400, and my cordless phone.

I called the police who showed up and dusted for fingerprints, promising to keep me posted. Later that week I received an e-mail from a friend of my neighbor’s who admitted to being the person who broke into my home. He knew Rob was gone. I showed this e-mail to the police who refused to press charges because this person was going into the Army in a couple of months. I found the actions of the police or lack thereof very discomforting, so you can imagine my lack of surprise when this happened a second time.

This is my reasoning for joining the criminal justice field. I want to be a person that will try to bring justice to all citizens. I want to make a difference. Even if I am the only person in my field who strives to act appropriately, at least there would be one instead of none.

Police misconduct is a very serious matter. One that I hope really lessens statistically soon. I do not want my children or anyone else’s growing up not trusting police or their caregivers.

Biography

U.S. Department of Justice, (2000). Addressing Police Misconduct. Retrieved May 19, 2006, from U.S. Department of Justice Web site: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/cor/Pubs/polmis.htm

Hart, Karega (2001). Hart, Karega (2001). Contemporary Police Brutality and Misconduct: A Continuance of the Legacy of Racial Violence. Retrieved May 20, 2006, from Monthly Review March 2001 Web site: http://www.monthlyreview.org/301brc.htm

National Conference for Community and Justice, (2002). Police Misconduct. Retrieved May 22, 2006, from NCCJ Web site: http://www.nccj.org/nccj/nccj.nsf/subarticleall/351?opendocument

Human Rights Watch, (2001). Human Rights Watch World Report 2001: United States: Human Rights Developments. Retrieved May 21, 2006, from Police Abuse Web site: http://www.hrw.org/wr2k1/usa/index.html#policeabuse

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