Police Corruption

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Police corruption is something that can go
undetected for long periods of time, but
when a scandal breaks, it often exposes
many individuals—from patrol officers on
the streets, all the way up to their supervisors.
Most police officers will not even talk
about corruption. Although many good
cops do not condone the misuse of power by corrupt officers,
the brotherhood of law enforcement officers keeps
them from condemning illegal acts.
Examples can include planting evidence, falsifying a
police report, or committing perjury on the witness stand.
These tactics are often used to secure a conviction. In these
instances, a police officer serves as judge and jury for an
individual they believe to be guilty. More serious crimes can
include police brutality, drug running, prostitution rings,
and framing of suspects. These abuses can lead to the loss
of integrity and an erosion of public trust in the police.
Tampering with evidence allows police to establish that
some type of crime has been committed. By using this
method, they are able to circumvent the lack of evidence
and ensure an individual is prosecuted. This results in innocent
people being wrongly convicted based on false evidence.
The “Rampart scandal” in Los Angeles is one of the
most infamous examples. The Rampart Crash Division, an
anti-gang unit, was found planting drugs on prostitutes and
then setting up a prostitution ring. Additionally, they were
planting weapons on dead bodies to cover up their murders.
Whether the individuals who ended up dead were innocent
or guilty, we will never know. But one thing is certain—their
lives were lost due to serious police corruption.
Police have also been caught falsifying reports. Often times
they have another officer file supplemental reports to further
validate their claims. Information such as confessions, witness
statements, and testimonies are altered to develop a
plausible police report, a document that is heavily relied
upon during prosecution. This kind of corruption was seen
with a veteran officer in Pittsburgh, James Hartley, who
repeatedly falsified reports on drunken-driving suspects. Old
arrest reports were used as templates rather than writing the
reports from scratch. Regardless of whether Hartley’s victims
were innocent or guilty, the means do not outweigh the ends.
Upholding citizen’s rights is a necessary component of law
enforcement that is essential to enforcing the law.
False testimony, or committing perjury on the witness stand,
is one of the most frequent types of police corruption. Often
times, members of a jury are more apt to believe a police officer
than the accused. Many cases are decided by an officer’s
testimony and therefore this is an extremely important issue.
Police perjury is so common that there could be thousands
of innocent people convicted every year.
Sometimes police are well-trained and coached by
other officers and State’s Attorneys on how to lie and give
false statements. Judges and prosecutors may be aware,
tolerate, and even encourage police lying in court in order
to convict someone. You can often see this type of conduct
in unlawful traffic stops, when an officer believes a
driver is carrying some type of contraband drugs or
weapons. They will say in the police report that the driver
ran a red light, was speeding, or committed some type of
minor traffic violation. This type of corruption is the most
damaging of all because nine times out of ten the officer
on the stand will not be judged as falsely testifying. Their
word is taken to be truthful and honest.
Police corruption occurs when officers and supervisors
look the other way and refuse to hold other officers
accountable. Whether they do so to protect the reputation
of their friends, or for favors and bribery, the integrity of
all police officers is compromised. Planting evidence,
falsifying police reports and committing perjury are just
the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the types of
corruption that police officers engage in. If there were
stricter standards of accountability—cops losing their job,
being stripped of their pensions, or facing incarceration—
it would help to eliminate this behavior.
However, this can only be accomplished if there is
cooperation from police departments and a desire to
root out the illegal actions of dirty cops. Until this issue
is taken seriously and steps are put in place to eliminate
such conduct, more innocent people will be incarcerated
for crimes they did not commit. Most individuals who
are wrongfully convicted are poor and do not have the
financial means to hire adequate legal representation.
Therefore the chances of their case ever being re-tried is slim to none.

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