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Misuse/Abuse of Police Authority by Mind Map: Misuse/Abuse of Police Authority
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Misuse/Abuse of Police Authority

How is police abuse/misconduct socially constructed? Are there any myths about police misconduct?

Is it more acceptable for policemen to be too forceful or make mistakes because they intend to protect?

source: Law Enforcement and Popular Movies

Crawford, Charles. "Law Enforcement and Popular Movies: Hollywood as a Teaching Tool in the Classroom." Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture 6.2 (1999): 46-57. Web. This sociological journal article examines various depictions of law enforcement in film. It is concerned with three fundamental questions regarding this topic and compares different films to answer them. The first is whether the image of police and their actions in film has changed throughout the decades. The article divides three distinct themes with eras that encompass them: “crime doesn’t pay” (1946-1965), “lawlessness and disorder” (1966-1975), and “war on crime” (1976-1990). The second question is the extent of misconceptions or inaccuracies media persists about law enforcement, particularly the distinct lack of action and use of deadly force in the average officer’s career, frequency and nature of police corruption, and relations between police and minorities. Crawford cites scenes from films such as Heat, Q&A, and Boyz n The Hood to illustrate how police abuse, corruption, and force is often overblown and misrepresented in films. Even so, while media, particularly films, may regularly distance themselves from reality, for the effect of entertainment, they also reflect and influence cultural beliefs and social relationships. This source did not go into as much detail about media in general, (which I had trouble finding sources that directly responded to the research question) but it was still an informative source about the film industry’s portrayals of police misconduct. It also came from a sociological journal and was written by a professor who teaches a class about the sociology of law enforcement, so I predicted it would be especially non-biased and reliable, and later felt it was. While it may not have directly answered the questions I asked, it still provided some myths about police misconduct, as well as emphasized the fact that films influence public perceptions about police in general. The final question that Crawford asks is if police-related films can be used as tools in the classroom, and he confirms that they can. Of course, there are still questions to be answered regarding a potential imbalance of positive and negative reports about police in the news.

How is corruption formed within police departments?

How can police corruption be monitored or prevented?

source: Some Observations on Police Misconduct

Byers, Brian. "Ethics and Criminal Justice: Some Observations on Police Misconduct."Crime and Justice International 18.68 (2002): Web.   This source is a magazine article that explores ethics and its role in policing. Furthermore, it provides three theories for how police corruption manifests. The first explanation, rotten apple theory, suggests that deviance is on an individual level, while another, rotten barrel theory, posits that corruption is enabled on a systematic level and is present in the upper echelons of police departments. The most sensible theory, however, is rotten group theory, which supposes that small groups of officers commit criminal activities and watch each other’s backs. This group-based corruption has been shown to be more common than individual or extensive department crookedness. The article also states that while monetary gain is a primary motivator for corruption, so are vigilante justice and power seeking. Another significant point is that internal affairs should be investigated by a third party due to its improper favoring of some officers, its perception as an “enemy” by police accused of illegal activities, and the community’s mistrusting of internal affairs truly being able to investigate itself. All of these are further examples of how corruption can be formed within police departments. This source was useful in learning about ethics regarding police corruption and the investigation of abuse of authority. The author is a doctor of criminology and criminal justice at Notre Dame, which validates his findings. While the article may be from a magazine instead of a journal, but I still believe the magazine’s substance to be relevant and reliable. The website the article is on also features links to scholastic institutions at Sam Houston University and so I think the information is educative and non-biased. I have actually gathered answers to this question in some general paragraphs in other sources, but this article reveals some ways in which police corruption is formed, especially in groups. It also is aware of the social forces that influence choices regarding police abuse and misconduct. However, despite the commonness of small group corruption, I am still curious about fairly large-scale incidents of police corruption.

What are the punishments or repercussions? How effective are they?

source: Police Discipline: A Case for Change

Stephens, Darrell W. Police Discipline: A Case for Change, Washington D.C.: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 2011. This source is a paper in which retired police chief Darrell Stephens criticizes police discipline. He claims that the process takes an excessive amount of time, discipline is usually punishment-based and improperly distributed, and too many decisions are appealed anyway. The primary solution outlined by Stephens is to restructure the police environment so that there are clear expectations of discipline, effective supervision, performance reviews, and discouragements towards the code of silence. One particular fault that Stephens cites is how publicity often influences disciplinary outcomes and how long it takes to reach them. He also suggests discipline models that have been successfully implemented in police departments. One such model is the discipline matrix, which clearly outlines categories of offenses and their respective punishments as well as places emphasis on basing disciplinary decisions on past offenses. Stephens also presents his own department’s approach, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Discipline Philosophy. It proposes that the department and community be aware and informed of how disciplinary decisions are made, to ensure fairness and consistency of the repercussions, and to guide the decisions made by supervisors by outlining factors such as experience, degree of harm, and past records. This paper provided useful information on typical police disciplinary measures and gave an effective critique on them as well. Since the author is a retired police chief, I believe he would have valuable firsthand experiences that influenced this paper in a beneficial manner. The potential bias I could detect is if Stephens favors his own department’s corrective strategy, but there was no such perceptible bias since Stephens does not overstate its effects and also positively discusses the Education-based Discipline from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department. Although the source did not go into particular details about the actual punishments, this paper did clearly answer my questions. First, police discipline is largely punishment-centered, and second, they are not very effective measures, for several reasons. The follow-up question I have is why Stephens’ and others’ proposed solutions have not been implemented on a wider scale.  

Is Internal Affairs an effective agency?

source: Code Blue

Skolnick, Jerome. "Code Blue." The American Prospect, 19 Dec. 2001. Web. This article is about the unofficial protective policies that police sometimes employ, known as the Blue Code of Silence. The Blue Code encourages police officers to stay quiet or make up cover stories to protect fellow officers from persecution by Internal Affairs. The Blue Code can be and has been used in cases of police brutality, evidence theft, and the excessive use of deadly force (i.e. manslaughter). In the context of three separate incidents of police misconduct, the article discusses how the blue code, or “wall,” encourages police abuse and discourages the reporting of it. Investigative efforts by police such as Internal Affairs are therefore undermined and subject to corruption themselves. To counter the silence, there may need to be third party organizations that investigate criminal actions of police. This source was fairly useful. The author is a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, so I consequently think his opinion is respectable. The website that the article is on labels itself as liberal and progressive, but the article itself is non-biased (it’s difficult to put a political slant on police brutality, or for a political party to be more “anti-cop” than the other). The information was also consistent with other articles, such as the Rampart scandal one, so I concluded this article was reliable too. The information in this article was mostly anecdotal based on three incidents of police abuse. Therefore, it did not fully answer the question. It did still provide relevant information and critiques on internal affairs nevertheless.  

source: America's Most Successful Stop Snitchin' Campaign

Balko, Radley. "America's Most Successful Stop Snitchin' Campaign." Reason. 18 Oct. 2010. Web.   This article examines three cases of police abuse from Kansas City, New York City, and Albuquerque in which violations of the Blue Code of Silence resulted in ruined careers and further violence/abuse towards whistleblowers. Not only do cases of police abuse lack prosecution and appropriate punishment of the accused, but honest police officers who testify against crooked ones are usually themselves investigated, demoted, or institutionalized. Furthermore, they are socially ostracized and if they are put back on the force, other officers will be reluctant to back them up. The article compares these practices with Stop Snitchin’ campaigns, which discourage African-Americans from cooperating with police, and contains a quote from a hip-hop artist who sees the Blue Code as “the most successful Stop Snitchin’ campaign in history.” The evidence in this article is somewhat anecdotal and reminiscent of the “Code Blue” article. While raw data would potentially be more informative, the case details and repercussions still provided a decent picture of the Blue Code of Silence. It was written by the senior editor of Reason, a monthly magazine that identifies itself as nonpartisan. The article is also fairly non-biased. While it does attempt to expose a few shameful incidents in which whistleblowing was condemned, the author still thinks that it is “absurd” to not cooperate with police at all, indicating that most of them are honest. Although the article does not address the specific question I asked, the Blue Code certainly has a strong influence on the efficacy of Internal Affairs.

Are there sufficient data to analyze?

source: Information on Drug-Related Police Corruption

U.S. General Accounting Office. “Law Enforcement: Information on Drug-Related Police Corruption.” GAO-98-111 May 1998. This source is a report by the United States General Accounting Office to former New York Congressman Charles Rangel that is focused on police corruption concerning drugs in large cities. The district that Rangel represented contains Harlem and Washington Heights, two large neighborhoods that had high crime rates related to drugs in the 1980s. Notably, the Accounting Office could not find any central data on drug-related misconduct to analyze. nor could reliably depend on limited sets of data provided by the FBI and local police departments. Despite this setback, the report still contains useful information and some data on the nature of drug-related police corruption, factors of corruption observed in actual incidents, and effective preventative and detective measures. This source is useful for examining many aspects of police corruption in general, let alone drug-related misconduct. The General Accounting Office is known as the “Congressional Watchdog.” It provides information at the request of congressmen, and even revealed its own weakness by admitting national data was difficult to find or rely on. I therefore believe this report is a credible, non-biased source. Even though the report contains a wide array of information, pages three and four directly concern the lack of data on drug-related police corruption. The report claims that because there are so many unreported incidents of corruption, it is difficult to make accurate estimations. In addition, local police departments and federal agencies sometimes withhold information they see as confidential. Therefore, national data for all types of police corruption may not be fully collected or analyzed.

Are there race/gender elements that influence police abuse?

source: Police Attitudes Towards Abuse of Authority

U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice. Police Attitudes Towards Abuse of Authority: Findings from a National Study, by David Weisburd and Rosann Greenspan. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2000. This source is an analysis of a national study about police abuse by criminology and law professors that investigates general police abuse and how race influences such events. The study cited in the source demonstrates how police abuse is defined differently between white and non-white officers. There are also racial divides in preferential treatment of whites versus minority groups. Gender reportedly has little impact on perceptions of police misconduct. Rank also influences how police abuse is viewed by police officers. According to the source’s findings, the primary solution to preventing police abuse and misconduct overall is strong leadership, of which the police chief is the foundation. This source was published by the National Institute of Justice which is the evaluative section of the US Department of Justice. It was also written by reliable criminologists who work at credible institutions. I could detect no bias and judged that this source was very informative as well. The source confirmed through raw data and analysis that there is indeed a race element that significantly affects the perceptions of police abuse in various contexts. Meanwhile, gender surprisingly has no similar impact. Of course, there is also much to be said about the distribution of police abuse victims, and I’m sure gender has a presence regarding that question.

source: A Gender Study of Crime Types from Court Cases

Gottschalk, Petter. "Police Misconduct and Crime: A Gender Study of Crime Types from Court Cases." Professional Issues in Criminal Justice 6.3-4 (2011): 75-88. Web.   This article is an analysis of sixty Norwegian police officers who were convicted of misconduct and focuses on the differences that gender may have had on the abuse and/or the punishments given. The article lists a few categories provided by the United Nations to organize the types of police misconduct and also gives a brief history on the investigative body that reports on police corruption in Norway. The initial data findings confirm that men commit far more acts of corruption than women, counting both police officers and civilian employees. However, men and women share desire of greed and a loss of respect of the rules, both of which contribute to police corruption. Even so, most offenses by females are dangerous driving and theft, while more serious crimes are committed by men. The article also concludes that men are overrepresented in corruption convictions. The information in this article was reliable and useful. Although it concerned police corruption in Norway while most of the other information I’ve used is about American police abuse, the article still provides relevant insight regarding gender differences with corruption. The author, Petter Gottschalk, is a Norwegian professor who has mostly focused on IT strategy in business contexts, but has extended his research to police and crime. Also, the journal the article first appeared in is professional and concerns criminal justice, therefore I believe the information is credible. The article did not go into as much detail as I’d hoped about the differences of gender in terms of police corruption. But it still provided some observations about this relationship, even if the studies were conducted in Norway while I’ve primarily focused on America.