One accusation against the police is that it is not only brutal but also corrupt. Lawrence Sherman (Police Corruption, 1974) describing police corruption has said: “It is accepting money or money’s worth for doing something that a policeman is under a duty to do or that he is under a duty not to do, or to exercise a legitimate discretion for improper reasons.”
Fabrication of evidence, sleeping on duty, avoiding assigned responsibilities is all forms of police ‘misconduct’ but not corruption. Corruption is mainly “taking bribes”.
Roebuck and Barker (“A Typology of Police Corruption”, in Social Problems, No. 3, 1974: 324-37) have provided a typology of eight forms of police corruption: misuse of authority, kickbacks, opportunist theft, shakedowns, protection of illegal activities, the ‘fix,’ involvement in direct criminal activities and internal payoffs.
One view is that all policemen are not corrupt. It is only a few “rotten apples” who bring bad name to the whole department. The other view is that the majority is ‘bad apples’ and only a few are clean and honest.
Sherman (Police Corruption, 1974: 10) has talked of three forms of police corruption: one form of corruption is that in which only a few isolated policemen accept bribes. The second form of corruption is that in which a large number of officers (lower and higher ranks) take bribes but they are not joined together to form networks of corruption.
Also, the bribes offered in this kind of situation are most frequently tendered by individual offenders and citizens rather than by organised criminal syndicates. The third form of police corruption is pervasive organised corruption.
In this type, corruption is organised in a hierarchical authoritarian fashion. In fact, this type of corruption extends beyond the Police department to the high criminal justice and political officials and revolves around the vice operations of a local crime syndicate.
The important factors which encourage corruption in police department can be enumerated as follows: (i) discretionary power of the police in deciding whether to arrest someone or not, (ii) low visibility of police work and the ‘secret society’ character of police organisation, (iii) certain laws designed to enforce morality also generate corruption.
These laws prohibit services or goods that are in wide demand among members of the public. They, therefore, provide opportunities to the police to permit them by accepting bribes; for example, prostitution, liquor and gambling, and (iv) solidarity among policemen which provides them immunity from a high risk of being detected, apprehended and punished.