Globally corruption levels have risen tremendously in the public service sector. The most affected public service domain is the police force. It has been seriously subjected to unending criticism because of the heightened corruption incidents. Some of these incidents take place right under the watch of high ranking members of the police force. As a result, the practice has become deeply rooted in the entire service such that even the lowest ranking member is considered a beneficiary. This manner of coordination makes corruption in the police force one of the most important and challenging issues to tackle. Dempsey and Forst (2011) remarked that the discovery of corruption in any agency demands urgent discipline to be instituted. In as much as numerous strategies have been formulated to address police corruption, more effort still needs to be added through formulation of laws to increase punitive measures and improve reporting standards for confiscated property, formation of a special body that is independent from the police force to investigate police corruption, and the designing of an external office where members of the public are free to report incidents of corruption with little fear of victimization.
Formulation of Laws to Increase Punitive Measures
The current laws stipulating punitive measures for members of the police force exhibit a strong element of laxity. As a result, regardless of the magnitude of corruption, the culprits are aware that the punitive measures will not be very serious. This serves to encourage constant participation in corrupt deals. Rotberg (2009) observed that although the law offers some form of punishment for middle level functionaries, it conspicuously leaves out the higher level functionaries. This has the effect of demoralizing the junior officers to uphold the desired policies against corruption. In addition, these laws also indicate the presence of a selective pattern of punishment, which is not fair to all.
There are instances when the current laws provide the members of the police with an advantage of accessing items related to crime. More specifically, in the American system there are RICO laws that give authority to the police to access and confiscate items and money connected to criminal activity (Turnbull, 2005). In this case, there are instances when large sums of money may be confiscated and end up being unaccounted for in the confiscated items registry. The police officers may also use these laws to conduct illegal activity. For example, the police can conduct organized crime by seizing money from gambling, loan sharking, and narcotics, then keeping it after the raid (Prenzler, 2002). This kind of involvement has the effect of degrading the credibility of the police in the eyes of the public. It also affects the goodwill and spirit of police service.
Formation of a Special and Independent Investigative Body
Normally, whenever the police have been implicated in any criminal activity an investigation must performed to ascertain the facts. Since, the police are very concerned about their image to the overall public; there is usually a tendency to sweep the investigations under the carpet. Most of the time this is done because of the need to preserve public relations. Hess and Orthmann (2009) remarked that the need to maintain an admirable rapport in the eyes of the media has a greater impact when it comes to cementing better relationships with the public. As a result, more effort will put to ensure that the sensitive matters do not come out into the main press. This tendency of the police investigation team to solve the matter with secrecy is not an effective approach.
The practice of police officers investigating themselves whenever one of their members is implicated in crime is not appropriate. As a result, there is need for there to be an external team that is not entirely related to the police to conduct better investigation. This will effectively reduce the effect resulting from loyalty to police senior’s orders. Klockars et al (2004) acknowledged that according to the law the Attorney General has the authority to initiate an investigation against police officers, while there are other informal avenues for investigation, but they are less powerful compared to the formal system. Hence, if the internal system is more powerful there is a high possibility that the results may not be objective enough. In 1992, the Mollen Commission formed to investigate police corruption in New York recommended the creation of an independent oversight agency that will carry out its duties on a permanent basis (Dempsey & Forst, 2011). In this regard, an external and independent investigative body would provide the best solution to the problem.
Formation of an External Public Report Office
Since the launch of the community policing initiative, the goal was to improve reporting standards by members of the public of crimes and criminals in the community. However, while doing this, the community initiative failed to recognize the corruption levels in the police force. There are instances when members of the public are aware of corrupt deals between some police officers and criminals, but they fear reporting because they fear victimization. In such situations, the public may end up not reporting incidents of corruption to the police (Goudrian, 2006). In such a case there is need to formulate an effective system that will enable them to report incidents of corruption involving the police.
Doing this will provide an effective check among members of the police force since criminals live within the community and the public know them. In addition, the office needs to have enough resources that will protect members of the public who report critical police corruption cases. Indeed, the external reporting office offers a better opportunity of registering more complaints, especially by encouraging those who previously feared to present their views independently. In addition, the external office needs to embrace the community policing initiative among its operational virtues, but now with an aim of reducing incidents of police corruption in the community. Palmiotto (2000) remarked that in as much as there are strong arguments in pursuit of an internal or external approach to curb corruption, their efficacy in reducing scandals is the focus. Also given the current context of crimes in which the relationship between the police and the community is influenced by factors such as corruption, it is important to reduce the vice in the police.
First, there is urgent need for the installation of an effective surveillance system that will address the problem of corruption in the police force. However, the installation of such systems comes against a backdrop of legal challenges. Sarre, Das, and Albrecht (2005) recommended surveillance as a control strategy for checking corruption by insulating the police department from political involvement, local arrangement of corruption, eliminating other environmental resources such as gambling and using paid informers.
Secondly, there is need to update the current legislative framework to edit the law portions that give the police undue advantage to become corrupt. For example, as earlier mentioned the new laws need to stipulate strict punitive measures. The laws should also create external agencies that will be given formal authority to conduct investigations on corrupt police officers. These external oversight agencies need to be given sufficient powers to investigate in an independent fashion, call for presentation of evidence, and compel police officers to cooperate with them (International Advisory Commission of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative et al, 2005).
Lastly, there is need for continuing education to be conducted among all police officers ethical issues affecting the police officers. Siegel (2009) remarked that it is important for the police to uphold ethical behavior when carrying out law enforcement because they have all the authority needed to limit the public’s liberty. Thus, by highlighting such ethical issues the police officers will be become increasingly aware of changing circumstances and how these predispose them to corruption.
Indeed, the formulation of laws to increase punitive measures and improve reporting standards for confiscated property, formation of a special body that is independent from the police force to investigate police corruption, and the designing of an external office where members of the public are free to report incidents of corruption with little fear of victimization, will have a positive impact on the entire police force. The three functions will address police corruption issues that have featured for decades. One point that comes out strongly is the need to form reliable external systems that can investigate police corruption and at the same time accessible to members of the public for reporting purposes. Additionally, the improvement of the current legislations to give sufficient powers to these external structures is important while increasing punitive measures for corrupt officers. In a system where situations change dramatically the benefits of continuing education to address emerging ethical problems will be a valuable tool. The current level of corruption requires urgent action if the image of the police force is to be upheld as that of serving the public.