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Integrity Systems for Police Organisations

Abstract This chapter outlines the elements of integrity system for police organisations. The elements in question included oversight bodies, internal affairs corruption investigations, professional reporting and integrity testing. I argue that the key moral notion informing integrity systems is that of collective moral responsibility and I provide an analysis of that notion.

In looking at options for promoting integrity and combating ethical failure by police officers, it is very easy to look and opt for some kind of ‘magic bullet’ solution, such as increasing penalties or giving more intrusive powers to investigative agencies (Miller 2010a, b, 2014).[1] And it is easy to adopt such measures without considering the full array of implications associated with their employment, not only including their demonstrable (as opposed to hoped for) benefits but also their costs in terms of resources, damage to and ethico-professional ethos, and so on. Which of these favored measures has been tested and, as a consequence, is known to work (Prenzler 2009)? Under what conditions? What unanticipated side-effects have they been known to have? What is more, such “magic bullet” solutions are often offered in relative ignorance of both the actual nature and causes of the problems that they are supposed to address. The truth is often in the detail (Guiliani and Bratton 1995; Klockars 2015; Ivkovic and Haberfeld 2015).

Consider the integrity testing of police officers. Does this practice actually reduce police corruption? Or does it rather increase levels of distrust between, say, management cops and street cops and, thereby, compound the problem of the so called “blue wall of silence” whereby street cops (in particular) protect their corrupt colleagues? Perhaps random integrity testing in relation to minor ethical misconduct is problematic in this respect whereas targeted integrity testing in relation to serious forms of corruption is much less so because it is widely accepted by police officers. The findings of an empirical attitudinal study of Victoria Police officers, for instance, seem to confirm that this is the case (Miller et al. 2008).

In attempting to determine the causes of unethical professional practices there are a number of preliminary questions that need to be addressed. One set of questions pertains to the precise nature of the unethical practice at issue, and the context in which it occurs. What practices are involved? Minor gratuity taking? Theft from burgled premises? Excessive force? Fabricating evidence? What is the motivation? Is it greed? Is it a (possibly misplaced) sense of justice (so-called, noble cause corruption (Miller 2004))? Are there, for example, some compelling practical facts that explain the practice, say, a belief that the only way to secure convictions of serious drug offenders involves the use of unlawful methods? What other pressures, such as a lack of resources, might explain the unethical practice in question? Another set of questions concerns the extent of the corruption or unethical practice: Is it sporadic or continuing, restricted to a few “rotten apples” or widespread within the police department? (Miller and Blackler 2005, Chap. 5). Here, as elsewhere, rhetoric is no substitute for evidence-based conclusions, difficult though it may be to provide the latter.

A further set of problems arises in situations in which internal affairs departments may have good intelligence or even good evidence that a particular officer is corrupt but lack sufficient evidence or perhaps admissible evidence and, therefore, are not in a position to charge the officer. The dilemma in this kind of situation is what to do with this officer? The police service has two immediate options, which must be carefully risk assessed:

  • 1. It can confront the officer with the fact there has been, let us assume, a covert inquiry, which has revealed a connection between him and a known and active criminal. Then interview him on the matter.
  • 2. It can leave him in place, without informing him of the inquiry and continue the covert inquiry.

Each has its own problems, the first will leave them with an officer who, if he denies wrongdoing, can no longer be trusted especially in the position he holds now and that which he had anticipated being promoted to. If they are unable to deal with him under internal conduct regulations he can remain a police officer. The second option raises the question of any impending promotion and possible job transfer; neither can be set-aside without informing the officer of the reasons for such a decision. If the force, after reviewing all the facts, considers that he is unaware of the inquiry and so decides to continue it, due to the quality of the intelligence being received how can this be done without giving the officer some hint there is something amiss? The cancellation of a promotion coupled with his removal from being ‘preferred candidate’ for any new role is highly likely to cause him to question what is going on. Can the force realistically make the decision to promote him? Can another candidate ‘pip him at the post’ for the new role?

Evidently, the problem of police corruption requires a sustained institution-wide response and not simply ad hoc quick-fix or ‘magic bullet’ solutions. As already noted in the Introduction, this institution-wide response is best understood as designing an integrity system.

  • [1] Earlier versions of the material in this and the following section appeared in Miller (2010a, 2014). © The Author(s) 2016 S. Miller, Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Policing—Philosophical and Ethical Issues, SpringerBriefs in Ethics, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-46991-1_4
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