This study examined police officers' perceptions
of and tolerance for corruption. Much attention has been devoted to
the discussion of causes of police corruption -- the abuse of authority
by an officer for personal gain. The intent of this research was to
answer questions that are crucial to the
organizational/occupational-culture theory of police corruption and
practical police administration. These questions are: (1) What is the
level of knowledge of organizational rules governing corruption? (2)
How strongly does the occupational culture condemn behavior that those
rules prohibit? (3) What punishment is expected for violation of those
rules? (4) To what extent does occupational culture support punishment
of the violation? and (5) To what extent are the views of the
individual officer different from the norm of the occupational
culture? These issues were addressed by examining officers' responses
to questions based on 11 hypothetical scenarios of police
misconduct. The study objective in using hypothetical scenarios was to
obtain a more realistic report of officers' views on corrupt
activities than would have been obtained if officers were asked about
their own or fellow officers' activities.
The project was designed to be a cross-national
study of police integrity both among and within nations. However, this
collection only contains the data from the 30 agencies examined in the
United States. A police officer liaison at each agency distributed and
collected questionnaires from willing participants. Questionnaires
presented 11 brief scenarios describing practices that would be
recognizable to police in any modern, industrial society. Included in
the 11 scenarios were nine that described behavior generally regarded
as corrupt, one that described an incident of intentional use of
excessive force, and another that described a behavior -- conducting
an off-duty, security business -- that is permitted by some police
agencies and prohibited in others. For each scenario, officers were
asked to rate the seriousness of the misconduct described, the extent
to which they would support agency discipline of it, and their
willingness to report such behavior.
A convenience sample.
All police officers in the United States.
Respondents were asked several questions about each
of the 11 scenarios. For each scenario, two questions focused on the
seriousness of the behavior described, two asked officers about the
appropriate and expected discipline for the behavior, and two
questions asked officers about their willingness to report the
behavior. Scenarios of police corruption included issues such as
off-duty private business, free meals, bribes for speeding, free
gifts, stealing, drinking on duty, and use of excessive
force. Additional information was collected about the officers'
personal characteristics, such as length of time in the police force
(in general and at their agency), the size of the agency, and the
level of rank the officer held.
Several Likert-type scales were used.