Cleansing the Stain of Police Corruption

How do we cleanse the stain created by police corruption? While it’s a loaded question, it requires discussion since there are two certainties in the business of law enforcement:

  1. The general public—even those who are pro-police—will misunderstand the righteous actions of police officers. Therefore, we need to educate them as often as possible.
  2. Since we hire from the human race, there will always be a small percentage of cops who become corrupt. And this very small percentile will do more damage to our reputation than the rest of us combined.

Law Enforcement Today frequently chronicles both categories.

Three general motivating factors of police corruption include:
  • Financial greed
  • Sexual—or relational—lust
  • Pursuit of power

Synonymously, these are the same basic motivators that drive people to kill.

They say—whomever “they” are—that every person has a price to be bought or corrupted. What is the price, relationship, or acquisition of power that would lead you to compromise the principles that drew you into a career in law enforcement?

If you seriously entertained any “what if” for more than a second, may I suggest that you leave the profession! I don’t have an acceptable “price” because my soul isn’t for sale; and I believe most police officers concur.

If a cop cannot be trusted with $100 sitting on the nightstand at the home of a drug dealer, he or she cannot be relied upon to secure all the bullion in Fort Knox. When a line-level police officer abuses basic police powers, a role with more authority is not appropriate. If a tempting relationship could lead to compromised authority, what are you thinking?


(Photo courtesy 911Garage)

Cleansing the Stain of Corruption – A Personal Story

The most difficult year during my career involved uncovering facts that disclosed the corrupt deeds of a close friend and partner. Although my friend was involved in heroic events as a cop, he also chose to embezzle funds from our police association.

When this was discovered, he became suicidal. What was unknown during the subsequent criminal investigation, termination, and court proceedings involving his crime, was that my friend was also robbing banks on the way to work.

Imagine that, my partner was a bank robber! 

Eventually he lost his life in a shooting with the FBI. He made incredibly foolish choices trying to overcome weaknesses. There is no way to revisit these circumstances without experiencing pain.

Indelible Truths

But I learned indelible truths during this experience—certain facts that should encourage others who feel blemished by the stain of corruption:

  1. Individuals cannot tarnish the badge, only their own reputation. The shield represents us collectively, and the profession is incorruptible, because as a whole, we do not tolerate misconduct or criminal activity from within.
  2. Those discovering the unflattering truth during the investigation should be hailed as the ultimate professionals. Investigators disclosing facts that are harmful to the positive image that most of us strive fervently to protect is driven by integrity and character, and for that I applaud them!
  3. Cleansing the stain created by corruption will ultimately lead to regaining public trust. Illuminating truth is therapeutic.
  4. The adage, “There is no right way to do the wrong thing,” is heard loud and clear during these events.

Renew Principles Daily

While we cannot answer many of the rhetorical questions asked when cops are corrupted, we need to renew our principles daily to ensure we are not snared into the net of corruptibility.

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I know my friend who perished because of his own doing was a good guy who went south. He created the ugly circumstances that ultimately cost him his life, and forced many into a predicament for which you cannot prepare.

But I was proud of the professionals that I worked with as we traversed the crisis, and I am supportive and pleased with the work being done by others as they cleanse the stain of corruption that befalls a few.

Law enforcement has competent people, doing incredible work, while maintaining public order and trust—even if it requires painfully disclosing that one of our own was not a hero, but humanly flawed and dancing with the devil.

Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today