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Police corruption refers to the inappropriate behavior involving the use of authority for the personal gain (Kratcoski, 2002). The practice dates back to the ancient times (Levenson, 2001). Police corruption undermines the enforcement of law, the capacity to enforce the law; it weakens the criminal justice system and catalyzes an organized crime.
In the last decade, scholars have illuminated police corruption by coming up with screening devices to identify applicants for police jobs prone to the corrupt behavior, establishing how different social or political contexts enhance corruption in the police force, and tracking police officers who change the attitudes towards corruption (Ivković, 2003; Vigneswaran, 2011). Other efforts have been in measuring the efficiency of police management and oversight mechanisms (Kratcoski, 2002). Nevertheless, police corruption remains a worthy research subject.
However, anecdotal reports and case studies are in the media and in court documents (Price, 2005; William, 2007), it remains difficult to access the reliable and representative data to be used to deduce a theory concerning the police corruption. The study attempts to fill this gap by using the experimental research to establish a cause-effect relationship of receiving free gifts, favors, and indulgence in other acts of police corruption.
The cost of corruption in the police force is enormous. Corruption leads to the loss of public confidence, demoralization of the police force, diversion of investigative efforts and financial losses. Other effects of the police corruption include the reduction in the economic development, poor infrastructure, sanitation, housing and health facilities, social unrest, insecurity, corruption in political environments, and so forth (William, 2007). A distinction should be made between the police corruption and police brutality. Price (2005) posits that the difference lies in the goals. The goal of the police brutality is to release tension caused by emotional responses to feelings of anger, hate, frustration, and so forth. On the contrary, the goal of the police corruption is the financial gain and sometimes the enhanced. The main causes of police corruption are a poor remuneration and the backward traditions like “tipping” (Kratcoski, 2002; Ivković, 2003). The development of some methods to discover corruption will lead to the reduction and control of police corruption (Kratcoski, 2002). The current study is in line with Kratcoski’s proposition as it aims at showing how the little acts of corruption (a reception of free gifts and favors) may trigger other forms of corruption.
Price (2005) has established “receptivity to police dishonesty is directly related to immediate face-to-face daily temptations and offers made to police personnel”. Such temptations include free coffee, meals, haircuts, police discounts, and so forth (Birch, 2011). Roebuck and Barker (2010) call this tendency "corruption of authority". Other forms of police corruption are kickbacks, an opportunistic theft, shakedowns, the protection of illegal activity, fixing, direct criminal activities, internal payoffs, the “frame-up”, hazing within the law enforcement, and ticket fixing. Roebuck and Barker (2010) note the importance of the corruption of authority in defining a corrupt officer, but fail to indicate how the practice may lead to other forms of policy corruption.
Wood (2000) has noted that most police officers are exposed to corruption early in their careers. Thus, it is feasible to sample newly recruited police officers for a corruption study. Wood also indicates that the listening devises and other tracking instruments have revealed a wide spread corruption in the police force. Police officers deny any involvement in corruption unless cornered with evidence (Wood, 2000). Thus, fitting the research subjects with audio-visual micro-chips in order to record their undertakings is viable.
Punch (2009) says that police corruption is more a group behavior than an individual effort. Punch argues that corruption in the police force should be looked at as a system failure, for such corruption involves the failures of structures of accountability and oversight. Moss (2004) echoes this position by noting that the corruption of a junior police officer reflects the corruption of senior stakeholders of the police force. This underlines the importance of using members from one police division (California Highway Patrol) in conducting the research on police corruption.
According to Vigneswaran (2011), the observation techniques are effective in studying police corruption. Vigneswaran posits that the observation techniques are useful in minimizing sampling and validity problems associated with such studies. This is because the observation technique allows a direct access to social phenomena. In the 2011 study in South Africa devoted to the observation techniques while studying police corruption, Vigneswaran established that police corruption is systematically observable in public sphere. Thus, the observation technique is crucial in studying police corruption.
Ivkovic´, Klockars, Cajner-Mraovic´ and Ivanusec (2002) reviewed the crucial issues that related to corruption and its control in Croatian police. They established that Croatian police had a tendency of tolerating the corrupt activities that they had deemed not serious. Many of such activities fell in the category of corruption of authority. The authors found out that legal norms, which entailed enforcing laws on punishing corrupt officers, were crucial in controlling police corruption. However, a gap exists on how the non-serious corrupt activities can influence on police officers to indulge in other acts of corruption.
Beigel (2004) indicated the complications involved a research on police corruption. Beigel noted that such studies can cause the societal disharmony as they hugely attract the public, political leaders and police officers themselves. Thus, a caution should be ensured in these studies. A minimal involvement of the police and public is essential to maintain the harmony in the society.
No police agency is free from corruption. Police corruption is a significant problem which needs some effective solutions (Ivković, 2003). These solutions should be cultural, legal, political and administrative (Levenson, 2001). Doing away with corruption of authority in the police force could be one of the solutions. Sechrest and Burns (2002) explored the extent of corruption in the recruitment of police officers in Miami. They established that corruption ranged starting from screening and selection to hiring of police officers. This is not surprising, as even the folklore associates police with the extortion and cruelty (Verma, 1999). Solutions lie in maintaining the integrity.
As indicated above, there have been some efforts to study police corruption. However, there is a discrepancy of establishing how one form of corruption may lead to another one. The current study will fill this gap by ascertaining how corruption of authority may lead to other forms of corruption.
The hypothesis of the study is: if police officers receive free gifts and favors because of their position, then they will indulge in other corrupt activities.
The previous research has acknowledged that the reception of gifts due to the police officers’ position is indeed corruption. However, there have been no efforts to show how the issuance of free gifts to police officers influences on their indulgence in other corrupt activities.
The independent variable is that which the researcher controls in order to show its effect. The issuance of free gifts and favors to police officers is an independent variable. The dependent variable is the observed effect of the independent variable. In this study, the dependent variable is an indulgence of police officers in other corrupt activities.
Free gifts and favors refer to the police corruption called the corruption of authority. A police officer commits the corruption of authority if he/she accepts officially the unauthorized or unearned material because of his/her position as an officer of the police. This may include free meals, drinks, services, entertainment admissions, discounts on merchandise, and so forth.
Other corrupt activities refer to the acts of corruption other than the corruption of authority. They include kickbacks, opportunistic thefts, shakedowns, the protection of illegal activity, fixing, direct criminal activities, internal payoffs, the “frame-up”, hazing within a law enforcement, and ticket fixing.
The target population will be the police officers in California. The study population will be the police officers from California Highway Patrol. This population is chosen as it is accessible to the researcher.
The study will use the 10 newly recruited police officers in California Highway Patrol. Because of their small number (10), all the officers will comprise the sample size. The study sample will be subdivided into two groups of five members. A random selection by the use of the lottery method will be used to ensure the non-bias and equivalence in assigning group members. One group will comprise the control group, and the other one the the experimental group.
This will be ensured by randomly selecting subjects who have the similar characteristics and experiences. The ten newly recruited police officers from California Highway Patrol have undergone the same recruitment exercise and training. In addition, the group lacks a prior experience with the public.
The study will use the "two group control group" research design. This design entails assigning subjects into two groups using a random selection. The two groups are the experimental group and control group. Both groups are then pretested and post-tested. The only difference is that one group, the experimental one, is given the treatment. This is further described in the following section of the pre-test, treatment and post-test periods.
The pre-test period entails observing the control and experimental groups before giving any treatment. In the current research, this period will last one month to allow the establishment of trends in behavior. The control and the experimental group will be deployed to work stations and their interactions with the public recorded. This will be done by fitting each member of groups with audio-visual micro-chips that will enable recording of all their interactions. The subjects will not be aware of the audio-visual micro-chips.
After a period of one month, the treatment period will begin. The experimental group will be treated by giving it various gifts and favors. For instance, the researcher will ask businessmen to buy lunch to the experimental group in a systematic way. Besides, the experimental group will receive discounts in their favorite shopping malls. In addition, they will get the free admissions to their favorite entertainment joints. The control group will not receive any of these treatments.
Treating the experimental group will be followed by the post test period which will take one month. The control group and the experimental group will be observed, and any changes in behavior will be recorded. The focus will be on the indulgence in corrupt activities like kickbacks, opportunistic thefts, shakedowns, the protection of illegal activity, fixing, direct criminal activities, internal payoffs, the “frame-up”, hazing within law enforcement, and ticket fixing.
The study will use an observation check list. The pre-test and post-test questions in the observation checklist aim at enabling a comparison of behaviors of e subjects before and after the treatment. The pre-test questions will record the behavior of the two groups of subjects before any treatment. The post-test questions will record the behavior of groups after treating the experimental group. Plotting line graphs will enable a further analysis of behaviors. This will enable testing the hypothesis that giving free gifts and favors to police officers leads to the indulgence in other corrupt activities.
The first question will establish the general mannerisms of subjects. This is crucial to understand the entry behavior of subjects.
The second and third questions will establish the pre-test behavior of subjects towards corruption. This means that the presence or absence of corrupt tendencies in the subjects will be recorded. The types of the prevalent corrupt activities will also be recorded. The frequencies of these tendencies will be established to enable the plotting of line graphs in order to infer trends. This will be compared with the post test tendencies.
The first question will establish the general mannerisms of subjects. This will be used to begin the comparison of behaviors.
The second and third questions will establish the post-test behavior of subjects. As a result, the presence or absence of corrupt tendencies in subjects will be recorded. The types and frequency of the prevalent corrupt activity will also be recorded. Line graphs will be used to establish trends. The findings will be used to compare with the ones in the pre-test period.
Piloting of instruments will be done in Los Angeles Police Department. This will involve two new police recruits; one being the control and the other being the treatment. Los Angeles Police Department has been chosen for piloting as it shares the similar traditions and policies as California Highway Patrol. All procedures planned for the research will be carried out during the piloting to ensure that challenges and oversights have been identified and controlled. In addition, piloting will be used to ascertain the reliability and validity of instruments.
Reliability will be ascertained using the test-retest method. The experiment will be repeated to the pilot group after three weeks to check whether the similar results are reported. This will be ascertained by computing the Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient. A high correlation coefficient will ascertain the reliability of instruments.
Piloting will enable establishing the validity of instruments. Besides, both the internal and external validity of instruments will be ascertained through an expert validation.
Construction of Measuring Instruments
This being an observation study, the measuring instruments (observation checklists) will be filled in by the researcher. The responses will enable an analysis of behaviors and plotting the line graphs. Below are the questions that will guide the researcher in assigning measurements.
- True or False? Subjects indulge in such forms of corruption like the corruption of authority, kickback, opportunistic theft, shakedowns, protection of illegal activity, fixing, direct criminal activities, internal payoffs, the “frame-up”, hazing within law enforcement, and ticket fixing. Please tick. True False
- If “True” to question 2
The pretest (baseline) period will be long enough (one month) to ensure that the typical behavior of subjects is reliably determined. This period is extremely significant as it is the best estimate of what could have occurred if the treatment has not been applied. Enough data will be collected in this period in order to establish a clear picture of the existing conditions. The baseline will provide a comparison to the intervention condition. Once the baseline condition is established, a treatment condition will be introduced to the experimental group. This will entail giving free gifts and other favors. The treatment will be followed by recording any change of behavior.
Internal validity will be ensured if it will be possible to demonstrate a causal relationship between the variables; that is, between the reception of free gifts and favors, and the indulgence in other corrupt acts.
Confounding is one of the threats to the internal validity. In this research, there is a possibility that the change of behavior (the indulgence in other forms of corruption) will be caused by other variables other than free gifts and favors. Another possibility is that the change may even occur naturally without any treatment at all. This threat will be taken care of by the presence of the control group. The behavior in the control group will be used to judge that of the control group. It is highly unlikely that another variable will affect both the two groups at the same time.
The control group has the similar characteristics and experiences with the experimental group as the selection was random. This ensures an equivalence and absence of the selection bias. It will then be possible to attribute the change of behavior in the experimental group to the introduction of treatment.
The history is another threat to the internal validity. This occurs when the events that are outside the study affect the responses of subjects. In the current research, such events may be the promotions or demotions of officers participating in the research, their involvement in seminars on corruption, and so forth. Such events may influence on how the research subjects respond to corruption. As a result, the changes observed in the post test period may be because of the historical events and not as the independent variables (free gifts and favors). This threat to validity will be controlled by picking the newly recruited police officers who are rank-less. As a rule, California Highway Patrol promotes its officers after at least one year of service. The research will take only two months. Thus, the subjects will still be rank-less. In addition, the authorities of California Highway Patrol will be asked to spare the research subjects from the activities that may invalidate the research findings.
The other threat to the internal validity is maturation. This means that subjects may change (mature) during the experiment period. As a result, the researcher may be unable to determine if the results of study occurred as a result of the independent variable or the maturation of subjects. This threat has been taken to the account by limiting the research period to two months. The researcher makes an assumption that two months are rather short for the research subjects to exhibit the changes due to maturation.
The external validity is realized when the cause-effect relationships can be generalized from the experimental settings to other populations. Threats to the external validity are the possible explanations of how a researcher can be wrong in generalizing a research finding other populations.
The Hawthorne effect is one threat to the external validity. This happens when subjects change their behavior because of the mere fact of being aware that they have been under investigation. In the current research, this threat has been taken care of as the research subjects will not be aware that they are under investigation.
The situational threats arise because of time, location, treatment conditions, and so forth. This will be minimized by ensuring that the study environment is as natural as possible. This means that the police officers under study will go on with their daily routines without any substantial interference. The only interference will be in administering the independent variable.
There is an ethical problem of leaving the experimental group in the treatment condition. This translates to leaving the police officers in the experimental group conditioned to reception of free gifts and other favors. This is, in fact, highly dangerous if the hypothesis of study is true; that is police officers who receive free gifts and favors will indulge in other acts of corruption. After the study, the research subjects will be taken to the specialized training on corruption and how to avoid it. This is in an attempt to return the test subjects to the baseline state.
Another noteworthy ethical consideration is obtaining informed consent from the research subjects. In the present research, this will indeed be a problem as informing the subjects will threaten to the validity of the research because of the Hawthorne effect (Wood, 2000; Vigneswaran, 2011). As a result, the consent will be obtained from the authorities of California Highway Patrol rather than from the research subjects.
The safety of research subjects will be ensured in the use of audio-visual micro-chips. The micro-chips will be fitted on the places that will not pose any health risks to subjects. They will be fitted on badges and other identification documents rather than on the body.
The principle of beneficence will also be upheld. After the experiment, the results will be shared with California High Way Patrol for free. This will enable the department to use the research findings to its advantage.