IMPORTANT:This page has used Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia in either a refactored, modified, abridged, expanded, built on or 'straight from' text content! (view authors)

Police misconduct refers to inappropriate actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves discrimination. In an effort to control police misconduct, there is an accelerating trend for civilian agencies to go beyond review to engage directly in investigations and to have much greater input into disciplinary decisions.[1]

Types of misconduct

Contributors and prediction

Misconduct has been shown to be related to personality and education, but it can also be significantly affected by the culture of the police agency.[4] Education can help predict misconduct, with better-educated officers receiving fewer complaints on average.[5]

A 1991 study of the relationship between the Big Five personality traits (extroversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience) and performance found that conscientiousness was the most significantly related to performance while agreeableness, emotional stability, and extroversion also has a relationship.[4]


In 2008, several cases of police misconduct in the U.S. were uncovered through surveillance tapes. These include one case where an officer's testimony contradicted the tape, and another tape where police officer Patrick Pogan charged a bicyclist with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and the tape showed that an officer had knocked him off his bicycle. Two undercover cops were indicted on lying about a drug bust, and charges of assault were dropped against a truck driver when the video showed the police beating him; another case showed a man accused of resisting arrest being beaten.[6] Misconduct may be triggered by "contempt of cop", i.e., perceived disrespect towards police officers, such as by asserting one's constitutional rights, or by disrespecting the police.

Video and audio recording

Many police cars are now equipped with recording systems, which can document or rebut police misconduct. Usually, the records have rebutted claims of police misconduct according to a 2004 study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and Community Oriented Policing Service;[7] future innovations in recording equipment could allow an officer's entire workday to be recorded.[7]

Code of silence

There is a view that police officers share a 'code of silence' and do not turn each other in for misconduct. While this code has been called a myth,[8] a 2005 survey found evidence that it exists.[9]

Legal consequences

In the United States, the exclusionary rule means that evidence gathered through misconduct is sometimes inadmissible in court.


In a 2004 United States survey of the public's view on accountability in reforming police, most members of the public wanted an "early warning system" which flags officers who have received many complaints, video cameras on police cars, detailed records of police stops, and citizen review boards.[10]

Citizen review of police has been an "emotion-packed" issue, with law enforcement concerned that citizens reviewing their actions do not understand the procedures which they operate by and the citizen review board advocates arguing that the law enforcement "code of silence" requires that they have input into the disciplinary action. As of 2003, three-fourths of the United States' largest cities had citizen review boards.[11]

Early warning systems are procedures designed to identify and address issues 'problem officers', as around 10% of officers are theorized to cause 90% of the problems. Early warning systems were recommended by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1981, and by 1999 an estimated 27% of police agencies serving populations of over 50,000 people had implemented these programs. The systems work by collecting data such as complaints, which triggers an intervention at a certain point. After the intervention, the officer is monitored as a follow-up.[4]

Hong Kong and New York City, which both have had issues with police misconduct and corruption, have approached the problem in different ways. For corruption, Hong Kong created an external agency which actually investigates corruption while New York reviews corruption through an internal department, although the information is reported to a monitoring commission. New York also uses "integrity checks" in which an officer's integrity is tested through an opportunity for corruption. For misconduct, Hong Kong reviews complaints internally with a monitoring commission while New York has created the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (NYCCCRB) which investigates and makes a formal recommendation to the commissioner.[12]

Reading list

  • Balko, Radley (2006). Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America. Cato Institute. ISBN N/A.
  • Chevigny, Paul (1998). Edge of the Knife: Police Violence in the Americas. The New Press. ISBN 1565841832.
  • Cea, Robert (2005). The No Lights, No Sirens: The Corruption and Redemption of an Inner City Cop. Harper Collins. ISBN 0060587121.
  • Copperfield, David (2006). Wasting Police Time: The Crazy World of the War on Crime. Monday Books. ISBN 0955285410.
  • Palmiotto, Michael J. (2001). Police Misconduct: A Reader for the 21st Century. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0130256048.

See also

By country





  1. Tim Prenzler (April 2004), Stakeholder Perspectives on Police Complaints and Discipline: Towards a Civilian Control Model, 37, pp. 85–113, doi:10.1375, ISSN 0004-8658
  2. Martinelli TJ. (2007). Minimizing Risk by Defining Off-Duty Police Misconduct. The Police Chief.
  3. Martinelli TJ. (2006). Unconstitutional Policing: The Ethical Challenges in Dealing with Noble Cause Corruption. Police Chief.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hughes F, Andre LB. (2007). Problem Officer Variables and Early-Warning Systems. Police Chief.
  5. No author. (2007).Annotated Bibliography on Performance of Officers with Bachelor’s Degrees. The Police Chief. See also from same issue: Carter L, Wilson M. Measuring Professionalism of Police Officers.
  6. Hauser C. When Evidence From Surveillance Cameras Leads to Charges Against Officers. New York Times.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Schafer JA. (2007). The Future of Police Image and Ethics. The Police Chief.
  8. Ferrell CE. (2003). Code of Silence: Fact or Fiction?. Police Chief.
  9. Westmarland L. (2005). Police Ethics and Integrity: Breaking the Blue Code of Silence. Policing and Society.
  10. Weitzer R. (2004). Public Opinion on Reforms in Policing. Police Chief.
  11. Farrow J, Pham T. (2003). Citizen Oversight of Law Enforcement:Challenge and Opportunity.
  12. Jiao AY. (2009). Controlling Corruption and Misconduct: A Comparative Examination of Police Practices in Hong Kong and New York. Asian Journal of Criminology.

External links


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.