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Police Deviance Essay

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Updated: Aug 28th, 2019


The police service has been mandated by the government to maintain order and law in the society. By maintaining law and order in the society, the citizens get a chance to live in peace without any fear. The police just like any other citizen are mandated to abide by the law. In the course of executing their duties there are situations which may demand that they use excess force.

This happens when there is a danger to lives, for instance, when there is an exchange of bullets. Use of excess force is only permitted in special occasions. Quite unfortunately, there have been circumstances where the police force has used their mandate in the wrong way.

This has included the use of excess force when the situation does not really call for such a force to be used. Today, police service has been characterized by a lot of scandals including rape, sexual assault, brutality, corruption and much more. This is wrong and is a deviant behavior which ought to be stopped; it is an abuse of office powers.

I strongly believe that there is no reason that can justify some of these acts that are so inhuman. I believe that this topic is very important and is requires further investigation because if no action is taken, we might end up having a society that is too bitter with the police service and the consequences of these will be that the society will be prone to police mercies as justice will become a thing of the past. This essay is a summary of police deviance and measures that could be taken to control this.

Police Deviance

A behavior is considered deviant when it is not within what the society expects. Any society operates within a given code of conduct. When a person goes against the laid down code of conduct then such behavior is considered deviant behavior. Therefore in order to classify a behavior as deviant or not, there is a need to be well versed with the accepted code of conduct because the breaking of this code is what will lead to a behavior being labeled deviant.

A police man/woman is said to be deviant when he/she does not adhere to the police code of conduct. For the sake of this paper, the scope of this paper will only examine the code of conduct in reference to the relationship between the police force and the society. This is to make the scope of the paper achievable.

The Canadian police force has a number of roles and responsibilities but generally they are entitled to:

Act on behalf of the government and society to enforce laws, maintain the peace, detect crime, respond to emergencies, assist victims of crime, and provide assistance in prosecuting offenders. Police are also involved in community support and outreach programs such as drug awareness and crime prevention. Police services receive their powers to search, arrest, and detain individuals from the Criminal Code of Canada and from provincial and territorial Police Acts. (Li, 2011)

It is evident that the roles and responsibilities of the police force as outlined above exposes it to the public when executing its duties. It is obvious that the police force is always in constant contact with the public. There are risks involved in executing some of the police force duties, for instance, there are cases where the force has to deal with hardened criminals who pose some danger to the society as well become a threat to the lives of policemen/women when being pursued.

Such times call for accurate and quick decisions as there are cases where lives can be lost in no time. Police work therefore calls for commitment, accountability and competency in execution. Law and order can not be maintained in the society with the police personnel and therefore they do an executive job of ensuring that the society remains calm and people live in peace. It is quite unfortunate that there are some policemen who are dishonest, lack professionalism and are continuously involved in criminal acts.

Police deviance is therefore not acting in line to the expected laid down roles and responsibilities. Police deviance is actually an abuse of office whereby policemen and policewomen take advantage of their police position to abuse members of the society. Police deviance has been argued to be much more than it seems. It includes all the acts that are not inline with accepted norms, values, ethics and beliefs. It includes all acts that involve financial or material gain or reward (Police Crimes, 2004).

Key Issues in Police Deviance

Cases related to police deviance are on the increase. Police deviance is taking different forms which include: police brutality, police racial profiling, police sexual harassment among others. Logically arguing engaging in police deviance is more of denouncing police duties which a police person is supposed to execute. There were sensitive sentiments aired about police deviance which claimed that some of the deviant actions executed by the police are actually orders from above.

According to an article published by Henry Michaels, some police confrontations are deliberate collaborated efforts by the government and the police service. The use of pepper spray, horses and excessive force has become a common act in police service (Michaels, 2003). Such kind of actions will continuously widen the gap of hostility between the society and the police force. This creates a bad police image in the society. It portrays the police force as a team which is not civilized and lacking professionalism in the execution of their duties.

There have been cases which the general public feels were not well handled. Some police officials have engaged in what can be classified as being deviant and overstepping their mandate in the execution of their duties and yet it seems that somehow they have not been punished in accordance to the due process.

A good example is the case of Stacy Bonds. It is clear that there were huge violation and excessive use of force: “The video shows 27-year-old Bonds being kneed several times, forced to the ground and pinned by four officers before having her bra and shirt cut off with scissors by Desjourdy” (CBC News, 2011).

I call this excessive use of force because I do not see any essence in for policemen pinning down one lady. There is a need to engage more reasoning when engaging people. It would be wise if female officers handled the search. Having a lady’s clothes cut off and leaving her bare naked is quite traumatizing. It reduces the self esteem of a lady to great extend especially when it carried out by men.

Such scenes as that of Stacy causes mistrust issues. The cause of mistrust is poor relations between the community and policemen. Unpleasant and bitter feelings associated with past experiences with policemen may make one hate the police force. Generally, it will not be in good sense if the police force loses trust in public eyes.

Loosing trust in the public eyes will actually undermine some of the most important programs that the police force has initiated; community policing for example depends heavily on the community to give vital information to the police. For community policing to be effective, there has to be a good relationship between the community and the police – the two must correlate well for an interaction to take place and information to be exchanged. Lack of trust on the police will make the community

Types of Police Deviance

Police gratuity; is a form of corruption where the police get a free services or unnecessary discounts in exchange for favors that might be required in future. Gratuity put the police in a compromising situation since the favor that he might be required to offer in future could be illegal (Police Crimes, 2004). Another way that the police force can become deviant is through a police shakedown. A police shakedown is where the police exploit business owners to give them money so as to protect their businesses.

They make threats if the owners fail to comply with their demands (Police Crimes, 2004). The police may also decide to withhold important information for some personal reasons. This is called police perjury. Police perjury is a form of deviance where the police fail to provide some important information and as a result one is wrongfully prosecuted as a criminal.

In other cases, police officer may give false statement to damage the image of the victim. Sometimes this is referred to as evidence planting. They normally do this for financial gain (Police Crimes, 2004). Police perjury and evidence planting are usually covered up schemes to protect the face of the police force or a collusion to help a criminal not to found guilty. All the above are serious forms of injustices and deviate from the basic police roles and responsibilities.

The police can still decide to be blatantly rude and use their powers in the wrong way. Police brutality is where the police take advantage of their power and use excessive force, ridicule and disrespect someone’s rights and privacy. Sometimes they end up killing innocent citizens or even their colleagues which is very wrong.

A good example is the use of taser at Vancouver’s International Airport (a weapon with two wires propelled through air and once these wires strikes the muscles, muscles contract causing immobility) which caused the death of Robert Dziekanski who was an immigrant. Dziekanski was fired at by a taser five times and this caused his death (CBC News, 2011).

Police profanity is when the police use offensive language. This language may reflect discrimination or lack of respect. Use of profane language might take during an arrest but it should be noted that it wrong. Even if the person to be arrested offers resistance, the police are not allowed under any circumstance to use abusive language (Police Crimes, 2004).

Sexual harassment; this is where the police force handles a person in a manner that amounts to be termed as sexual assault. A good example is the case of Stacey Bonds Case in Ottawa where a police officer Steven Desjourdy was charged with sexual assault. A video was released as evidence in this case showing how the 27 years old Stacy Bonds was overpowered by four officers and one of them by using a pair of scissors cut off her shirt and bra exposing her nakedness.

Police misuse of confidential information; policemen may sometimes leak some personal information to their families, friends or even public. This might damage the image or risk the life of the person who personal details are being released (Police Crimes, 2004).

Primary and Secondary Victims

Business owners are primary victims since they are sometimes exploited by selfish policemen. This happens when policemen ask them to give them some money so as to get ‘extra’ protection. They are forced to comply with the police wishes and if they fail the police will probably “pull some strings” to ensure that the business owners comes for the protection.

Minority groups are another set of primary victims. Some policemen target some individuals based on race or ethnicity background as the main reason for suspicion. Such a suspicion may lead to a person from a minority group being detained unlawful and sometimes the victim is harassed and denied his/her rights.

Employees who work in certain institutions are sometimes exploited by policemen. The policemen may ask for favors from these employees thus putting them in a very compromising situation. This has a number of effects on employee which includes; loss of trust in the police service, defamation of character and reputation, extreme stress since one act contrary to his or her own wishes and sometimes loss of a job.

The female gender is the most affected in terms of sexual harassment. Sometimes they are even stripped off their clothes by merciless police men and torture. This shows lack of respect and denial of one’s rights. The victims may suffer from psychological and physical problems as well as getting infected with diseases.

Families and relatives of the primary victims also get affected. This is because of the demoralizing effect as a result of lost trust in police service. Moreover, due to health, psychological and physical problems encountered by one of their own, they might spend a lot of money in efforts to resolve or heal that problem.

Sometimes the victim might not recover forever and this will force the family to continually take care of that victim; such a case may happen if a taser is used on an epileptic person. This may lead to bitter and unpleasant feeling towards the police service.

Organizations where the individual work; though organizations may not be affected directly, there might be an indirect effect through a staff member who is subjected to police misbehavior. Such a staff member will probably be demoralized and this may affect his/her productivity at the organization.

Community and society in general will also be affected by police deviance. The community generally will be angry and bitter about police inappropriate behavior. There is also bad relationship between community and police service since the community will loose trust in police services and view the police service as a body that is empowered to violate people’s rights.

Persons’ and/or Groups’ Response to the Issue

Demonstrations: some bodies have taken to the streets to protest against the police’s unbecoming behavior. However, the demonstrations are not quite successful since the same policemen confront and disperse them using force, pepper spray and horses. This is a clear indication that police are taking advantage of their position since they know that they do not directly report to anyone or rather because they have powers over the common citizens.

The government many times fails to address the public concern thus their efforts are just in vain. A good example was the Toronto demonstration at Ontario legislature in Queen’s Park, this demonstration did not end up well since three anti- poverty activists were arrested and charged with riot offenses.

Another type of response from the community and individual personalities is filling cases against policemen who violate people’s rights hoping that justice will be executed. Some individual files cases against the policemen who abused them. They do this in hope that they will be offered justice and that this will be a lesson to many other policemen who will try to commit same crimes. A good example is Stacy Bonds, who filled a case against the officer who violated her.

Still another way of responding to police deviance is through reporting cases to the relevant authorities so that they can take action. Some victims report cases to other relevant authorities, not necessary the police force, to ensure that justice is not denied to the victims of police deviance. Due to lack of trust in police service one may prefer to go to another relevant body to seek for assistance.

Lastly there are those who just decide to keep quite since they have either lost hope or because of fear. Due to mistrust experienced and reluctance of law courts and relevant authorities, some victims of violence are not willing to report some cases to the authority. Others fear the consequences that might be fall if they report these cases. They therefore hold bitter and unpleasant feeling for the rest of their lives and this may have severe negative effects on such people. Some may seek counseling in efforts to overcome that hatred while others will not.

Studies on Police Deviance

Two perspectives have been adopted to explain the causes of police deviance: popular conceptions and scholarly research.

Popular Conceptions

According to the popular conception, police deviance is a deep rooted in the heart of the police force. From this perspective police deviance is viewed as being part of the police culture which is being passed down generations and has become hard to alter. Some top police officials have however claimed that it is only a handful of the police officers who are deviant.

Such deviant police officers are those who by bad luck filters through the recruitment process and finally end up misusing their powers after official being posted to work. This explanation seems reasonable but then one may question its validity taking into consideration that the few bad deviant police officers are not usually taken to task to properly explain their action implying laxity in the whole system.

Scholarly Perspective

The scholarly perspective offers a wide and reasonable argument on why police deviance has persisted in our society. Expert conceptions have researched into this area and pointed out the following causes of police deviance: “irresistible opportunities, low pay rates, cynicism in promotion procedures, socialization and reinforcement, corruption in the society, citizens’ tolerance, and inadequate leadership” (Police Deviance, n.d., p. 135).

Irresistible Opportunities

The police are constantly exposed to situations which demand them to make hard decisions of which most of them may have major effects of different individuals. Persons may tempt the police with huge bribes once they are caught committing crimes; this especially applies to the “victimless crimes” for instance gambling. The police in such a case may sympathize with the individual, take the bribe and set the person free.

Low Pay

There is a belief that the police officers are not paid well in reference to the risks that they undertake in the course of executing their duties. The police officers have the feeling that they risk their lives always whenever they are in the line of duty. Because of such risking they therefore feel that they are entitled to earn some bonus which may present itself in the line of duty. It has also been claimed that getting a promotion in the police force is a hard thing to come by and therefore one needs to find ways of getting extra money.

Socialization and Reinforcement

The police officers often interact with each other. Through such interaction the officers share their backgrounds thus forming strong bonds. Such kind of socialization often leads the officers sharing their secrets and values. Some of the values shared are deviance behaviors and through such interaction therefore these behaviors passes down police generations.

Extent of Corruption in the Society

The police officers are likely to be tempted to engage in deviance behavior when they see the same happen in other sectors, for instance, in the business, among the politicians etc.

The Way Forward

Some of the ways which have been suggested to act as solutions to the deviance behavior among the police officers include: improved pay for officers, ethical training of the officers, routine transfers of police officers, and using internal affairs department.

Improved Pay for the Officers

It is believed that with an improved pay to the police officers, they will be happy with their work description and will not spend much time looking for extra money. It is hoped that with more payment, the police officers will be satisfied and will execute their responsibilities in the right way. It is likely that they will handle people in a caring manner without any bitterness.

Ethical Training of the Officers

There is a need to train police officers such that they execute their duties professionally. It is assumed that by training police officers on better ethics they will rationalize some of their actions which are considered deviant. Ethical training can be carried out as part of the curriculum in the training academy or they can be introduced as work shop courses.

Transferring of Police Officer more frequently

By engaging in constant transfer of police officers more often than not, it becomes hard for the police to take advantage of some people. Constant transfers will make it possible to destabilize corruption networks of police officers.


Danger consequences of not taking action against police deviance behavior might be experienced if this issue persists. Police service should know that they are accountable to the general society, thus their actions should therefore reflect professionalism, honesty and ethics. Reports of corruption and other deviance behavior should not be tolerated at all. The police service therefore needs to put measure in place to build back its lost confidence.


CBC News. (2011). . CBC News. Web.

Li, G. (2011). . Statistics Canada. Web.

Michaels, H. (2003). . World Sociolist. Web.

Police Crimes. (2004). . Police Crimes. Web.

Police Deviance. (n.d.). . Web.

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