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Misconduct by police and correctional officers presents significant challenges for law enforcement since it has important legal and social consequences. The present document is a report on the investigation conducted in the local police department and correctional facilities based on citizens’ reports of misconduct. The investigation confirmed that correctional officers often used violence against inmates without proper justification. Similarly, police officers used excessive force against citizens, particularly in crime-ridden areas. Secondary findings of the report also indicate that misconduct is usually condoned or even encouraged by the upper management, which shows that the problem is of systemic nature. In order to address the problem of misconduct appropriately, it is essential to apply proven recommendations to enhance accountability, promote reporting, and allow for independent investigations. Moreover, it is also necessary to use long-term strategies for reducing misconduct and eliminating systemic corruption, such as policy change and increased oversight, community involvement, and diversity. It is expected that the recommendations and long-term strategies listed in the report will have a positive influence on the work of local law enforcement agencies.
The key recommendations provided in the report are as follows:
- Introduce body-worn cameras to police departments and correctional facilities. Research shows that active use of this technology reduces the incidence of misconduct by improving perceived accountability and providing evidence for investigations.
- Establish a permanent procedure for independent investigations and prosecution. The lack of accountability is a persistent problem that aggravates misconduct in law enforcement. Creating an independent investigation body and following proper prosecution procedures would increase accountability, leading to substantial improvements.
- Institute a reliable community reporting mechanism (online and offline). It is necessary to provide citizens with a way of reporting misconduct without fear to aid independent investigators in identifying cases of misconduct.
- Provide training in active bystandership to all law enforcement officers. Interventions by fellow officers can help to minimize the harm done to citizens and encourage internal reporting of misconduct. This, in turn, will help to identify and investigate misconduct cases while also increasing accountability.
Law Enforcement Misconduct Report
Police and correctional officers are among the most significant players in the United States law enforcement system. People rely on the police to maintain order and protect them from harm, whereas correctional officers are tasked with supervising inmates and ensuring adequate conditions in prisons. The power vested in these individuals should be used for achieving and maintaining the public good; however, cases of police brutality and misconduct by correctional officers are widespread. Such cases could have severe consequences because they violate human rights, the United States’ laws, and people’s trust in the law enforcement system. Hence, it is necessary to investigate and address claims of corruption in the police and correctional facilities and address it promptly. The present document discusses the findings from the investigation of misconduct by police and correctional officers operating in town. It also addresses the importance of the violations identified and suggests ways of reducing corruption through policy and procedure changes.
Illegal Practices Identified
Following the complaints against local police and correctional officers, a multi-agency task force was created to perform an investigation and provide recommendations. Hence, the task force had two primary goals: to determine if the allegations were true and to develop a protocol for addressing the current issues and preventing future problems. The investigation was primarily based on interviews with inmates in the local correctional system and with witnesses who reported police brutality. The present sections will report on the illegal practices identified as part of the investigation.
The primary finding of the investigation is that the use of excessive force among police and correctional officers is widespread. During interviews with inmates in the local correctional facilities, 90% of them said that correctional officers used violence against them in cases not involving policy violations. For example, inmates admitted that correctional officers battered them for not eating lunch within 30 seconds or for “walking like girls”. Friends and family members of inmates who visited them in correctional facilities also complained that inmates showed signs of physical violence, such as bruises.
Investigations of the police force produced similar results, indicating that officers often use excessive force against citizens. Witnesses interviewed throughout the investigation claimed that they saw police violently attacking unarmed teenagers, leaving them with bodily injuries. Based on the witnesses’ accounts, it occurred in situations where excessive force was not necessary, and there was no threat to the life of the police officers involved. During their assaults on teenagers who were allegedly involved in gangs, police used weapons, including firearms.
The secondary finding is that misconduct by police and correctional officers was encouraged or ignored by police and prison authorities. As part of the investigation, records of police communications were obtained, which indicated that the police chief encouraged officers to use excessive force against citizens in crime-ridden areas even if police officers had any suspicions about them, regardless of their justifications. For instance, the police chief instructed police officers patrolling the area “to make an example of anyone who looked suspicious” and who was found walking the streets after 11 pm. This means that police officer were allowed by their superiors to use excessive force against citizens even if there was no substantial reason to suspect the person of a crime. Given that racial profiling is a prominent issue in the United States, such orders could be used to justify excessive violence against certain groups of people, such as black, Muslim, or Latino (Legewie, 2016).
In correctional facilities, issues with upper management were also evident. Inmates who were interviewed in correction with the case hinted that supervisors and managers in correctional facilities were aware of the unjustified use of violence, but did not take any action to protect inmates. Similarly, friends and families of inmates complained about the excessive use of force against inmates, but no steps were taken to address the problem. While there is no clear evidence that correctional officers were instructed to batter inmates, it appears that they faced no opposition from superiors in executing their authority through violence.
Behaviors of correctional officers and the police identified above violate the United States federal law. In particular, Section 242 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code addresses misconduct among police officers, correctional workers, and other authorities. The law states that it is illegal for persons under the color of law to deprive people of their legal rights, privileges, or immunities, as well as to subject them to punishments based on nationality, race, or skin color (“18 U.S. Code § 242,” 1994). Additionally, “if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, [the perpetrator] shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years” (“18 U.S. Code § 242,” 1994, para. 1). Therefore, the violations exhibited by correctional officers were illegal on the grounds that they resulted in bodily injuries. In addition to this, police officers threatened to use and used weapons during their assaults on citizens, which increases the degree of their violations. Both entities thus exhibited evidence of illegal actions and could face legal action from citizens in response to them.
Aside from legal consequences, the violations discussed above could also have an influence on the relationships between law enforcement and citizens. Consistent use of force by the police, particularly in specific areas or against people of specific backgrounds, reduces people’s trust in law enforcement, leading to poor cooperation with and hostility against officers. Research shows that episodes of police brutality influence crime reporting rates in affected communities, which prevents the active work of law enforcement (Desmond, Papachristos, & Kirk, 2016). Additionally, the spreading of information about violence perpetrated by police and correctional officers may cause disruptions in the town, such as protests, thus threatening public safety. Addressing the problems outlined in the report would help to avoid these issues while rebuilding positive relationships between communities and law enforcement.
There are several recommendations that should be implemented in the short term to address misconduct among police and correctional officers. First of all, body-worn cameras are widely used in the United States to improve accountability among law enforcement officers, particularly in the police. A recent randomized controlled trial by Ariel, Farrar, and Sutherland (2015) showed that police officers wearing body cameras were twice less likely to use excessive force during arrests than those who did not use the technology. Researchers suggest that body-worn cameras work in two ways (Ariel et al., 2015). On the one hand, they increase perceived accountability, thus causing officers to restrain themselves from applying excessive force. On the other hand, they provide reliable evidence that can be used to confirm or refute allegations regarding police misconduct. Body-worn cameras can also be used in correctional facilities to monitor the conduct of correctional officers and identify cases of excessive use of force or unjustified violence.
Secondly, it is crucial to establish a permanent procedure for independently investigating alleged misconduct cases and prosecuting officers who were found guilty. When investigations are performed by fellow law enforcement officers, the results can be biased. Moreover, if the upper management condones or encourages misconduct, proceeding with investigations and prosecuting guilty officers is even more challenging. Therefore, it is advised that investigations are performed by officials who will be legally required to present the findings in full and will work independently from the police department. Besides ensuring that misconduct by officers is punished appropriately, this would also help to identify corrupted supervisors and managers and hold them accountable, thus addressing systemic failures evident in the case.
Thirdly, to assist the new force in collecting information, it is necessary to improve community reporting of police and correctional officers’ misconduct. While citizens can submit written complaints to police departments or correctional facilities, some people may be afraid of visiting a police station or talking to the police. Hence, instituting a reliable reporting mechanism for both in-person and online reporting that would provide complaints straight to independent investigators would be helpful. By using this tool, investigators would be able to identify potential misconduct cases faster, and citizens would be more cooperative.
Lastly, training in active bystandership is advised to prevent cases of misconduct y police and correctional officers. Active bystandership is a scholarly term for peer interventions by officers in cases of misconduct (Novotney, 2017). Training the police and correctional officers to identify and intervene in misconduct on the spot could help to increase reporting and prevent harm to citizens or inmates (Novotney, 2017). Training should include an explanation of misconduct, strategies for intervention, and reporting procedures to ensure that all officers know what to do if their colleagues engage in misconduct.
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Long-Term Strategies for Reducing Systemic Corruption
While the changes above can be implemented quickly to achieve improvements in misconduct rates, there are also some long-term strategies that have to be followed in order to reduce systemic corruption. The first strategy, in this case, is improving civilian participation. By connecting with citizens more, police departments can address the problem of misconduct in law enforcement and establish trustful relationships with local communities. This, in turn, would assist in improving the overall effectiveness of law enforcement.
The second strategy to pursue is enhancing oversight over police and correctional authorities. The corruption among the upper management, which is evident in the case, stems primarily from the lack of accountability. Hence, it is necessary to establish proper oversight of persons who hold managerial positions in police departments and correctional facilities. This would assist in preventing misconduct and ensuring adequate investigation of alleged misconduct.
There is also a clear need for policy change to support the recommendations and strategies mentioned above. The task force and leaders of law enforcement should cooperate in devising a set of policies addressing the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of misconduct. Such policies might include specific procedures for misconduct allegations, as well as statements clarifying the position of key authorities on misconduct. The policy change will facilitate the adoption of recommendations while also improving perceived accountability among officers.
Finally, increasing the diversity of employees in police departments and correctional facilities is also an essential strategy. National statistics show that many cases of excessive use of force are associated with racial profiling and bias, meaning that specific populations are disproportionately affected by law enforcement violence (Legewie, 2016). Increasing the diversity of officers working in law enforcement could help in preventing misconduct stemming from racial profiling, thus protecting vulnerable groups (Nicholson-Crotty, Nicholson-Crotty, & Fernandez, 2017). It is also expected that improved diversity will assist in reducing systemic corruption since more officers would be willing to intervene in and report misconduct by higher officials.
All in all, the investigation confirmed the allegations against local police officers and correctional workers. Inmates and citizens reported a high number of misconduct cases, which indicates a systemic problem. In most cases, there was no action from superior officials, and in some cases, officers were encouraged to use excessive force without proper justification. Addressing the problem requires both short-term and long-term improvements, including the introduction of body-worn cameras, training of officers, the establishment of an independent investigation body, and the promotion of community involvement. The recommendations provided in the report also necessitate policy changes and increased oversight to ensure sustainable improvement.
Ariel, B., Farrar, W. A., & Sutherland, A. (2015). The effect of police body-worn cameras on use of force and citizens’ complaints against the police: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 31(3), 509-535.
Desmond, M., Papachristos, A. V., & Kirk, D. S. (2016). Police violence and citizen crime reporting in the black community. American Sociological Review, 81(5), 857-876.
Legewie, J. (2016). Racial profiling and use of force in police stops: How local events trigger periods of increased discrimination. American Journal of Sociology, 122(2), 379-424.
Novotney, A. (2017). Preventing police misconduct. Monitor on Psychology, 48(9), pp. 30-31.