Well, I expected this one: Jim Hodgson, a frequent commenter, has an extensive background in law enforcement. Ethics Alarms is fortunate to have the benefit of his perspective, and I am grateful for it.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “The Ethics Dilemma That Has No Solution: We Can’t Trust Police, But We Have To”:
The scope of thought provoked by this post could fill volumes. I will try to be brief.
Some corrupt organizational cultures are so big and so corrupt that they seem to defy correction. This seems to be the case with big agencies like NYPD, Chicago PD, and perhaps Boston PD as well as others. Some of these agencies seem to have major corruption scandals every ten or fifteen years, which likely means there is some omnipresent level of corruption just below the surface. It boggles the mind (mine, anyway) to contemplate what would have to be done to set a large erring agency on the right path.
In the agencies I worked for, (200 – 250 employees max) just one incident involving one officer was a scandal. Yet, I can only comment accurately from my own experience. I entered law enforcement in 1974, at what I call “the end of the knuckle-dragging era,” when the first steps to upgrade police selection, training and supervision were just taking hold. My first agency required two years of college as a prerequisite to employment, and required us to remain enrolled in college until the completion of a baccalaureate or higher degree, pursuing the goal that the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice established in 1967, “that all police personnel with general enforcement powers have baccalaureate degrees.” This was, of course, presented by the Commission as “an ultimate” goal, but it was being actively pursued by some agencies.