Police Corruption: Brotherly Love

Posted: January 19, 2013 by ryanuppal in Uncategorized
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As I read the assignment guidelines, I figured it would be extremely difficult to find a recent case of police corruption. Contrary to my belief, the first search I entered into Google brought me to the case of an Edmonton police officer named Derek Whitson. Whitson, a seven-year veteran, is currently being charged with four charges including deceit and corruption for interfering with documents in his brother, Joell Whitson’s, drunk driving case.

Corruption can be described as the abuse of authority, oath of office, and suspects and citizens. Immediately, it is clear that the category of corruption Whitson has committed is “Flaking and Padding.” This involves manipulating files or evidence for personal gain and could also include adding to evidence to increase the penalty an individual receives. In this particular case, it is clear that Derek Whitson was attempting to minimize the level of impairment of his brother in the notes in the hopes that he received a lesser charge or even acquittal. Derek Whitson has also used his authority in a corruptive manner, another one of the typologies discussed in “Police Corruption” by Maurice Punch.

Typology 3 involves the level of police deviance and corruption committed by an individual. Because an internal complaint from within his unit was received, it is evident that this is not a system failure which involves an entire organization in crisis; however, the corruption does occur within the police domain. This involves police interfering with the administration of justice. When the original officer on scene was taking notes, he was administering justice. By tampering with notes about the severity of Joell’s intoxication level, Derek knew that his brother would either be acquitted of receive a lesser charge.

In typology 1, we are introduced to the various forms typologies for officers. Among these are two that fit particularly well with this case, the first being “meat-eaters.” A meat-eater is someone who participates in illegal activity and abuses their power for self-gain. Although manipulating notes is not directly benefitting Derek, I’m sure he would slightly benefit from the fact that his brother no longer needs to serve time or pay large fines. The second typology is an “innovator and number-cruncher.” These are individuals who look for loopholes and technicalities. Having a brother who is able to tamper with records is quite the loophole is you ask me.

The various typologies are quite confusing at first glance. When I first searched for classes to join, I had no clue this one was being offered. What was most shocking to me was that the problem of police deviance is becoming a colossal problem not only in third world countries but countries like Canada. Realizing a problem like police corruption is large enough to have a whole class dedicated to it highlights how drastically this, once small, problem is growing. As human beings, we are instinctively required to look out for others, especially loved ones. In this particular case, one man was willing to put his job on the line to protect his brother. But where do we draw the line?  How far are we willing to go to help others?



  1. Police use of excessive force, corruption and other misconduct hurts everyone – including the police — in terms of lost cooperation, support and trust – which, in turn, diminishes their effectiveness. And remember: policing in a democracy is best accomplished by those who are carefully selected, well-trained and led, controlled in their use of force, honest, courteous to every person, and closely in touch with the communities they serve. For more, follow my blog at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com.

  2. Mike Larsen says:

    Good selection of a recent case study.

    The case does not seem to involve ‘flaking and padding’, though. Recall that flaking and padding is a form of organizational deviance that involves ‘setting someone up’ or enhancing the evidence in a given case so as to increase the likelihood or severity of a conviction or sentence. In this case, it would appear that Whitson was acting with the opposite objective in mind – as you note, he sought to “minimize the level of impairment of his brother in the notes in the hopes that he received a lesser charge or even acquittal”.

    I would suggest that this case reflects Barker and Roebuck’s category of ‘The fix’ (as in, “don’t worry Joell, I’ll fix things so you don’t get in trouble”).

    Your application of Punch’s third typology makes sense. This appears to be an example of corruption occurring within the police domain.

    I don’t think that the category of ‘meat eating’ applies here. The article you have provided suggests that this was an opportunistic offence. Joell Whitson happened to run into a problem with the police that could be ‘fixed’ by his brother, a police officer. Meat-eating would involve Officer Whitson actively seeking out opportunities to benefit from corrupt practices.

    You raise some interesting questions in your conclusion. I am particularly interested in your introduction of the concept of loyalty, and your consideration of how this might place police members in conflicted positions. This is worth thinking about further.

    • ryanuppal says:

      Upon reviewing your comments, it is apparent that there is no “meat eating” here. Contrary to my belief, as you explained, “meat eating” involves the seeking our of opportunities to benefit an individual. “The Fix” involves the sabotaging of evidence, for better or worse and can involve making certain key witnesses unavailable. It is evident that evidence was sabotaged in this case to allow for a lesser charge.

      I also made the mistake of understanding “flaking and padding” to be a category in which evidence was able to be sabotaged in any way possible. Contrary to my belief, it only involves ADDING to evidence to increase the penalty an individual receives. I appreciate the clarification.

      As “improvingthepolice” mentioned, policing in a democracy involves police who are “honest, courteous to every person, and closely in touch with the communities they serve;” however, who’s to say police won’t go out of their way to help all these people they build relationships with. The way I see it, it would be extremely beneficial for our officers to stay closely in touch with communities, but to a certain extent. If they become to close to these communities, how are we sure that they won’t go and help other individuals using deviant means? There needs to be a relationship that is strictly used to prevent crime and not a relationship that involves getting to know communities on a personal level.

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