Archive for February, 2013

Neutralization- the accountability killer

Posted: February 22, 2013 by scott0113 in Uncategorized

To assume I occupy a position of authority within the police accountability office, I would first have to determine what is meant by the terms accountability and neutralization. Reg Whitaker and Stuart Farson define accountability in three terms: Inform (another about his actions or inactions), Justify (the actions or decisions as appropriate), and Sanctions (to suffer sanctions in case of misconduct). To be accountable should mean more than just the possible punishment of someone, but more importantly having effectiveness in reducing police deviant behavior of oneself and others around you.

As per the neutralization theory, police officers that become deviant take minor steps at first. While they take the first step they begin by making an excuse or use euphemisms to excuse or minimize their deviant action. The first step down this slippery slope usually starts with grass eating (given cash for example) and/or rule bending (Punch, 2009). Whether they start down this slippery slope for money/greed or to fit in with their peers, is part of the understanding of the neutralization theory. If they continue down this path of deviance and continue to neutralizing their actions, perhaps the grass eater might become a meat eater and start looking for others means of self-gain.

Understanding neutralization would only affect my approach for any individual instances of police deviance if they confessed to the act of transgression before being caught. While I would be more lenient to those officers who confess to any wrong doing, the fact is deviance is still deviance. If they confess than that is being accountable to their actions and I would respect them for it. If it was a minor transgression I would make them take some programs about proper behavioral conduct of officers. Perhaps they might get a reprimand or demotion depending if it was a little more serious as to what they confessed to. However, if it was a very serious transgression then it still may be a criminal act that he should face up to in the criminal court system whether they confessed or not.

There would be many proactive measures that I would implement as I recognize neutralization techniques can trip up some dedicated officers to follow the wrong path. One of the first things I would arrange is for classes for all officers to attend periodically, which would stress the importance of obeying the law and what to be careful of including the concerns over neutralization. Either a live or video conference with a former police officer who was imprisoned would be preferable as a means to make the current officers contemplate their conduct and to not risk their careers. If a live or video conference was not available, I would try to arrange a video taping of a convicted former officer who was willing to tell their story and how they used neutralization techniques that led them down a corrupt path. This video would be made available and shown as part of the classes they would attend. This I think would hit home, as many officers believe only other officers can understand them and their unique challenges they face. I would also encourage any officer to ask for a transfer that is perhaps feeling pressured into taking any money (grass eating), as a means to belong to a particular group. They would not have to rat out any fellow officers, as I would want them to feel comfortable to ask for a transfer to keep their hands clean. While rotating officers and their districts periodically may not be ideal as far as police work is concerned, it would however make it more difficult for officers to be on the take of any bribes or any other potential misconduct in case they start to become too familiar with those in their territory.


Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

In this unit, we are studying discriminatory policing practices. Our first two classes focus on racial profiling and the causes and consequences of discriminatory policing in Canada.

As it happens, our engagement with these topics coincides with a heightened level of media coverage and public conversation regarding discriminatory policing in British Columbia. One of the events responsible for this latest surge of interest was the release of the Human Rights Watch report Those Who Take Us Away, which focuses on the experiences of Aboriginal women in Northern BC communities.

From Human Rights Watch:

The 89-page report documents both ongoing police failures to protect indigenous women and girls in the north from violence and violent behavior by police officers against women and girls. Police failures and abuses add to longstanding tensions between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and indigenous communities in the region, Human Rights Watch said. The Canadian government should establish a national commission of inquiry into the murders and disappearances of indigenous women and girls, including the impact of police mistreatment on their vulnerability to violence in communities along Highway 16, which has come to be called northern British Columbia’s “Highway of Tears.”

The report has received considerable coverage in the Canadian news media. Many of these media outlets offer the opportunity for members of the public to post comments in response to news stories. While it is important to recognize that we cannot claim that the opinions expressed in these forums are representative of Canadian public opinion, they do offer us an interesting window into some of the prominent ideas and narratives that characterize conversations about policing and discrimination.


Food for Thought:

  1. Identify an online newsmedia article that (a) discusses the Human Rights Watch report and (b) allows for public comments. Provide a short description of the article content, and include an active hyperlink to the article page.
  2. Review the comments posted in response to the article, and write a commentary about the key themes that emerge. What do these comments tell us about public reaction to the specific allegations made in the Human Rights Watch report? What do they tell us about public perceptions of the relationships between police organizations and Aboriginal communities? Include excerpts from posted comments to illustrate your arguments.
  3. Conclude your post with a comment of your own that you would post in response to the article you have selected.

This post is due on or before March 5.

This unit is dedicated to the study of ‘pathways into corruption’. We will discard the straightforward distinction between ‘good cops’ and ‘bad cops’ and consider the process of ‘becoming bent’ – the psychological, social and organizational factors that contribute to a slide into deviance.

One of the most important tools for making sense of pathways into corruption is neutralization theory – first introduced by Sykes and Matza (1957, based on Sutherland’s earlier work on differential association), and later adapted by Cohen (2001) (among many others).

Sykes and Matza (1957) are interested in the rationalizations and justifications that persons engaged in deviant behaviour use to neutralize the moral binds that would otherwise restrict them from acting. They propose (p.666):

It is our argument that much delinquency is based on what is essentially an unrecognized extension of defenses to crimes, in the form of justifications for deviance that are seen as valid by the delinquent but not by the legal system or society at large.

Building on this work (as well as the psychoanalysis and human rights literatures), Cohen (2001) offers a detailed theory of denial. In summarizing Sykes and Matza, he notes that vocabularies of denial and rationalization function (p. 6)

“after the fact to protect the individual from both self-blame and blame by others, and before the act to weaken social control – and hence make delinquency possible. Between contemplating the act and doing it, the anticipated social disapproval by significant audiences must be neutralized or deflected”

Theories of neutralization and denial can help us to explain how police engaged in deviant activities operate as ‘creatures in between’ (Punch 2009), using rationalizations and euphemisms to make sense of the dissonance that arises from simultaneously occupying the position of law enforcer and law breaker.

Food for thought:

Assume that you occupy a position of authority within a police accountability office (this could be internal – a professional standards office, or external – a civilian complaints or investigation body).

  • How would your understanding of neutralization theory shape your approach to individual instances of police wrongdoing?
  • How could you use neutralization theory to implement some proactive measures to prevent police wrongdoing?

The deadline for this post is Thursday, Feb 21.

In the wake of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, which was tasked with evaluating and formulating recommendations surrounding the police protection of vulnerable women in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (formerly GVRD), a dialogue pertaining to the development of a regional police force resurfaced. The discussion surrounding the creation of a regional police force for the Greater Vancouver region and Capital region has been ongoing for almost three decades as debate continues over the extent to which police collaboration would improve with the amalgamation of existing municipal forces. Eleven municipal police agencies presently operate in British Columbia in addition to the numerous RCMP detachments contracted to provide policing services in the province. While it is recognised that informal cooperation between these agencies currently exists, it was Commissioner Oppal’s recommendation that a Greater Vancouver regional force be implemented to enhance coordination of investigative bodies.

Resistance over the formation of a regional force appears in part to stem from concern over how such an agency would be kept accountable. In establishing an accountability framework to oversee a regional police body in British Columbia it may be beneficial to turn to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Ontario which has been in operation for over twenty years and is revered by many as an archetype in police oversight. However, the SIU continues to have a number of downfalls which can also be beneficial to take into consideration when constructing a new oversight body.

The Police Act (1996) in British Columbia would require amendment to reflect the presence of a new oversight body responsible for a regional force, or a reworking of the powers of existing provincial oversight agencies – such as the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) and the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC). Legislation is necessary to ensure the cooperation of police agencies with external review bodies during the course of investigations into allegations of police misconduct. Similar provisions are apparent in the Ontario Police Services Act (1990); however, there appears to be a lack of sanctioning when officers being investigated do not fully cooperate – an aspect of the SIU’s accountability mechanism which is wanting. In light of this difficulty faced by the SIU, prescribed legal sanctioning ought to be developed and included in BC’s legislation.

Ideally these two agencies would be integrated into a single independent civilian oversight board tasked with handling complains against police made directly from the public as well as investigating all incidents involving police which result in serious injury, death, or contain allegations of sexual assault. (For a talk outlining the present and future goals of the IIO see this video) It is important to have civilian oversight which is completely divorced from policing agencies as allowing police to investigate themselves gives the public the impression that internal reviews are not impartial or fair. Not only do the investigations into alleged misconduct need to be free from partisan bias, they must also be transparent, appearing to the public to be free of bias. The public must be able to discern that the investigative process is structured to protect against review findings which are favourable to the police department involved. If the public questions the arm-length of investigations the validity of reviews will be undermined as will be the legitimacy of the police in general.

With the consolidation of the province’s existing oversight agencies into a single review board a widening of powers should also occur. Presently neither the OPCC nor the IIO possess any definitive power in sanctioning those found guilty of wrongdoing. Recommendations may be made for organisational disciplinary action, policy reform, and even to Crown counsel in terms of criminal charges, yet there is no requirement that any of these recommendations be adhered to. In an attempt to allow for means of true and effective accountability the organisation should be a criminal law enforcement agency which has the ability to lay criminal charges against officers who are found to have engaged in misconduct.

While oversight bodies are an important aspect in an effective accountability mechanism, it is imperative to recognise that they operate largely on a reactive basis. Therefore, it is integral when considering the efficacy of a review body to consider the pro-active measures of accountability in place. The development of an early intervention system, similar to that which is seen under the Australian Federal Police Act, may be a beneficial practice. Such strategy highlights trends and patterns of individuals and work areas which are vulnerable to conduct and corruption issues. The policing organisation as a whole, as well as each work area, is responsible for assessing risks of deviance related to policing in general as well as those risks which are specific to certain policing tasks. This allows for multi-level responsibility and accountability as well as the development of risk-management strategies which are tailored to each area’s specific set of risks. To read more on these procedural controls and risk management practices in Australia see this book.

Policing’s New Visibility

Posted: February 5, 2013 by Mike Larsen in Policing's New Visibility

Andrew Goldsmith’s 2010 article “Policing’s New Visibility”, in the British Journal of Criminology, offers an important description and analysis of the evolving nature of police accountability in a time of multilateral visibility. In a nutshell, the traditional practices and politics governing the public consumption of images of policing have been displaced by ubiquitous camera phones and decentralized social media.

Goldsmith describes this transformation, offers some illustrative case studies, and situates policing’s new visibility in relation to theories of impression management and accountability. He closes with a discussion of implications. This is a thought-provoking article, and one of my favourite recent works to teach.

This one-page PDF poster offers an overview of some of the key ideas in Goldsmith’s article.

CRIM 2355 2211_Policing’s New Visibility

You can also view it as a JPEG below:

CRIM 2355 2211_Policing's New Visibility

The Uniformed Criminals Of Egypt

Posted: February 2, 2013 by qdinero in Uncategorized

The Uniformed Criminals Of Egypt.


Stirring overview of what is still occurring in Egypt by an organization known as Anonymous:

The world is watching. The people of Egypt want answers. Yet their government officials choose to ignore the ordeal and carry on with their reckless behavior.

The police are using the same repressive methods that were used prior to the 2011 revolution. Attacking the very people that they’re supposed to protect. Enacting what Barker and Roebuck would classify as ‘direct criminal activities’. Using unnecessary violence to impose control.

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights documented 16 cases of police violence where 11 people were killed and 10 tortured inside the police stations. If there was anything right with Egypt’s institution you would think someone would be held accountable for these horrendous acts. One member of the Ministry informs the press that these numerous accounts of violent behavior are “untrue” and “full of exaggerations“. Another told media that the men held captive died due to drop in blood pressure and suicide. These unethical statements reveal that the police are not entirely the direct instigators. These matters bring light to the fact that the police are externally driven, captured by deviant elite. In other words, there are criminals of higher jurisdiction that have “captured” the police agency. Such as politicians. The outcome has lead to institutional failure. This deviance is seen as symptomatic of an institutional failure but largely confined within the police system.

In one report the police ambushed a village in Cairo, assaulted pedestrians, and destroyed the shops. In result the residents were angry and protested. In spite of the protest the police returned the next day, firing tear gas and live ammunition which left many wounded or dead. Based on the Knapp Commission testimony this aggressive premeditated corrupt behavior categorizes the police as “meat-eaters”. The meat-eaters are well aware of their actions and know what their doing is wrong but continue in doing so for personal gain. In this case it is power and control over the people as well as the fact that they’re not being held accountable for their actions. This misconduct carried out by the police solidifies the fact that corruption and deviance is evidently condemned in their system.

Residents taking justice into their own hands and fighting back:


Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

Police Corruption in Russia

Posted: February 2, 2013 by batnomin in Uncategorized

Police corruption happens in just about every country. Unfortunately, people in some countries have to deal with more serious forms of police corruption and violence on a daily basis. As someone who was born and raised in Russia and lived in number of different countries including Mongolia, Turkey, Korea, and Canada, I have seen and experienced just about every kind of police corruption and violence there is. As most people know, Russian police has always been rather corrupt and use violence to the most extreme level possible. When it comes to Russian police and the internal affairs, the corruption takes many different forms and involves many individuals. They have all three types of corrupt officers as described by Punch, 2009.

Punch’s 3 categories include:

  1. Grass- eaters which are the ones who accept free meal, discounts and just a general perks.
  2. Meat- eaters are those officers who actually seek out opportunity for bribery and accept the bribes with no problem.
  3. Birds are the ones who are not mentioned that much. Those who don’t really have the right opportunity or they think about their future prospects.

From what I have seen and know, Russian and Mongolian police officers accept bribes and seek out bribes in order to support themselves and their families. Police officers in both of these countries are grossly underpaid and overworked which is the perfect recipe for those who are offering the bribes. If, for example, an officer decides to live and work “clean handed” he or she will most likely end up getting fired or killed. This is probably one of the reasons why I was so surprised when I learned that in Canada, police officers get a decent pay. I was so used to seeing illegal activities involving police officials back home that I could not wrap my head around as to why Canadian police officers seemed so into their duties.

In Russia, most serious police corruptions go underground and they are not reported on TV in detail. There is always the death threat for the officers who are involved in major bribes. For example, Russian mafia is so powerful because they have “friends” in police agencies. The drug dealers pay high price in exchange for “a blind eye” from police officials. This means it is a huge risk for anyone to disclose it.

Reference list,

Punch, Maurice. (2011). Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing. New York, USA: Routledge.