Posted: March 2, 2015 by cclal5 in Uncategorized

     Police corruption and deviance have been used interchangeably to refer to violations, but are however different. Deviance is activities that are deemed to be unethical, whereas corruption involves self-interest before solving a problem. Going over this post, you will get a clear understanding of what some typologies of police deviance and corruption are, insight on the Rampart scandal, along with movies and television shows that portray what the realities and non-realities of what police work really is.

police corruption

     One kind of typology is Maurice Punch’s fieldwork, where it is an attempt to understand the diverse notifications of officers involved in deviance and corruption. Maurice Punch’s classification of officer types are narrowed down to the uniform carrier, mister average, professionals, dirty harrys, innovators, crusaders, ideological combatants, lone wolfs and the cowboys.

     Another kind of typology is Roebuck and Barker’s classification of activities were they note that “corruption is motivated by the pursuit of gain” (Roebuck & Barker, 1974). They categorized the most common categories of police corruption representations as:

Corruption of authority: just because one is a police officer, they are on the end of getting perks or gains of certain types

Shakedowns: gain for not following through with an arrest or investigation

Protection of illegal activities: protecting those involved in criminal activities by turning a blind eye

The fix: tampering with evidence

Direct criminal activities: getting commission of criminal offences for gain

Internal pay-offs: paying supervisors or bosses for favorable treatment

Flaking and padding: planting evidence on someone to set them up

Opportunistic theft: stealing from people who are being arrested

     One more typology is the Knapp Commission which is widely known for having three distinct categories to specifically describe the different grades of police officer corruption. There are police officers who are breaking the law themselves for personal or department gain and are posed as unethical. These police officers would allow people to break the law and giving protection of the illegal actions as long as these officers gained something from it instead of enforcing the law which is their job.

The three categories are the grass eaters, meat eaters and the birds. The grass eaters were known as the people who would “passively [accept] kickbacks and other unearned perks” (Punch, 2009) and officers who refused the ‘grass’ or easy money were seen as suspect or deviant. The meat eaters were the proactive carnivores where they were in search of graft by finding out “opportunities to exchange police authority for some form of benefits” (Punch, 2009). Lastly, the birds are the ones who “avoided deviant practises and kept clean” (Punch, 2009) where they generally do not intervene, since they are honest. This classic typology is based on the officer testimony that was heard before the Knapp Commission which investigated the corruption within the New York Police Department (NYPD).

     In the Rampart scandal, the main character is a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) police officer of ten years who goes by the name of Raphael Perez. He was known as a whistler-blower, since he was the one who “exposed the division’s abuses” (Reese, 2002). In 1999, since Raphael Perez pled guilty into taking cocaine from the evidence lockers, he bargained for a reduced sentence and in return he agreed to the LAPD and the District Attorney about all the “bad deeds which he and other officers were involved in” (Reese, 2002) from beginning in 1995. After the testimony, it was found out that “innocent people had been charged with crimes [that] they had not committed and were sentenced to prison terms” (Reese, 2002) which led to the charges of many officers.

According to Reese (2010), at least thirty LAPD officers, including four sergeants have been relieved of duty, suspended, fired or have quit in the connection with the department’s probe, sixty-seven convictions have been overturned and seventy officers are under investigation for committing crimes, for misconduct, or for covering up such activities. The Rampart scandal is the real life version of the movies called Serpico and L.A. Confidential where the main motive of corruption was driven by money, racism and power. Since moral and ethical leadership is weak and minorities are victimized, this created an ‘us versus them’ mentality.


      In Frank Serpico and L.A. Confidential, both films tell the upfront tales of the life of a police officer in a major city. Although these movies are about twenty-five years apart, their circumstantial background is similar, since it tells the tales about “two whistle-blowers, Frank Serpico and Officer Exley and their motivations for doing the right thing” (Reese, 2002). Frank Serpico, is a “conscientious police officer who is consistently pressured by his organizational culture to participate in various illicit activities” (Reese, 2002) whereas Officer Exley is “driven by selfish ambitions” (Reese, 2002).

     The Frank Serpico movie is about a New York police officer, Frank Serpico, who “initiates a courageous crusade to expose the systematic corruption in the NYPD” (Reese, 2002). It clearly shows that the NYPD culture is “colored with machismo, racism and corruption” (Reese, 2002).

His main frustrations stem from the “formal mission and informal culture of the police department” (Reese, 2002), since he treats the formal mission of the organization with “acute seriousness, while others abide by the more encompassing informal culture” (Reese, 2002). Frank Serpico has never shopped or took any small bribes from anyone because in doing so that would demoralize him and so he remained psychologically and socially distant from his peers. His loyalty stayed true to his early sense of what a police officer should be, to the formal regulations of his police department and has a genuine concern for the greater good of the public.

Frank Serpico’s motive was to “change the organizational culture of his police department” (Reese, 2002), but he was fighting a losing battle because the organizational culture appeared to be “too immutable to change, too arrogant to listen and too impersonal to care” (Reese, 2002). At the end, Frank Serpico becomes disappointed and disillusioned after being seemingly set up and was shot during a drug raid, he then retired on a disability pension and left the country.


     In the L.A. Confidential movie, it is about police corruption where the main character is Officer Exley. He “pushes away bribes, intolerant of police brutality, and he acts within the formal rules of the organization” (Reese, 2002). Officer Exley is the most “straitlaced, and most untrustworthy member of the department” (Reese, 2002), has no allies and is very comfortable with that.

During a situation, several LAPD officers initiated violence on inmates and Officer Exley fiercely protested this police brutality. In doing so, he was taken away and was “locked in a cell by two fellow officers” (Reese, 2002) and an investigation ensued. Officer Exley was the type who had no problem with “’ratting’ on his co-workers, giving up names” (Reese, 2002) and in doing so, he was immediately promoted.

     The blue wall of silence has been embedded into the police sub-culture and has been integrated into the police organization. Even if an officer is being questioned, he or she would claim ignorance of another officer’s wrongdoing which signifies police misconduct and corruption. These officers do it for obvious personal or department gain or to also protect and support fellow officers. Even the most honest police officers have the difficulty in reporting misconduct due to the threats of fellow co-workers of being called the snitch, rat or simply not having their backs. Some problems of the blue wall of silence comes from solidarity, alienation, insularity and secrecy. They almost always have to be suspicious of everyone’s moves, maintain an ‘us versus them’ mentality which therefore makes officers have a strong brotherhood or sisterhood for their own good.


    Dishonesty can happen at any time whether it is at the individual (rotten apples), group (rotten barrel) or organizational (rotten orchids) levels which constitutes a form of police deviance, since it is a form of overt lying. Lou Rieter, a consultant of the Chicago Police Department and former Deputy Chief of Police in Los Angeles testified that the “influence of the Code of Silence is a conscious choice various Chicago Police managers and executive officers have taken” (Hagedorn, Kmiecik, Simpson, Gradel, Zmuda, & Sterrett, 2013), since police officers do not fear being investigated by the Internal Affairs Department.

     One case study that underlines police corruption is the cases of the Marquette 10 where the police were involved in drugs, guns and gangs. The United States (U.S.) Attorney, Dan Webb’s 1982 investigation of drug dealers in Chicago’s Westside was what led to the arrest of the “ten Marquette District officers that [accepted] bribes from drug dealers” (Hagedorn, et al, 2013). The ten officers were convicted for “protecting two large drug [dealing] networks” (Hagedorn, et al, 2013) by warning dealers of police raids along with beating up rival or competing dealers and in return, these officers got “money and goods for more than three years” (Hagedorn, et al, 2013). The ten officers who were in involved with this type of corruption received prison sentences ranging from ten to twenty years.

     Louise Westmarland in “Police Ethics and Integrity: Breaking the Blue Code of Silence” (2005), analyzes “evidence from a survey of police officers who were asked about their attitudes” (Westmarland, 2005) on police corruption, unethical behavior, and minor infringements of police rules. This survey revealed that the officers who took part in this study suggest that actions involving “acquisition of goods or money” (Westmarland, 2005) are much worse than “illegal brutality or bending of the rules” (Westmarland, 2005) in order to protect colleagues from criminal proceedings. It also revealed that officers are unwilling to report “unethical behaviour by colleagues unless there is some sort of acquisitive motive” (Westmarland, 2005). These findings of the survey support the ‘blue code’ or ‘Dirty Harry’ belief systems that surround police rule bending.

     I feel like the television shows like COPS and law and order signifies the non realities of what police officers do on their job in the real world. These shows give false impressions of what really happens when police encounter suspects and doing things that actual police officers really cannot do. It gives a ‘reality’ where the police are always competent, crime-solving heroes, and where the ‘bad boys’ always get caught hence the introductory “theme song ‘bad boy’” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 317) by Inner Circle. The theme song itself is “extremely catchy, [and] contributes to create an overall effect that one might describe as ‘infotainment’” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 317) which suggests to viewers that this show is in the world of fun and entertainment when it really is dangerous.


To watch one episode of COPS, you can tell it is “not a serious documentary about police work, but a combination of amateur video footage of policing work and anything that might contribute to the entertainment of the audience” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 317) since it contains unrelated material for curiosity and entertainment purposes rather than conveying messages about criminal justice. It also creates an atmosphere of suspicion that desensitizes and conditions the audiences to view harsher punishments and police misconduct such as police brutality and unconstitutional searches are acceptable when in reality they are not.

With all these factors taken into consideration, it marks for a show that does not highlight what an actual police officer on the force would go through which gives that false hope of the work police officers do. By watching this show, the audience are “imported into the world of policing, where they can watch ‘real’ officers in action, ‘experience’ the thrill of the chase and arrest and gain some sense of what it is ‘actually like’ to be a police officer” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 311)


     The drama show Law and Order, is based on the “good cop’s struggle against a corrupt of malfunctioning system” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 312) where the judge and prosecutors main focus is to delay or frustrate the progress of justice. In the police’s point of view, the suspects are almost always automatically labelled as criminals, since the system is only represented from “one point of view and from the police point of view, prosecutors, and judges undermine the work that has been done to apprehend the suspect” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 312).

In the first half of the show, the cops are the main characters and once the suspect is apprehended, the “prosecutors then become the protagonists of the second half” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 312) of the show. During the second half of the show, it follows a more of a “legalistic story of how prosecutors evaluate the evidence gathered by the cops” (Valverde, 2006, pg. 313) to decide whether or not to lay a charge and what kind if it goes through.

law and order

     To conclude, I hope that you got a clear understanding to what police corruption and deviance is through the help of some typologies, insight on the Rampart scandal, along with movies and television shows that portray what the reality and non-realities of what police work is.


Hagedorn, J., Kmiecik, B., Simpson, D., Gradel, T., Zmuda, M., & Sterrett, D. (2013). Crime, Corruption and Cover-ups in the Chicago Police Department. Political Science. 7, pp.1-54. Chicago: University of Illinois.

Punch, M. (2009). What is Corruption? In Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing (pp. 18–52). Portland: Willan Pub.

Reese, R. (2002). Whistle-blowing into a tangled web: the case of serpico, L.A. confidential, and the LAPD’s rampart division. Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 9(2), pp.105-11. California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. Retrieved February 12, 2015, from http://www.albany.edu/scj/jcjpc/vol9is2/reese.html

Roebuck, J.B. and Barker, T. (1974). A Typology of Police Corruption.

Valverde, M. (2006). From the hard-boiled detective to the pre-crime unit. In Greer, C. (Ed), Crime and media: a reader. 2010. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group

Westmarland, L. (2005). Police ethics and integrity: breaking the blue code of silence. Policing & Society, 15(2), pp.145-165

Chicago PD is a very famous show that has made its way to the top by showing a different side to policing the “dirty side”. The show is an action packed with suspense and emotions. From murders to sexual assaults it has everything. “Chicago P.D.” is a riveting police drama about the men and women of the Chicago Police Department’s elite Intelligence Unit, combating the city’s most heinous offenses – organized crime, drug trafficking, high-profile murders and beyond.(NBC) It may show that policing can be seen as a glamor job. But it doesn’t show that hardship police officers go through in their every day life. The effects of working 12 hours shifts, or the effects stress can take upon someone with a family. Constantly thinking of your family and work, and how the job may take over a police officer life and ruin his/her relationship with there family.

Under the Knapp Commission Typology, Sergeant Voight falls under the category of a meat eater:

‘Proactive carnivores’ in search of graft. Meat-Eaters sought out opportunities to exchange police authority for some form of benefit. “The meat-eaters are different. They’re out looking. They’re on a pad with gamblers, they deal in junk, or they’d compromise a homicide investigate for money”. Punch, M. (2009). This type of typology shows the viewers that police will do anything for there own mere ego. Also how a person can stray away from his values and responsibilities by making the wrong decisions.

Under Punch’s Classification of Officer Types Sergeant Hank Voight would fall under the “Dirty Harrys / Noble Causers:” Named after the classic Clint Eastwood character, these officers are committed to the ends of policing, but willing to employ unorthodox and deviant methods to ‘get results’ Punch, M. (2009). Voight and his team use techniques that are not very friendly to get results. They do what every is necessary to reach there end goal, which is to put criminal behind bars and make the streets of Chicago safer.

We are bombarded with crime all over social media. From newspapers, to novels, television, and the Internet all these sources of information involve crime and justice issues. The perception that television shows instill in society just further highlights the importance of studying crime, justice, and the media. It further elaborates on the forced marriage between media and criminal justice. This has an effect on the criminal justice policy as policies are named for individuals. They usually are for victims. An example would be Megan’s Law and Amber Alerts or the Three Strikes and You’re Out legislation. Secondary reasons for studying the media are related to copycat crimes, and then coverage of crime in the media. However, the most significant issue how we spend our taxes and who and what we criminalize. The exposure to media the public is exposed to is enormous and the information we receive is seen as ‘more entertaining and enjoyable’. This in turn corrodes our perception of reality as the media exploits this. In addition, the looping media content is important because events and information are recycled in the media and into culture and courtroom events. People no longer can distinguish between what events are real and what events are fictional. Yet people still turn to the media to reduce violence and drug use and give the criminal justice system a boost. Also, the image that police officers portray has a profound effect on what society thinks of police officers. All the negative aspects of policing; shift work, stress, and sometimes even PTSD is ignored. The car chases, bribes, and shootouts are portrayed.


Punch, M. (2009). What is Corruption? In Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing (pp. 18–52).

Chicago PD. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.nbc.com/chicago-pd/about

“To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.” (Berman, Guggenheim, & Silver, 2001) *See Video Link 1* One of the many memorable quotes from Training Day (2001) the police thriller that has captivated popular culture and has cemented the cast and crew in Hollywood. The movie follows a typical narrative story line involving police work and corruption. Starring Denzel Washington as Detective Alonzo Harris of the Los Angeles narcotics unit and Jake Hoyt, a rookie cop fresh out of training joining the narcotics unit, played by Ethan Hawke.

As the title suggests this is literally Jake Hoyts (Ethan Hawke) first day – training day – in the narcotics unit. The progression of the Jakes training day reveals the culture within the narcotics unit in Los Angeles as Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) presents it to his new recruit (and us). The legal norms are illustrated through Jakes actions throughout the movie – the consensus perspective – the rules of policing that are clearly defined and yet we get a glimpse of the group norms of the narcotics unit depicted through the actions and words of Detective Alonzo.

In the first scene of the movie, in the diner, the nervousness seeps through Jakes body language and tone as he speaks. We also meet Detective Alonzo and right away we are shown his blatant demeanor; his excessive use of profanities does not uphold the universal CORE value of professionalism. But perhaps this is the culture in the plain clothes division of the L.A. narcotics unit. When Jake enters the 1979 Chevy Monte Carol ‘Office’ of Det. Alonzo, he gets the spiel from Detective Alonzo of what is required of him and what it takes – which is to forget the academy training “because that shit will get you killed… you gotta hear the street, you gotta smell it, you gotta taste that shit – feel it”, according to Detective Alonzo (Berman, Guggenheim, & Silver, 2001). “Informal norms and rules that govern everyday decisions and practices,” (Loftus 2010) are mandatory to survive in the streets as we learn right off the bat.

ear grab training day

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Image  —  Posted: March 1, 2015 by double d in Police Corruption and the 'War on Drugs', Policing's New Visibility, The Blue Wall / Police Secrecy
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Wolves and Sheep

Posted: March 1, 2015 by mikekaler in Uncategorized

Accountability means holding someone or something responsible. In relation to law enforcement, we hear this word being thrown around quite often. Police accountability attempts to hold a police officer and/or a law enforcement agency as a whole, responsible for upholding justice and the law. In other words, this general concept attempts to hold officers responsible for their actions. Maurice Punch states that police corruption “relates centrally to abuse of office, of power and of trust and manifests itself in many ways but most frequently in consensual and exploitive relations with criminals, in discrimination against certain groups, in excessive violence and in infringements of the rule of law and due process.” (2009: 31).



The movie Training Day is a great representation of police deviance and accountability in popular culture. Denzel Washington is a veteran LAPD narcotics police detective, who trains rookie officer, Ethan Hawke over a course of 24 hours. Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) starts his first day of narcotics as he is mentored by Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington). The methods and tactics Alonzo used throughout the movie are extremely questionable in regards to police corruption and accountability. Alonzo has a history on the streets as being an enforcer, abusing suspects, not treating victims well, and not handling drugs and evidence in a responsible manner. The character of Alonzo Harris is portrayed as being an enforcer and as “running” the streets. At the beginning of the movie, officer Hoyt expresses that he will “do anything” to get the job. Hoyt is eager to get the position as he knows all the perks that come with it. In the beginning, the character of Officer Alonzo is explored. Alonzo lives with a girl and their son. Everyone in that neighborhood hates him because of his corruptive ways. Alonzo makes Hoyt smoke marijuana laced with PCP out of a pipe at an intersection. In this scene, Hoyt is hesitant at first but, Alonzo sways his mind and Hoyt is forced to smoke the pipe. Alonzo tells Hoyt, “you give me a year and I’ll give you a career.” Furthermore, Officer Hoyt learns that all the rules he learned from the police academy do not apply in Alonzo’s world and on the streets.  In another scene, Hoyt tries to help a young girl who was about to be raped and tells Alonzo to stop the car. Alonzo did not want to stop however, Hoyt rushed to the girls rescue. Hoyt saves the girl and Alonzo shows up to deliver his own “street” justice. Alonzo uses excessive force and “lays” into them however; he lets them go because he cannot be bothered with the “small fish”. We learn how cops in Alonzo’s position carry out “street justice.” At one point, Alonzo stresses to Hoyt that “to protect the sheep, you need to kill the wolves and the only way to do that is to become a wolf.” They go to lunch with some of the most powerful officers in the LAPD known as the four horsemen. Here, Alonzo finds out he owes the Russian mob a million dollars otherwise they will take his life. Alonzo knowing that his friend, Glenn, has 4 million tucked away somewhere and he decides to rob him. With his unit, along with Hoyt, they go to Glenn’s house to seize to cash.  This scene is crucial because there are number of police accountability issues relating to corruption. Alonzo’s unit killed Scott Glenn and then set it up to look like when they came into the house that Glenn fired on them and they fired back, killing him. Hoyt doesn’t want to follow through with the plan and causes a fight between the unit. It turns out that Alonzo had been planning it throughout the entire day. Hoyt won’t go through with it but Denzel reminds him that all the evidence points to it happening. Alonzo also reminded Hoyt about the PCP laced marijuana he had smoked earlier. Alonzo and his squad committed an armed robbery and murder. Hoyt realizes at this point that Alonzo has to be stopped as he is morally torn inside out. Hoyt is clearly distraught and hurt by what had transpired as his moral compass is all over the place. They both head out as Alonzo tells Hoyt he has to drop off a gift for a victim. He leads Hoyt into the house and then eventually disappears. It turns out; Alonzo had paid some people on the street to kill Hoyt. The guys at the house get Hoyt comfortable as they start playing cards and then it turns ugly. However, upon learning that Hoyt was the one that saved his cousin from getting raped earlier, they let him go. Hoyt then decides to bust and take in Alonzo. Hoyt confronts Alonzo in his neighborhood and the two face off.  At the end of the movie, Hoyt has a gun pointing at Alonzo, Alonzo then offers to make whoever kills Hoyt “a very rich man.” It seemed that his neighborhood had enough of his antics and turned their back on him.  Hoyt is allowed to leave and Alonzo eventually gets killed by the Russian mob.


In the morning all Officer Hoyt wanted to do was to put bad people behind bars however, by the end of the movie, he finds out what it takes to do that, it is too late. At one point in the movie, we learn that Alonzo was just like Hoyt when he first started. Wanting to lock up all the bad guys in prison and ridding the streets of all the filth. Alonzo started to use the dynamics of the dirty, street world against them.

Frank Serpico describes, “Ten percent of the cops in New York City are absolutely corrupt, 10 percent are absolutely honest, and the other 80 percent — they wish they were honest”

Writer, James Baldwin, describes the inner-city cop, “He is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. He moves… like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country, which is exactly what he is.”




Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Routledge.


Police Accountability: Training Day Movie (2001)

Posted: March 1, 2015 by pavansinghsamra19 in Uncategorized

Accountability is crucial to maintain within a police organization, it’s not just for individual officers. Accountability is important to citizens in society and without accountability there is no legitimacy. For police to function in a democratic society the police force must be legitimate. The interactionism perspective, which is a critical element, outlines how good cops become engaged with dirty work becoming bad cops. For many years the police have been under scrutiny. Police activities such as, bribery, illegal activities to gain personal benefits result in officers at a greater risk of succumbing to corruption.


The Training Day, a movie released in 2001, staring Denzel Washington (Alonzo) and Ethan Hawke (Jake) was a film that exposed police deviance. Jake, a new undercover narcotics officer that is paired up with Alonso so that Alonso can show him the streets, and assess how Hawke performs under pressure. Alonso had different perspective of how policing was effective. Alonso then introduces Jake to a retired LAPD veteran, his friends, Scott Glenn who was now dealing drugs as a side business. Alonso would get away with money and drugs by scaring and threating people that had a problem. However, Jake is not on board with the way Alonso is dealing with things; yet Alonso explains to Jake “to protect the sheep, you need to kill the wolves and the only way to do that is to become a wolf.” Alonso believed that criminals could only be caught if you become a criminal as well. Alonso believed that policing couldn’t be accomplished through plain old tactics; rather, it is need of plenty of dirty work.

Later in the movie, Alonso gets himself into a little bit of trouble in Las Vegas, and now owes the Russian mob a million of dollars. Alonso, being trouble found one solution and that was to rob his own friend Scott Glen. Alonso contacts four members’ that worked within his unit and raided Scott Glenn’s house and shot Scott. However, to cover up this murder the story was that Scott Glenn fired at Alonso, so they fired back and he died. Jack on the other hand did not believe what happened and if he was to snitch them out we already had him in trouble by smoking PCP. In addition, Alonso set up Hawke to be killed as well, however, Hawke committed a good dead to a girl earlier by saving her from a group of guys, so the four members left him off the hook. Jake then confront Alonso outside of his house, the ghetto area and exchange their frustration by shooting at each other and eventually came face to face. Alonso, still being a bad guy give anyone of his neighbours to kill Hawke and promised them to become a rich man, but no one agreed to his offer. Alonso then takes off and is ultimately stopped by a van that was full of Russian mobsters and they sprayed his car with bullets leaving him dead.


Typologies that can be applied to Alonso’s role within movie was the dirty hairy situation. In other words, Alonso did what was required to get any sort of information for whoever he wanted and whenever he wanted by becoming secretly apart of the dirty world and using their own tactics against them. The category of the asshole performs for the police established for a policeman a stained or flawed identity to attribute to the citizen upon which he can justify his sometimes-malevolent acts. The asshole may well be the recipient of what the police call “street justice”- a physical attack design to rectify what police take as personal insult.

Punch (2009: 31) proposes that police corruption “relates centrally to abuse of office, of power and of trust and manifests itself in many ways but most frequently in consensual and exploitive relations with criminals, in discrimination against certain groups, in excessive violence and in infringements of the rule of law and due process”. Key element is the misuse of police authority for gain (e.g. taking bribes, ‘fixing’ a criminal prosecution by leaving out relevant information, drug
dealing, police abuse and brutality {aggressive stop and search, use of excessive force}, and so forth. Moreover, police corruption can also involve criminal collusion with organized crime and/or politicians. (Punch 2003).

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Routledge.

Fuqua. A. (2001). Training Day. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0139654/

Police deviance and accountability in popular culture is usually glorified. They are extremely exaggerated examples of police wrongdoing and corruption. A typical television show or movie portrays a corrupt police department with one officer, usually the main character, depicted as the “good guy” who stays away from deviant behaviours and also tries to stop corruption. One such film is Pride and Glory. Ray Tierney is a detective with the NYPD and a cop in a family of cops. His father, Francis Sr. is the assistant chief, the Commanding Officer of the precinct is Francis Jr. also known as Franny, is his brother. His brother in-law, Jimmy, is also part of the same precinct as an officer. Jimmy is the leader of a corrupt gang of NYPD officers. During a drug bust raid, four officers of Franny’s precinct are killed in a firefight while looking for a drug dealer named Angel Tezo. Ray’s father pressures Ray to lead the task-force that will investigate this incident and he accepts, despite being haunted by a prior unrelated incident where he was forced to protect a bad cop by internal departmental authorities. Ray gets a lead on a getaway cab from an eye-witness, however, Jimmy beats him to it and burn all evidence surrounding it, including the car. Several scenes later, Franny confronts Jimmy about some of his illegal dealings and Jimmy reassures him that he would not face the consequences himself.

Meanwhile, Ray finds another lead from Tezo’s girlfriend who tells him that Tezo was informed of the raid by a police officer named Sandy. Consequently, Ray approaches his brother Franny to ask him if there are any officers in his precinct by that name, but Franny says no in an attempt to protect his men. At the same time, Franny confronts Sandy and he admits to tipping off Tezo of the raid because of a childhood friendship, thinking Tezo would simply flee, instead of engaging the police in a firefight. Franny orders Sandy to turn in his badge and gun.

The drug dealer who is paying Jimmy to kill Tezo shows up to his house. He presses Jimmy to kill Tezo otherwise he threatens to kill him and his family. Now, facing pressure, Jimmy and the other corrupt officers rush to find Tezo. They bust into Tezo’s cousins house, beat him and threaten his family. After threatening to burn his baby son with an iron, Tezo’s cousin tells Jimmy of his whereabouts.

Ray also learns of Tezo’s location and calls for back-up. However, he enters the apartment building by himself after hearing gun shots. When he arrives to Tezo’s room, he finds Jimmy and his officers torturing Tezo to death. Jimmy takes Ray’s gun and kills Tezo with it and tells Ray he can be the hero that caught the cop killer. Ray is outraged and attacks Jimmy, but quickly realizes it was his gun that killed Tezo. Ray tells Franny of Jimmy’s corruption, however, Franny is hesitant to ask and risk his position.

Upon hearing of Tezo’s death, Sandy calls a news reporting agency to expose the corruption of the NYPD. After his confession, Sandy kills himself and the authorities blame him for the death of the four officers earlier in the movie. Concurrently, Francis Jr. meets with Jimmy, who is surprised that Franny is angry with him. Franny then admits that he gave his officers the flexibility to make some extra money and tells Jimmy he will not allow him to frame Ray for Tezo’s murder. Then Jimmy offers Franny his cut, but he refuses and leaves.

At this stage, Internal Affairs is questioning Ray about the Tezo incident. Ray tells them everything except for the fact that Jimmy killed Tezo, instead he says he did not kill Tezo and walks out of the interview room. However, when it is Jimmy’s turn for questioning he and his crew of corrupt officers all say that Ray shot Tezo point blank. Francis Sr. shows both Franny and Ray the tape of Jimmy’s interview and they are furious.

The movie concludes with a dramatic scene commenced by two of Jimmy’s corrupt cops. These two attempt to rob a convenience store but fail because the owner shoots and kills one of the cops and also a bystander was hit and killed in the cross fire. Meanwhile, police cordon off the store with one cop holding the owner hostage and local gangsters beginning to riot. Franny responds to the scene and gets his officer out of the store alive, while the crowd is getting uncontrollable, being led by Tezo’s cousin, who announces what Jimmy did to him and his family. Nearby, Ray confronts Jimmy at a bar and the two fight, until Ray wins and handcuffs Jimmy taking his badge and gun in the process. Ray is walking Jimmy to his car when the angry mob, including Tezo’s cousin, show up and demand vigilante justice. Ray tries to stop the mob but a few hold him back while the rest beat Jimmy to death. The final scene depicts Ray, Francis Jr., and Francis Sr. about to give testimony in court.

Pride and Glory portrays police deviance just as any other popular culture media. Police officers from the NYPD are shown destroying evidence, robbing, extorting, threatening, assaulting, and of course murdering. Most of the NYPD in Pride and Glory are portrayed as meat-eaters (Punch 2009). Meat-eaters are defined as those who actively seek out opportunities to use their power for monetary benefit (Punch 2009). Jimmy and his crew of corrupt officers could be classified as meat eaters under the Knapp Commission typology because they were seen robbing stores, threatening civilians, destroying evidence, and murder for monetary gain. However, Ray can be seen as a Bird because he “avoids deviant practices” (Punch 2009). “The birds just fly up high. They don’t eat anything either because they are honest or because they don’t have any good opportunities” (Punch 2009). Francis Jr. is depicted as a grass-eater because he knew about Jimmy’s corruption and allowed it, even though he may not have accepted any kickbacks or money.

Under Roebuck and Barker’s classification of activities, the police officers in Pride and Glory fall into at least one ordering. All of the bad officers abuse their authority to receive incentives (Roebuck and Barker 1974). By burning the getaway cab, which was considered evidence, they compromised a criminal investigation. This is called “the fix” (Roebuck and Barker 1974). Furthermore, when Jimmy offered Franny his cut of the deal, it could be labelled as “internal payoffs” for favourable treatment. Jimmy and his corrupt officers also gave “protection of illegal activities” to drug dealers and engaged in “direct criminal activities” (Roebuck and Barker 1974).

All things considered, police deviance in popular culture is exaggerated for viewership and sensationalizing. As a civilian I did not know that police in western culture engaged in “grass-eating” and corruption before criminology 2355. However, I do not believe corruption to this magnitude is rampant. It may be limited to a few officers of a department but not all. At the same time, the level of deviance in certain departments like the NYPD is shocking. To a certain degree, popular culture may be giving an accurate picture of the types of corruption in police departments. When Ray tells his father about his findings pertaining to the four officers killed in the line of duty, his father tells him “anything that makes cops look culpable is no good” (New Line Cinema 2008).


  1. Pride and Glory. Directed by Gavin O’Connor. Performed by New Line Cinema.

Punch, M. 2009. “Police corruption: deviance, accountability and reform in policing.” What is corruption? 18-52.

Roebuck, J.B., and T Barker. 1974. “Social problems.” A typology of police corruption 423-437.

Police dramas have explored the most urgent complications attending the role of law enforcement in a democratic society. Cop shows have trained a critical gaze on police authority by depicting corruption and the limits and abuses of police power, as well the substantial personal and emotional costs of working in law enforcement for the officers themselves (Grant, 1992). As agents of the state, cops have the ability to arrest citizens and compel them to obey commands (“pull over!” “freeze!”), but they are also public servants required to uphold the law as it exists. Police shows frequently figure this relationship as a tension between the institutional constraints of the “system” and the cops’ own personal pursuit of justice, presenting police officers as rule-breaking individualists whose own private moral code potentially supersedes their devotion to the law or their tolerance for the bureaucracy of the justice process (White, 2008). In many cases, this intolerance is presented as a justified form of anger against a system hamstrung by regulations that favour criminals over victims. There are several television shows both Australian and American which portray police in different ways. This includes both positive and negative depictions, which allows us to come to our own conclusions about what the police force is really like. Some of these shows are based on factual evidence and documentaries and others are just fictional dramas to show us the exciting and glamorous lives that come with being a police officer. Certain fictional dramas have also come to show police officers as being corrupt and taking advantage of the power they hold but in my opinion this is not just fictional but rather a reality that must be dealt with in order to clean up crime in our streets (Grant, 1992).


The Shield is a prime example of a “cop show” where there is a team of officers who represent the face of evil in entertainment media. Alonzo and Mackey are menacing, rough cops who rule their urban environment like the street gangs and criminals who live in the same area. Mackey, however, is not a cowboy struggling to dish out justice in an untamed land. Nor is he a Dirty Harry, forced to operate outside the law because the justice system ties his hands in dealing with those who have no fear of the law (Grant, 2002). Instead, Mackey takes more than a little glee in beating suspects, planting evidence, stealing from criminals, taking payoffs, setting up his fellow officers to take the fall for his crimes, and playing mind games with investigators seeking to uncover his misdeeds. And yet, there are a significant number of moments in Mackey’s life where he is driven more by the need to catch the bad guy at all costs than by selfishness. There are plenty of evil story lines in The Shield for Mackey. For example, he is willing to participate in theft in an effort to get his strike team buddies some reward, even as he does not particularly desire it at that moment for himself. In another theft scheme, Mackey desperately wants dirty money, but for the purpose of sending his autistic son to a special school and getting him a skilled tutor. It should be recalled that this is a denial of self that Alonzo does not evidence as he portrays evil-for-itself. While Mackey does commit crimes and does not enforce the law to the fullest extent in some cases, his actions are typically tempered by a higher calling of some perceived greater good or, post-dirty deeds, are tinged with remorse. For example, he executes a fellow police officer; that behaviour is evil. Mackey does so because the officer was planted on his team by a boss that cares largely about a coming election and the great publicity that a “dirty cop” arrest would bring to his campaign. Later, Mackey is haunted by the killing, which sets him up as not evil but vulnerable and, oddly, even righteous. This quality makes Mackey complex, beyond good and evil. Moreover, what sets Mackey apart from Alonzo is the balancing act between good and evil that Mackey must play an act that Alonzo doesn’t see the need to do. In films, cops are represented as being wholly good or wholly bad, where both do not meet (Grant 1992). That is the key to The Shield, to explore the ambiguity.


Joe Clarke, an African American training officer with a propensity for exacting extreme brutality on suspected criminals of colour, is also a bad cop in the show. Like Alonzo, Joe has a deadly, violent temper that is displayed through fearsome beatings. Joe, is no longer a member of the police force because of a beating he gave a young Latino and suspected drug dealer. Joe’s rage against the victim can only be quelled once the young man is dead; a murder that Joe forces Mackey into committing, and an act that Mackey must suffer for. Therefore, unlike Alonzo, and now Joe, Mackey’s crimes are never purely self-serving as he eventually expresses some remorse about the manner in which he has to, or is forced to, to conduct law enforcement. Additionally, Mackey is tempered by his fellowship with his strike team, colleagues, and other more forthright detectives. In the end, it is Mackey’s allegiance to others, his sense of fellowship that requires him to consistently choose what he believes is the good that serves others rather than himself. Taken together, the depictions of Mackey and Jake (also a cop) in contrast with Alonzo and Joe suggest an inescapable racial essence with Blackness distinct from Whiteness and, thus, the element in making sense of each character’s relationship with evil (Grant, 2002). Mackey is constructed as a bad cop with good intentions, while Jake is a good cop trying to remain so in the face of evil (Alonzo). And Alonzo and Joe are bad cops, with no good intentions. Overall, The Shield utilizes a discourse that emphasizes racial signifiers and class positioning to portray a social environment that justifies the presence of such troublesome policing.

The 1973 Knapp Report stated that there are three primary types of police officers, the meat-eaters, the grass-eaters and the birds. The meat-eaters constitute a small percentage of all officers who aggressively pursue scenarios that they can exploit for financial gain. Big payoffs are found in activities such as gambling and narcotics. Lucrative gains corrupt the meat-eaters to the point that the only way to check their abuses is by releasing them from duty and possibly prosecuting them (Comack, 2012). Grass-eaters are those officers who do not accept payoffs or gratuities. They make up the overwhelming majority of officers on the force. On the other hand, the birds keep out of it and are not directly involved. Although they may have knowledge about the situation, they choose not to interfere or say anything. Majority of the officers in The Shield are seen as meat-eaters as they engage in activities that would not be acceptable or appropriate for the everyday duties of a normal “good” cop.

According to Comack, there are two basic theories that have been posited to explain police corruption, the rotten apple theory and the environmental perspective. According to the rotten apple theory, there are a few bad apples within police departments who were not properly screened and came into the department susceptible to corruption. The environmental perspective suggests that police corruption is a reflection and a result of the political corruption in cities. Politically corrupt cities create environments that are conducive to police misconduct.

Since the 19th century, the aim has been to sell the police as crime fighters, downplaying the service function and problems of legality. The depiction of police in television dramas today is not necessarily realistic or positive in any way, shape or form. Rather I believe it is the total opposite of this. In almost every crime television series, the police almost always apprehend the suspect and solve the crime. This portrayal is far from the truth and in reality every single crime doesn’t get solved. Most television series about police officers have turned into a soap opera where it follows the lives and relationships of individual people in the force, not to mention that everything is blown way out of proportion. Executive producers of crime television dramas glamorize the life of a police officer by adding all the excitement of chasing criminals in cars, shooting at every chance they get, hot pursuits and solving every crime. However, in reality being a police officer involves a lot of tedious paperwork and writing up reports to explain every single detail that happened when they were called out to a disturbance or alleged crime. Police are portrayed as masculine, smart, full of martial arts skills, fit, aggressive, action packed, always willing to shoot at suspects and so on. The sad reality is that the public want to see all the excitement and glamour of being a police officer because no one wants to watch a show where police are filling out forms and writing up boring reports. Then does all this glamour and excitement encourage people to join the police force in order to get justice or for the simple reason that they get to shoot at someone or chase a suspect in a high speed car pursuit? In reality, police often deal with false reporting of crimes where valuable resources are wasted on prank callers and mediating work.


Comack, E. (2012). Racialized policing: Aboriginal people’s encounters with the police. Halifax, N.S: Fernwood Pub.

Grant, J. “Prime Time Crime: Television Portrayals of Law Enforcement.” Journal of American Culture, v.lS/1 (1992).

Grant, J. “The Shield,” Picturing Justice: The On-Line Journal of Law and Popular Culture, 22 May 2002. Retrieved from: <http://www.ufca.edu/pj/shield-grant.htm&gt;

White, R & Haines, F. Crime and Criminology – An introduction, 4th edn, Oxford University Press, USA. (2008)