Posts Tagged ‘Police corruption’

The Shield: Police Corruption and What it Teaches us

The Shield, an American drama series premiering March 12, 2002, is notoriously known for its reoccurring theme of police corruption and misconduct. This is a popular series focusing on a group of detectives from the LAPD called the Strike Team, which is essentially portrayed as an anti-gang division. The Strike Team is lead by detective Vic Mackey, a crude man that promotes his unethical and deviant police problem-solving tactics which include excessive force, lying, and stealing, among others, with the intention of protecting his team, prosecuting criminals, and maintaining order on the streets. Even focusing on the first episode only, there are several examples of Vic demonstrating police deviance and misconduct that are presented and dealt with in a way that infers it is not out of the norm.

Vic is first introduced chasing a suspect alongside other officers. Once cornered, the suspect surrenders prompting a punch in the stomach from Vic for “making [him] run”, displaying clear police brutality. The next time we see him he’s lying to his department about an offender’s complaint against him of excessive force (in this case, involving a pair of pliers). His denial was followed by him stating that his team will back him up as well. Later on while looking for information, Vic runs into a well-known prostitute with who he exchanges a bag of drugs (recently confiscated from a dealer) for information. A major theme within this team, especially promoted by Vic, is that, to quote him, “Team comes first. We take care of each other” , and “We’d kill to protect each other.” This code strays away from the ideal fundamental principals that the officers of British Columbia operate, such as democracy & the rule of law, safeguarding the public trust, justice and equality (British Columbia Code of Ethics, 2011).

Vic later, as a last resort, joins the interrogation team and has a one-on-one sit down with a suspected pedophile in hopes of revealing of a little girl, Jenny Reborg. Following his statement “Good cop and bad cop left for the day. I’m a different kind of cop”, Vic struck him in the throat and begins beating him with a phone book. Vic successfully obtained his confession via his old school, and clearly illegal, interrogation tactics. Whilst watching Vic beat the suspect through the window, one of the female detectives speaks on the topic of police use of excessive force: “What people want these days is to make it to their car without getting mugged…finding out a murderer is caught…if all that means that some cop roughed up some n****r or sp*c in the ghetto, well as far as most people are concerned, it’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’. How do you figure on changing that?” None of his team members observing through the one-way mirror spoke out about the incident.

The last few minutes of the episode ends with the strike team doing a raid of a suspected drug dealers house; this raid included detective Terry Rowley who was new to the department and a rookie to raid assignments. After shooting the drug dealer in the bathroom who was flushing his stash, there was no longer any perceived danger. Vic turns around and shoots his collegue Terry Crowley in the face. He was pronounced dead at 2:13pm. When confronted about the incident, Vic and his team are adamant that it was the drug dealer who shot detective Crowley in the face. It is revealed later that the detective was added to the team to “take Vic Mackey down”. The fact that none of Vic’s team members spoke out about this incident or any before it, enforces their code of “Team comes first. We take care of each other” and normalizes this behaviour. This only further encourages these kinds of actions; silence is the voice of complicity.

The police deviance and corruption typologies that Vic Mackey best exemplifies based on his actions in this first episode are those of the “meat-eaters” and the “Dirty Harrys” / “Noble Causers”, with a slight undertone of “Cowboys”. The “meat-eaters” fall under the Knapp Commission typology and they actively seek opportunities in which they can exchange their power for some kind of benefit (Punch, 2009). In Vic’s case, he displayed characteristics of a meat-eater when he exchanged drugs for information with the prostitute. “Dirty Harrys” / “Noble Causers” on the other hand, are officers that use deviant and unethical tactics in order to obtain their desired outcome (Punch, 2009). Vic proved to be a Dirty Harry when he unethically assaulted the pedophile suspect aiming for a confession. The “cowboys” are known for their high levels of aggression and propensity to act tough, lack discipline, and be action-focused (Punch, 2009), which Vic assumed the role of in the beginning of the show when he punched the suspect in the stomach for causing a chase.

This fictional portrayal of law enforcement officers focuses on their corruption and deviance, and places them in the antagonist position. This representation does not emanate positive, trust-worthy vibes to its audience. Its audience is majorly regular, non-police affiliated individuals who, after watching media portrayals such as this, do not walk away feeling a healthy and more trustworthy bond with law enforcement. Instead, because their only peak into what police conduct looks like has been through the lens of fictional media. There is a lot of negative stimuli being presented through the media pertaining to police corruption and deviance, the public sees a lot of it, and for those that have very little pre-existing knowledge or information , they may be influenced and that allows the potential for their perception towards law enforcement to change. The line between entertainment and reality becomes blurred.

Vic’s blatant displays of police deviance through abuse of authority, unethical practices, and use of excessive force illustrates model officer-deviant behaviour. These corruption-oriented, emphasized, and normalized media representations of law enforcement may have a potential impact on the audiences’ perception of positive and trustworthy qualities pertaining to police officer conduct. That potential blur between fiction and non-fiction holds the possibility of bruised perceptions and subsequent trust with the police.

IMBD.  (N.D). The Shield. Summary. Retrieved at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286486/

NA. (2011). British Columbia Code of Ethics. Course Material. Crim 2355

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

Roebuck, J.B. and T, Barker. (1974). A typology of Police Corruption. Social Problems 21(3): 423-437

On September 4th, 2005, days after Hurricane Katrina, four New Orleans police officers, Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Anthony Villavaso and Robert Faulcon, opened fire on six unarmed residents, two of whom died. Afterwards, these officers as well as their at the time Sargent, Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shooting, attempted to cover up the shootings.  The cover up included conspiring to plant a firearm, fabricating witnesses and lying on police incident reports. The cover up lead to the arrest of Lance Madison on attempted murder charges. The officers falsely claimed that Madison opened fire on them which is what led to them opening fire on those six residents. Madison spent three weeks in prison before a judge released him.

Bowen, Gisevius, Villavaso and Faulcon were convicted of federal firearms charges, which has a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 35 years. Kaufman was convicted of assisting in the cover up of the shooting. Faulcon who was convicted of charges in both fatal shootings, was sentenced to 65 years. Bowen and Gisevius, were sentenced to 40 years. Villavaso was sentenced to 38 years. Kaufman was sentenced to 6 years. All five were convicted of participating in a cover up.

In order to understand these officers’ corruption, it is useful to refer to Punch’s (2009) three typologies of police corruption, a typology of types of officers, a typology of practices, and a typology of levels of police deviance.

These officers would be classified as meat eaters, according to Punch’s (2009) typology of types of officers. Meat eaters are officers who actively and knowingly participate in illegal activity. In this case, all officers actively and knowingly committed illegal actions, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime.

A typology of practices contains eight categories, a few of which are applicable to this case. Specifically, this case is relatable to the following categories the fix, direct criminal activities, and flaking and padding. The fix refers to “undermining criminal investigations or proceedings, loss of evidence, fixing parking tickets” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers attempt to undermine the criminal investigation of the shooting by attempting to cover it up. Direct criminal activities, refers to “committing a crime in clear violation of criminal norms” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, all five officers violate the law in numerous ways, firing at unarmed residents, murder, and the actions taken to cover up their crime. Lastly, flaking and padding refers to “planting or adding to evidence to ‘set someone up’” (Punch, 2009, pg. 27). In this case, the officers attempt to justify their opening fire on six residents by falsely claiming that Lance Madison shot at them first.

Punch’s (2009) typology of levels of police deviance includes three levels, externally driven, within the police domain and system failure: labeling and wider impact of corruption. There is evidence of police deviance within the police domain, specifically process corruption. The officers plant evidence and make false statements. If one reads further into the case, the prosecution of the case, there is evidence of system failure, specifically police and criminal justice failure. During the case’s prosecution, prosecutors are criticized by the judge in seeking a lighter sentence for the highest ranking officer at the shooting scene and unsure of the credibility of officers who plead guilty and testified against other officers.

References

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/04/04/katrina-police-killings.html

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

Charges Dropped Against Woman Framed by Cops

Alexandra Torrensvila, 23 is a victim to police corruption. She was arrested by four cops for a DUI  due to an accident that the officers had caused themselves. As of now, the charges against her have been dropped by the Broward State Attorney’s Office.  Thankfully for Alexandra, the attention moved from her to the four cops. Prosecutors are now looking into the Hollywood police who made up the entire story to cover up a February traffic accident involving a cop car. The interesting thing about this case is that it was all caught on tape by one of the officer’s dashboard cameras. This video shows Alexandra handcuffed in the back of a squad car as the officers try to decide on a story to explain what had happened.

Watch Video Here

Officer Joel Francisco, 36 is an 11 year veteran. He was the officer who crashed into the back of Torrensvila’s vehicle on February 17 at midnight. Francisco then radioed the other cops who arrived at the scene to try to find a way to bail him out. Officer Dewey Pressley arrived on scene after and questioned Torrensvila. She told him that she had been drinking and Pressley takes this information to his advantage and arrests her for DUI. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear the officers brainstorm ideas for excuses of the accident. In the video one of the cops acknowledges that what they are doing is illegal but decides there is nothing wrong with bending the law for a few cops.

When taking a closer look into police corruption we can classify these officers into three typologies. Typology one is from the Knapp Commission. These officers would be described as Meat-Eaters; this is when officers abuse authority for self gain. In this situation, these officers used Torrensvila to take blame for their own accident. Although these officers did say, “I never lie and make things up ever because it’s wrong”, they did however not mind “bending” the law for a fellow police officer. These officers took advantage of their authority and believed they were above the law. Instead of protecting civilians like police are suppose to, these officer framed Torrensvila for an accident she didn’t cause.

In typology two from Categories of practice by Barker and Roebuck, Francisco and Pressley would fall under direct criminal activities and flaking and padding. These officers committed a crime in clear violation of criminal norms. In the video, the cops acknowledged several times that what they are doing is illegal. I would also consider that these officers committed flaking and padding. They constructed a false story against Torrensvila to ensure a conviction against her. In the video, a cop debates with Pressley on who is going to write the false police report and they go over different stories they can use to put the blame on Torrensvila.

In this case, the camera on the dashboard of the cop car caught the incident on film. But there are numerous incidents in which cops abuse their power that unfortunately go undetected. If we refer to history, we can see many cases like this in which cops have failed to follow standard legal procedures. For example, in the cause of Robert Dziekanski, the cops failed to communicate with Mr. Dziekanski properly which lead to his death. It is quite unfortunate that incident like these occur because officers overuse their authority. One of the main responsibilities of cops is to ensure that citizens are following the law accordingly. However, cops need to understand that the term citizens involves everyone, including other cops. Cops should not and are not immune to the consequences of breaking the law.

References:

Former Hollywood Cop Gets 90 Days In Jail. (January 13, 2012). CBS Local News. Retrieved by

http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/01/13/former-hollywood-cop-gets-90-days-in-jail/

Charges Dropped Against Woman Framed By Cops. (July 29, 2009). NBC News. Retreived by

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Cops-Set-Up-Woman-After-Crash.html

Former Hollywood Cop On Trial For Alleged Cover Up. (November 28, 2011). CBS Local News. Retrieved from

http://miami.cbslocal.com/2011/11/28/former-hollywood-cop-on-trial-for-alleged-cover-up/

In the case of NYPD officer Gilberto Valle and his partner Van Hise , I have found several typologies in which had lead both officers into court, with the FBI involved.

The Knapp Commission is known for having three distinct categories to describe the different classes of police officer corruption. In June 1970, Federal Judge Whitman Knapp began to do an investigation on the NYPD and concluded that there were police officers were breaking the law themselves for personal gain. He found out that police officers were unethical and instead of enforcing they law, officers would allow people to break the law, as long as the officers gained some sort of compensation or gain.

On January 24, 2013, an article was published in the Daily Mail in New York in which NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was nicknamed “Cannibal Cop”. Valle, a 28 year old officer was engaging in online chats with an individual whose user name was “Moody Blue” about how human flesh tasted and was planning how to prepare his next victim. Valle was debating on whether he wanted to put his targeted victim into the oven and baking her or cooking her on an open fire to extend her suffering. He had also been researching chemical formulas in which he could easily overtake his victims and kidnap them.

Gilberto Valle’s wife had found months of chats online in which Valle was engaged in fantasies of eating woman and children therefore she notified the FBI. Not only was Gilberto Valle charged with is charged with plotting to kidnap, torture, cook and eat at least 100 women and prosecutors, but his partner , Michael Van Hise also had charges laid against him. Hise was accused of trying to hire Valle for kidnapping a specific woman that he wanted to rape and kill. Hise was also taken to court because he was planning to use his stepdaughter as his personal sex slave, while sending pictures of his nieces online, offering them up for rape.

Maurice Punch separates police deviance into three categories; grass eaters, meat eaters and birds. Grass eaters are characterized as people who may accept bribes if given, but do not ask for them. The second category, meat eater, is when officers know of crimes being committed but do not penalize the individual as long as they make a cut from the funds. One example of this would be someone burning dvd’s and selling them in mass amounts. Although piracy is illegal, if the officer knows the individual is making a lot of money illegally, he may allow him or her to continue as long as the officer will receive a percentage every week.

I believe Valle would fit into is the meat eater category. This type of officer is one who takes advantage of their job and allows people to commit crimes as long as the officer gains money or materials. He allowed his online friend to continuously speak about the woman and children he claimed to be eating.

Along with the Knapp Comission, Barker and Roebuck created a list of eight ways police officers put their policing skills into practice. The one that stands out the most to me on Barker and Roebuck’s list is called “direct criminal activities”. This is when officers themselves, commit criminal activities. Valle allowed his online friend to engage in conversations which included kidnapping, raping, torturing and eating women and children. Not only did Valle allow his friend to speak about it, but Valle also engaged in planning to kill women using the police data base as a source to scope out victims. This is an example of Valle agreeing to commit a crime instead of stopping it. Along with committing direct criminal activities, Valle would also fall under the category of protecting illegal activities simply due to the fact that he had full knowledge that “Moody Blues” was constantly bragging about kidnapping and eating children, yet did not intend to arrest “ Moody Blues”. The prosecutor in this case, Mr. Randall Jackson, stated that Van Hise told an FBI agent that “he and Valle were ‘serious’ about their plans to kidnap and rape a woman “

Below is a direct quote from the conversations given to the court that the FBI had found on Valle’s computer. The FBI also found lists of women’s names under files saved as “Abducting and Killing ( victim name) : blue print.

“If we get someone..and we finish the meat early, would you go for another?’ wrote ‘Moody Blues’.

‘Yeah. think we would have to give it time though,’ replies Valle

‘Why? Go for a completely different type. I’d love to eat another child,’ countered ‘Moody Blues.’

Valle abused his power of authority as a police officer by looking up victims in the National Crime Database and accessing their confidential information. He targeted specific woman According to the court reports “Two of them claim to have been ‘stalked in an intimidating way’ by the police officer, who served in Harlem for six years”.

This case sets a good example of being a meat eater, because Valle did not arrest and charge “Moody Blues”, instead he gained a partner in which he could commit crimes with. He benefited from having “Moody Blues” around. It also shows that police are only human and sometimes make bad decisions, such as engaging in criminal activities themselves. Both Valle and Hise plead not guilty. The case will be heard in February.

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

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2236192/Wife-Gilberto-Valle–Cannibal-cop-accused-plotting-kidnap-wanted-girl-meat-Thanksgiving-dinner.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mind-accused-cannibal-article-1.1192701

An Introduction:

‘Agent Provocateur’ what does this mean exactly?  No, not the lingerie brand.  Obviously it relates, somehow, to police deviance.  This is a relatively obscure term used to describe a certain type of crime. An agent provocateur is created when an undercover agent has moved from a passive involvement in crime to an active involvement. This means that such an individual might (and as often is the case) not be a police officer.  The individual could be any number of things, from a police officer working undercover, to an informant who is paid or blackmailed, to a member of The Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) — which is not a policing agency, and is not in fact required to enforce Canadian law.

Typically, an agent provocateur is a police officer that encourages others to commit crime in order for fellow police officers to arrest said guilty parties.  These encouragements can vary depending on circumstance. They could be crimes of themselves.  And the encouragements enacted by the police officer universally stray in to that legal gray area known as entrapment – whether the act of encouraging itself is a crime or not.

A little context is, perhaps, in order.

Grant Bristow and Operation Governor:

When we speak of agents provocateur, it is important to note that agents provocateur are not a new phenomenon in Canadian legal history.

Historically, we also have the case of Grant Bristow, a former CSIS agent who worked with the Canadian chapter of the Aryan Nations.  Unfortunately, the only comprehensive resource on Grant Bristow comes from Wikipedia.  Although we do have fellow blogger, Ezra Levant‘s commentary on the matter, as well as Bristow’s interview with The Walrus to draw on. Less user-friendly is a SIRC report written in 1994 investigating CSIS and Bristow’s role in the Heritage Front Affair.

Regardless, in this case the Wiki article seems to be quite succinct on the subject of Grant Bristow according to my subsequent research.
Grant Bristow
Grant Bristow was an informant employed by CSIS who worked closely with the eventual leader of the Canadian Aryan Nations front, Wolfgang Droege in the ’80s. He has spoken to the fact that his ties with Droege allowed him to prevent various horrific acts of violence, including bombings and riots. However, further investigation has revealed that his placement as Droege’s right hand man may have been what allowed the organization to continue its operations when Droege assumed leadership. The purpose of Bristow’s infiltration was to identify the financial supporters of the Canadian Chapter of Aryan Nations. However, it was upon the impending arrest of Droege (on unrelated charges of assault) and Bristow’s subsequent departure of Aryan Nations in March 1994, that the Front disbanded.  Bristow was forced to step down, because if he had not, he would have become the de facto leader of the chapter.

In 1994, Toronto Sun reporter Bill Dunphy released an expose on Operation Governor; sadly this news article is not available on the newspaper’s website.  Without a copy, what can be said about it is this: the article negatively exposed CSIS’s role in the Heritage Front/Operation Governor Affair and ousted Grant Bristow as the agent in question.

In September 2004, Bristow sat down with the Walrus and narrated his own perspective of the operation.

Bob Lambert:

Robert Lambert

Dr. Robert Lambert is currently the co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter. He also lectures at the Centre of the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews. He was a former officer employed by the London Metropolitan Police from 1980-2008. He is the author of Countering Al Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnerships. He was inducted as a Member to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2008, for his work as a police officer.

Under the false identity “Bob Robinson,” Lambert infiltrated various environmental, animal rights, and anti-racist activist groups. I bring this case up not as a discussion of agents provocateur, but to highlight a similar issue found in the Kennedy case below: Lambert instigated an 18 month relationship with a London Greenpeace activist in an attempt to gain credibility in his undercover role. While police chiefs claim that undercover officers are expressly forbidden from engaging in sexual relations with activists, other undercover officers have come forward to say that sex is most definitely used as a tool to gain trust.

Although Lambert has never been accused of being an agent provocateur, he currently is under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in regards to whether or not he was prosecuted under his assumed identity, while undercover.

Robert Lambert

Montebello:

The Montebello Incident involved the Sûreté du Quebec using three undercover officers to infiltrate the anti-Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America protests. The SPP was an open dialogue between Canada, America, and Mexico with the purpose of enhancing trade, sharing intelligence, cooperation, environmental protection, and economic stability between the three nations. The SPP was meant to exist alongside institutions such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The SPP was cancelled in August 2009.

In the above video, peaceful demonstrators are protesting the SPP at the North American leaders’ summit in Montebello, Quebec. The above video shows Dave Coles (president of the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers Union) ordering three masked men, who were later revealed as undercover SdQ officers, to leave. In August 2007, the SdQ admitted to its involvement.

Informants:

To further broaden our look into agents provocateur: the issue of informants is paramount.  Mother Jones offers are clear and frank exploration of the use of informants from the American perspective in its September/October 2011 article “The Informants”.  From the Canadian perspective, we have the work of Mathilde Turcotte and his study of police informants and their handlers in Quebec, in the article “Shifts in Police-Informant Negotiations.”

From the Canadian perspective we have the following: police are required to actively seek out and maintain a network of informants without much leverage.  Typically, informants are gathered through actions such as bribes, blackmail, and “flipping.” “Flipping” is where a criminal is given the opportunity to “work off” his crimes through aiding in police investigations. Blackmail is the threat of legal action before an informant is charged. This could include issues of immigration.  However, in Canada, police have no real control over the reciprocity process.  In order to prevent the abuse of power on part of the police, outside agencies have control over the reciprocity process. This creates a unique situation where the informant could gain leverage over his handler, and make demands in return for cooperation. This also puts the handler in jeopardy during the bargaining process, because he cannot be certain that any promises he makes to an informant will be carried through.

As the informant gains more power in his relationship with his handler, it is often the case that he works outside his orders and without confirmation or approval.  An example provided by Turcotte involves an informant, while wearing a wire, attempting to entrap a contact in a drug deal.  This was outside the scope of the informant’s directions, and completely illegal — any evidence he might have gathered would have been inadmissible in court.  As a civilian agent, he was not aware that his actions constituted entrapment. Fortunately, the contact did not accept the deal; if he had, the ramifications are impossible to predict, although it could be said with certainty that the Police would not have come out of it with high public opinion.

Mother Jones also brings up the issue of wires and undercover operations, in the context of terrorist sting operations.  The concern raised here is that, while technology advances further and has allowed for virtually undetectable recording devices, there are still many incidents of key interactions not being recorded. The law enforcement side of the debate offers the excuse of “technical difficulties,” while the pragmatic approach is simply one of convenience. Certain conversations are not recorded because it is “inconvenient” for the agency that they are on record.

Mark Kennedy:

Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy is a former London Metropolitan police officer who worked undercover for seven years, between 2003 and 2010, infiltrating various activist groups across Europe. Most recently, he was involved in the case of 20 activists convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass at the Ratcliff-on-Soar Power Station. However, this conviction was overturned on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. Three appeal court judges ruled that a grave miscarriage of justice had occurred when audio evidence Kennedy had collected during the activists’ meetings was not disclosed by prosecution. The audio evidence showed Kennedy “was involved in activities which went much further than the authorization he was given, and appeared to show him as an enthusiastic supporter of the proposed occupation of the power station and, arguably, an agent provocateur.”

Kennedy’s involvement in the planned occupation of the Power Station was not passive. He recruited, drove reconnaissance, and offered financial backing. In total, 114 individuals were arrested when they gathered for a meeting in April 2009. When Kennedy’s involvement in the group as an undercover officer was exposed, he faced harsh denouncement from the activists he had infiltrated, who had considered him a close friend and confident. They express feelings of violation and betrayal. Kennedy also faces allegations that he had used sex as a means to gain trust and information while under cover.

In response to this controversy, Kennedy claims that “he was mishandled by senior officers and has been hung out to dry.” Interesting, in that this is a technique of neutralization. In the field of sociology, we would describe this as shifting blame to a higher power – in this case Kennedy’s superiors. Although it is important to qualify that what he has to say is quite logical. And not unexpected when, often, police institutions seek to single out the blame and distance the institution itself from corruption.
http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1
Seven inquiries have been launched in regards to Kennedy’s infiltration and the prosecution of the activists.  In total, of the 114 individuals arrested, none have been convicted.

Analysis:

Undercover officers – what do they mean for police and police deviance?  Maurice Punch (2009), in his book Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing, tells us time and again to look not at the “bad apples,” but the “bad barrels” and “bad orchards” (p. 48), meaning: look at the situation, circumstance, and environment surrounding police that might lead them to corruption. Undercover officers work with, more often than not, criminals; to put it plainly, an officer is expected to infiltrate suspected criminal groups with the intent of gathering evidence (we hope) against these criminals that can be used to bring them to justice.  It is most definitely a dirty job. Getting ‘street cred’ alone usually requires some sort of criminal act.  This common theme of “credibility” or “trust” or “information” is found in the cases of Bristow, Lambert, Kennedy, and Mother Jones’s “The Informants.” In the cases of Kennedy and Lambert, we are further introduced into the idea of sexual encounters as a point of leverage. Morals are pushed and boundaries are reformed. It is natural to assume that somewhere along the line ‘the end justifies the means.’

Gary T. Marx asks us to explore the origins and motives of informants, what they do in radical groups, and factors that enable their transformation into agents provocateur (n.d.).

This leads us first to look our cases of undercover officers as informants, identify some of the motives and concerns that might have lead them to become agents provocateurs.

Bristow’s case is interesting because, as an informant working for CSIS, he is in a different position than the others, who were actual police officers. Bristow had no overarching mandate to uphold the law. And he was tasked with uncovering the financial supporters of Aryan Nations. In his quest to do so he developed a strong relationship with Wolfgang Droege. The maintenance of that relationship required Bristow to act the part of a supporter of the white supremacist cause.  This was an “ends justify the means” situation. Or we could call it a type of Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption.  Maurice Punch describes these types of corruption as specific types of police deviance, however in this case we can apply them to Bristow.  Bristow did not believe in the cause of white supremacy, yet he assumed the guise of such in his undercover role.

The SdQ undercover officer’s roles in the Montebello incident are most definitely Nobel Cause or Dirty Harry corruption. However, as SdQ is a police agency, with a legal mandate to uphold Canada’s law, we have the further issue of Accountability.  Attempting to provoke or incite violence for whatever purpose is illegal. In some cases it could be considered entrapment.  However, it is important to note that Entrapment is only a defense at law; it is not in itself illegal. (Robichaud’s Criminal Defence Legislation blog offers a clearly defined explanation of entrapment if you are so interested.)  The SdQ’s actions at Montebello neatly fall into the definitions of entrapment, although in this case the protesters resisted incitement.  Although no violence occurred, why were the police not held accountable for their actions? If Droege had been prosecuted for his involvement with the Aryan Nations Front, would he have been able to plead entrapment? The role of the agent provocateur is a convoluted one.

In the study of agents provocateur and their roles in undercover operations, the issue of accountability continues to raise its head. There is a certain “legal gray area” that clouds the use of informants and the use of police undercover agents. We can identify some of the motives of agents provocateur, chiefly the types of corruption Maurice Punch labels as Noble Cause, or Dirty Harry corruption.  We cannot, however identify the solution to agents provocateur, because there is so little investigation into the use of them, and there is no transparent accountability structure in place.  CSIS informants hide behind the veil of “National Security.”

Further, what are the ramifications of the agent provocateur? As eluded to above, and as found conclusively in the case of Mark Kennedy, the identification of an agent provocateur can, and will, lead to acquittal.  So what then, makes an individual decide to jeopardize any possible legal action by inciting crime? In Bristow’s case, his purpose was not to arrest Droege – or anyone for that matter. He was tasked with identifying certain individuals and he had no interest in criminal charges.  We see a similar theme in Lambert’s and Kennedy’s situations – they were tasked with gathering information, as well. Is there a distinction between “information gathering” and “nailing the bad guy for a crime”? The literature on police deviance would suggest not.  Mathilde’s and Mother Jones’s articles both allude to the situation of the informant as key to the creation of the agent provocateur.

To look at the cases of Lambert and Kennedy again: I bring them up together because they share similar themes. While Lambert’s case was not one of the agent provocateur (he was an undercover police officer and is currently under speculation for false testimony, not inciting crime), both he and Kennedy were deep undercover agents who operated for years. They created intense interpersonal relationships with the people they were tasked to observe. And they both faced harsh criticism for they duality. They are also both former police officers. Under Peel’s principles that “the police are the public and the public are the police,” we have a concern. The controversy these two individuals are involved in seriously affects the relationship between the public and the police.

Ultimately, the damage the agent provocateur does, to the public and the agency to which he or she belongs, seems to outweigh any benefit. And yet, still these instances occur. What is so very tempting in tempting others into crime?

References:

Marx, G. (n.d.). “Thoughts on a Neglected Category of Social Movement Participant: The Agent Provocateur and the Informant,” American Journal of Sociology 80(2): 402-442.

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability, and reform in policing. Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing.

Turcotte, Mathilde. (2008). Shifts in police-informant negotiations. Global Crime, 9(4), 291-305. doi: 10.1080/17440570802543508.

And all the electronic resources cited here-above.

The wrongful conviction of innocent people has gradually been recognized over the last quarter of a century as a problem for the Canadian criminal justice system. It is extremely difficult to determine the number of wrongful convictions in Canada. One of the major aspects of wrongful convictions is the tunnel vision; it results when there is a narrow focus on a limited range of alternatives. Tunnel vision is insidious and it results in the police officer becoming so confused upon an individual or incident that no other person or incident register’s in the officer’s thoughts. The various research that has been conducted on this topic primarily focuses on the phenomenon of tunnel vision, which Margaret Beare defines in her scholarly article Shouting Innocence from the Highest Rooftop, “the single-minded and overly narrow focus on an investigation or prosecutorial theory so as to unreasonably color the evaluation of information received and one’s conduct in response to the information” (Margaret Beare, 2008, p.21).

Tunnel vision, and its perverse by-product “noble cause corruption,” is the antithesis of the proper roles of the police and Crown Attorney. Yet tunnel vision has been identified as a leading cause of wrongful convictions in Canada and elsewhere. Beare and her colleagues have determined that while tunnel vision is definitely a factor in wrongful convictions, it is the end result from a number of supporting faulty investigatory procedures.

The article “Shouting Innocence from the Highest Rooftop” is Margaret Beare’s research on a project undertaken with Dianne Martin that was still incomplete at the time of the latter’s sudden death. The objective was to asses the degree to which the police had or had not implemented recommendations for changes in police procedures made by inquiries, task, forces, commissions and auditor general’s reports. The recommendations are based on wrongful convictions. The overrepresentation of judges and lawyers in the evaluating process and the privileging of legal knowledge over social science or other scholarships appear to be endemic. It is also easier to formulate languages like “tunnel vision” and systemic missteps to characterize weaknesses in the system than to provide concrete examples how to provide those in the future. There is a tendency to revert to blaming individuals or rotten apples despite having identified the whole system per as contributing to the wrong outcome.

As the pace of DNA exonerations has grown across the country in recent years, wrongful convictions have revealed disturbing fissures and trends in our criminal justice system. Together, these cases show us how the criminal justice system is broken – and how urgently it needs to be fixed. In 2001, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School analyzed the cases of 86 death row exonerees. They found a number of reasons why innocent people are wrongly convicted in capital cases. Also Marvin Zalman give other factors in wrongful convictions, included in their article “Criminal Justice System Reform and Wrongful Conviction”, Which describes the nature and importance of wrongful conviction as a criminal justice policy issue, the development of an innocence movement to litigate on behalf of potential exonerees and to promote policy issues, the innocence movement’s policy and research agenda, and the very small amount of criminal justice research on the issue in comparison to legal and psychological inquiry. Wrongful Conviction as a Policy Issue: This section describes the policy salience of wrongful conviction, the nature of the emerging innocence movement, the movement’s reform and research agenda, and the limited nature of innocence research by criminologists and criminal justice scholars. “Wrongful conviction is now an issue on the public agenda. The news media, long Supportive of prosecutors, are now sensitized to miscarriages of justice, and their Continuing reports of exonerations keeps the issue in the public eye”. (Tulsky, 2006; Warden, 2003). Marvin Zalman also makes a specific points about the civil cases, fair trial rights vindicate the truth, “while government misconduct is revealed as having concealed evidence of a Person’s innocence, leading to a gross miscarriage of justice” (Garrett, 2005, p. 38). As a result of the DNA revolution, it is now thought that wrongful convictions are so frequent as to constitute a major policy concern that poses a serious challenge to the fairness and accuracy of the Criminal justice process. This article has proposed a broad research agenda addressing the new innocence movement that works to clear wrongly convicted convicts and to generate and publicize policy changes that logically should reduce miscarriages of justice.

Margaret Beare makes an interesting point in regards to police officers assuming innocence until proven guilty. “We ought not to wonder at the number of cases where it is revealed that the police operated from an assumption of guilt, but rather question how a justice system could have been imagined whereby officers working daily for months or even years on a case-often a horrendous crime of some sort-could be expected to try to build cases while assuming innocence.” (2008, p.33). She also points out that the theme in all of these wrongful-conviction cases is that justice is a “game that you wrap to fit your preferences, or your unconscious biases.” Therefore “shop around” and select evidence, experts, and judges based on your specific agenda” (2008, p.33). Erroneous errors in police investigations have been one of the most common causes of wrongful convictions and that behind some of these errors is a deliberate attempt to get the guy that you know to be guilty. Margaret Beare argues that wrongful convictions are caused by other issues such as systemic problems within the criminal justice system itself. She also explains that these are “problems that won’t be fixed as long as the miscarriage of justice is treated as an isolated even…wrongful convictions don’t occur in a vacuum. There are systemic reasons they go wrong” (2008, p.29). However, using the word systemic does not cure the problem.

One of the news article was published by CBC news that highlights some major cases in Canadian history. This article has twelve cases and a brief description for each case and it is fairly recent because it was updated in October/2010. It is written from the media’s perspective and no comments from the police are noted.

Noble Cause Corruption is a mindset or sub-culture which fosters a belief that the ends justify the means. In other words, law enforcement is engaged in a mission to make our streets and communities safe, and if that requires suspending the constitution or violating laws ourselves in order to accomplish our mission, then for the greater good of society, so be it. The officers who adopt this philosophy lose their moral compass. This type of thinking is misguided and places the officer at risk of losing his/her job, facing criminal charges, and seriously damaging the reputation of their agency. Some examples include: lying in court to convict a suspect, also referred to as “testifying,” planting evidence on suspects, and falsifying reports. According to Beare, the noble cause corruption when the “justice officials – in the name of getting a conviction – are prepared to violate laws, Charter protections, and any number of ethical considerations” (Beare, 2008, p.33).

This topic “The role of police in wrongful convictions” relates to the idea around police deviance and accountability because Maurice Punch in his text Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing argues that corruption is not one thing but covers many deviant and criminal practices in policing which also shift over time. It rejects the ‘bad apple’ metaphor and focuses on ‘bad orchards’, meaning not individual but institutional failure. For in policing the organisation, work and culture foster can encourage corruption. This raises issues as to why do police break the law and, crucially, ‘who controls the controllers’? Corruption is defined in a broad, multi-facetted way. It concerns abuse of authority and trust; and it takes serious form in conspiracies to break the law and to evade exposure when cops can become criminals.

Various wrongful conviction inquiries have been made in the past several decades, many of which have gathered vast media attention. The notorious cases of David Milgaard, Thomas Sophonow, Guy Paul Morin, Donald MarshallJr., James Driskell and Gregory Parsons are a reminder of the fallibility of our criminal justice process.Unfortunately, these individuals are but some of the relatively recent persons who have been incarcerated at length for serious crimes that they did not commit. They are not the only victims. Every time someone is convicted of an offence for which they are innocent, the justice system fails in three ways: first, by inflicting unjustifiable harm on the wrongfully convicted person, secondly, by allowing the actual perpetrators of the crime to remain free to victimize others, and thirdly, by re-victimizing the victim or his or her family by undoing the emotional closure that has already taken place.

Referenced:
Beare, M. (2008). “Shouting Innocence from the Highest Rooftop”, in M. Beare (ed.) Honouring Social Justice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press: 17-54.

Zalman, M. (2006). Criminal Justice System Reform and Wrongful Conviction. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 17(4), 468-492.

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: deviance, accountability and reform in policing. UK: Willan Publishing.

As mentioned from previous post, police misconduct and deviance is a serious matter seen across the world. With misconduct and deviance existing in policing, many argue the notion of police investigating police is not trustworthy. Without taking proper investigative practices against it, public trust in policing and image of policing are at risk.

In the book, “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing,” written by Maurice Punch, the practice of “policing is accountability” (Punch, 2009, p.2). He states that the ideas of policing are suppose to be impartial and trustworthy. Since police organizations are given the authority to maintain peace, each and every decision police individuals make, it must be fair and accountable. When a police member has crossed the line, he or she shall be deemed responsible for their actions; in order to maintain the idea of police accountability. Corruption is in every level of organization; whether if it is “low policing” or “high policing”, corruption is present. Essentially, the notion of corruption is involved with the abuse of official power and breach of trust. With the powers given to the police force to maintain peace, police individuals who abuse their authorities to commit deviance acts for personal gains has committed in police corruption.

In the book Punch argues deviance exists in the nature of police organization, police work and culture. He furthermore elaborates the level of deviance using the apple metaphor. He describes the individual level of deviance as “bad apples” and the institutional level as “rotten orchards” (Punch, 2009). Consequently since corruption is a universal characteristic of policing, it is logical to conclude that corruption does not simply involve “bad apples,” but in institutional deviance or “rotten orchards”.

Police subculture, inside the police organization, is what shapes the “informal code;” a guide that governs police behaviours. Police subculture consists of shared norms, values, and beliefs that police individuals follow.  As Punch stated (2009) “take culture to refer to norms, values, and practices tied to ‘the way we do things around here’” (p.36). Within the subculture, elements like rule of silence, solidarity, dichotomous thinking, cynicism, suspicion, etc will make it difficult to investigate corruption within police organization.

First of all, solidarity in the police subculture refers to loyalty that each police individuals have for each other, where officers will always back up partners and take action quickly when other officers are in trouble. An element that separates citizens and police officers is cynicism in the police culture. It regards non-police individuals as potentially unreliable and unsympathetic, one whom cannot be trusted with police information (Punch, 2009). The blue wall of silence, under the police subculture, is the code where each police officer shall rat out the secrets regarding another fellow member of the police force. This element is really special because police officers follow this culture to lie in order not to expose the secrets of another police officer, even if the secret revolves a serious violation of the law.

Police individuals who follow the police subculture will choose loyalty over integrity; choose brotherhood over the correct thing to do. With this police subculture existing in the police force, it is extremely difficult to gather Intel regarding police corruption. If that is the case, police investigating police is incomputable and unaccountable. If no member of the police force is willing to snitch on their colleagues, then it is safe to conclude that no member of the force conduct a proper impartial investigation challenging their own colleagues’ decisions.

The characteristic trait of dishonesty is noticeable in police individuals. As stated by Goldschmidt and Anonymous (2008), “They [police officers] express firm belief that their extra-legal methods are necessary deterrent to criminal behaviour…” (p.113). A study, Goldschmidt and Anonymous referred to, explains police members, by the means of dishonesty, achieve the justified means by committing deviant acts such as falsifying evidence, perjury, etc. They believe this is the only way to ensure justice has been served and that bad people are locked up. This trait is very similar to the Noble Cause profile, where one believes that tough and devious methods are suitable to accomplish justice. Because of this trait of dishonesty, it is what blinds the police members’ view of impartial policing.

Police officers use techniques of neutralization to justify and rationalize their own moral guilt in order to furtherance their legal means of dishonesty. The use of dishonesty is for police officers to justify their wrongdoings of corruption for personal gains; whether they’re fabricating evidence or committing perjury, they can always have the excuse of violating for, “greater goods of public safety, organization pressures from management, or sub-cultural peer pressures” (Goldschmidt, Anonymous, 2008, p. 129). With this kind of dishonesty behaviour, it is extremely difficult to trust that police investigating police practices are accountable, impartial, and trustworthy.

Numerous attempts have been made by community groups to advocate the campaign of a civilian oversight, which will be in charge of the police complaint process. With this debate of a civilian oversight group, the public considers it beneficial to replace the practice of police investigating police. The public are aware of the flaws in practices of police investigating police as secretive, unreliable, biased, in other words –unaccountable.  From this problem, many believe this civilian organization is necessary for legitimate means of policing. The public also consider this idea will benefit by having an environment where accountability, openness, and impartiality are served (Hryniewicz, 2011).

First of all, police investigating police practices are based on internal form of reviews. Hryniewicz (2011) stated that “previous research revealed that the lack of transparency evident within the internal handling of police complaints can be significant barrier to police legitimacy, accountability” (p.78). On the contrary, the civilian oversight will be a form of external and transparency review, “largely centred on issues of accountability and legitimacy” (Hryniewicz, 2011, p.77). Due to the lack of these fundamentals, the idea of civilian oversight is a perfect concept.

This organization contributes in a couple ways. Civilian oversight is centred on, “reaffirming the community, citizenship, and public security” (Hrynewicz 2011, p78); something the police duty lacks. In order to make this concept successful, the public’s participation is the crucial. The public can work within community agencies as a role of public policing by reviewing social control efforts of the police force. They can engage in civilian review procedures to evaluate possible cases of police misconduct and corruption. The concept of allowing civilians to evaluate possible cases is a sound idea because civilians tend to be objective and view the situations in a different way compared to the police do. Civilian oversight also allows reaffirming citizenship and social values by having the right and privilege to critically question and influence cases. Because this organization will be run by civilians, information can be accessed by all level of citizens and consequently everyone is aware of the latest news of police misconducts. As I mentioned before, the police organization are secretive and protective, as a result not exposing certain information. Therefore, the civilian oversight unit cannot guarantee the proper access it needs to appropriately investigate misconduct. Perhaps a solution could be the independent unit consult a judge to issue an order for the police organization to surrender all relevant facts involving the cases.

So far, there are other areas of the world with similar ideal of a civilian oversight, reviewing police complaints. In Nova Scotia, they have this investigative unit called Serious Incident Response Team (S.I.R.T). In Hong Kong, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (I.C.A.C) goal is to exterminate corruption in numerous departments in government of Hong Kong, including law enforcement. The RCMP has an organization called the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) which deals with RCMP complaints.

Ideally, this civilian oversight will consist of community members and even former police officers. In my opinion, I think it is a good idea of including police officers because the whole point of having an independent and diverse unit is to have different point of views analyzing the cases. Therefore, having formal officers’ point of view are very helpful. However, I only agree that it is helpful; if and only if, the former officers were not involved with any deviant acts or participate in corruption in their duration of the force. If former officers, who are involved with this civilian oversight, were also involved with deviant acts or corruption during their time in the force their opinions would favour the scrutinized cop, for obvious reasons.

With this much influence on public policing, the community holds a sense of security and by making a difference, the community has a sense of fulfillment. When community become involved with participating in such experience, it “enhances police credibility, accountability, and ultimately, public confidence in police services” (Hrynewicz 2011, p.78).

References:

Goldschmidt, J., Anonymous. (2008). The Necessity of Dishonesty: Police deviance, ‘making the case,’ and the public good. Routledge 18. 2: 113-135.

Hryniewicz, D. (2011): Civilian oversight as a public good: democratic policing, civilian oversight, and the social, Contemporary Justice Review, 14:1, 77-83

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. United Kingdom: Willan Publishing.