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The Slippery Slope

Author: Edward J. Tully, May 2000

"Whoever chases monsters should see to it that, in the process, he does not become a monster himself." Officer Rafael Perez, Los Angeles Police Department, quoting German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

With these words Officer Perez gave every law enforcement officer in the United States and Canada the best advice they could receive. His words also raise another question. Does a law enforcement organization have a responsibility to protect its members from the ethical and moral corrosion inherent in the work they do?

After his arrest for stealing cocaine from an evidence locker, Perez, a member of the Los Angeles Police Department's Ramparts Division, furnished information alleging that a number of the officers assigned to the division were involved in a pattern of corrupt practices. Perez's allegations of police corruption, and the findings of a subsequent internal investigation, have unleashed a torrent of publicity and community criticism that has damaged the reputation and morale of the Los Angeles Police Department. However, the Ramparts' case is not the only high profile police corruption case in North American law enforcement. In the past few months, allegations of corruption and abuse of power have surfaced in the New York City Police Department, the FBI, Saskatoon, Washington, D.C. and a host of smaller departments.

These events are the beginning of an upward trend of corruption and abuse of power cases in law enforcement that, I believe, will continue for several more years. While the increase in the number of cases is disturbing, the trend will most likely reach its peak in a few years, after which it will subside as self-correcting measures are taken by the law enforcement profession. The purpose of this article is to help begin a dialogue that is necessary to produce modified behavior for both officers and organizations.


The reasons for the increase in high profile corruption cases within the ranks of law enforcement are not difficult to identify. The primary cause is human nature, of course. Little in our basic nature has changed. We still have a tendency to choose evil over good, when to do so is in our interest. So, unless we are insulated by strong beliefs, values, self-discipline, and a healthy fear of the consequences we all are susceptible to being corrupted. This was true with Adam and Cain in Biblical times and it remains true today.

We must also be presented with an opportunity to be corrupt. In our present culture the temptations for law enforcement officers have never been higher. These temptations arise from a society in which many people have become increasingly corrupted through the use drugs (both licit and illicit), by financial greed, by an over emphasis on sex and violence, and because of a disrespect for authority. Given the many opportunities to either become corrupt or to abuse the power of office, it is not surprising that some law enforcement officers have succumbed to their own greed or to a uncontrollable rage or fear when confronting individuals whose behavior is threatening.

In the past thirty years, our cultural norms have also changed dramatically. Values such as honesty, truthfulness, and other simple decencies, which used to be fairly widespread and accepted as appropriate behavior, are now considered by many to be situational. Along with this "dumbing" down of our traditional values and behavior, we have seen an explosion of individual "rights." This has created a culture where many individuals believe they can behave, in most any manner, without the fear of being sanctioned by family, the larger community, or the government. If ever punished, these people always seem to find someone other than themselves to blame. These changes have produced a workplace that is difficult to supervise and discipline properly.

Additionally, competition between various forms of mass media has created a situation where police operations have become a prime source of material for national and local news. Law enforcement is also the theme of many television programs, movies, and countless novels. The voracious appetite of the mass media for material content and the public's appetite for law enforcement stories can be a two-edged sword. While law enforcement organizations often reap the rewards of favorable media attention with increased budgets, respect, and other forms of public support, you should recognize that negative press could diminish the organization's effectiveness. All law enforcement professionals should note that when negative stories accumulate, a time will come when the media will converge upon the latest department misstep with a vengeance. In some cases, they use these occasions to bring reform to the department. In other cases, the media may use the incident to discredit a politician or to highlight a current social problem.

For example, the Ramparts' case is receiving extraordinary attention because the Los Angeles Police Department is viewed by the press as being impervious to change and out of control. In New York, the Diallo case, and other similar cases, are receiving national attention as a means to discredit a popular mayor and to punish a police department for being too aggressive and for having lousy press relations. As press interest in a particular case mounts it is inevitable that political activists, of both right and left wing, will attempt to use the case to correct what they believe is a social problem. A few examples of this would be the current controversies concerning handguns, the use of "profiling" as a basis for traffic stops, the imprisonment of non violent drug offenders, and the calls for tougher sentencing and the prosecution of juveniles as adults. We may complain about the unfairness of the media process and the hidden agenda of the press. However, the fact of the matter is that the system works this way and it will not change!

Finally--and most importantly--many law enforcement organizations fail to recognize the responsibility they have to protect their employees from the corrosive nature of the job. For example, banks have developed sophisticated safeguards to protect their assets from embezzlement. These safeguards protect both the bank and make it very difficult for employees to succumb to the temptation of theft. On the other hand, many law enforcement organizations have inadequate policies and procedures to protect the storage of evidence or to monitor informant payments. We overly tolerate mediocre, or incompetent, supervisors through our failure to develop legally defensible evaluation systems or by trading away management prerogatives in lieu of salary increases. Historically, law enforcement organizations have failed to supply officers with necessary safety equipment. In far too many cases this equipment is obtained usually from the lowest bidder and only after political pressure from employee organizations is brought to bear on politicians. While many larger law enforcement agencies offer psychological services to officers, most law enforcement agencies do not provide an adequate level of such service to officers in need. Our in-service training programs are weak, particularly those that would reinforce the agency's basic values. Corruption can easily follow poor leadership, a lack of vision, and an inability of law enforcement executives to appreciate the complexity and difficulties which officers face on the job.

So What?

We have always had a bit of corruption in North American law enforcement. I suspect that regardless of what the profession does to protect itself, there will always be corruption. However, the entire fabric of North American society is based upon trust in government. We all trust the government to do the right thing, or at least to try, in good faith to do what is right and just. Since law enforcement is one of the most direct and powerful arms of government, it stands to reason that if we lose trust in law enforcement then we will also lose trust in those agencies empowered with law enforcement oversight first, and then second, in all other government agencies. Therefore, one can deduce that law enforcement must--above all else--protect itself from corruption. Just as important, however, is that if corruption is alleged or suspected the agency must respond with every resource to resolve the allegation.

There is no question that the police officer's job can be tremendously corrosive to character and good intentions. In fact, I would argue that there is no other job--anywhere--where the possibility of corruption is higher than it is in law enforcement. In simple terms, our society has given the police officer great power as a means to keep the peace. In return, society expects the officer to maintain the highest levels of integrity, while at the same time, be a champion for the victim, a scourge to the lawbreaker, and always polite and helpful to those in need. Failure to heed the trust that the public places in police officers will usually result in very harsh punishment. The public pays little attention to the fact that police officers are not, generally, well paid for their efforts, and are not selected or retained for employment by rigorous educational, psychological, or physical standards. In very blunt, perhaps cynical terms, the public basically says to law enforcement organizations, "Hire those who apply, pay them a fairly low wage, give them a minimum amount of training, and send them out to enforce the law." "Should they fail in any way, discipline them harshly and, if necessary, cut off their heads." Far too many law enforcement organizations have accepted these terms at their employees' expense.

While it might be comforting to briefly lament about our unfortunate status in North American society, it is not a characteristic that either solves problems or builds a profession. Corruption, in any form, is destructive to our profession in many ways. First, a loss of public trust and support makes the job of a police officer all that more difficult and dangerous to both the officer and the community served. Second, in a society obsessed with litigation (some cases justified, others not) public agencies are observed by the legal profession as a "fat target." The Ramparts' case in Los Angeles and the Louima and Diallo cases in New York could well end up costing the taxpayers of those cities hundred of millions of dollars. These settlements may well cost the police future salary and benefit increases. Funding of police operations and equipment upgrades will become more difficult. Police labor organizations will find it much harder to seek benefits for its members and will bear a heavy financial burden in paying for the legal costs to defend members charged with offenses. However, the worst ramification of corruption is the loss of respect law enforcement suffers in the eyes of the community. Unfortunately, this sentiment will cause some officers to lose their lives or be severely injured. This could happen in situations where this attitude encourages some to resist an officer's legal authority or makes an officer the target of an individual or group seeking to take control of a street or neighborhood.

Corruption and its ever-present companion abuse of power have many unintended consequences--most of which are negative, with one exception. They provide law enforcement organizations the necessary motivation to review the normal way of doing business. I would argue that every policy, procedure, rule and regulation should have as its prime intent the protection of the officer from themselves and the decisions some make that could lead to corruption and physical harm.

Having such rules is one thing, but enforcing them on a daily and consistent basis is another. It is a foolish organization that establishes rules, but does not have the will to enforce them. It is better to not have any rules. However, if these various guidelines are explained to all officers as being necessary to keep them out of harm's way, then enforcement is made easier. The necessity for this review does not have to wait until a scandal occurs or the organizational climate deteriorates. Will there be resistance to the changes that are made? There will be howls of indignation to be sure. However, if the underlying reason for tough, rigid, and enforced rules is adequately explained, these howls will turn into acceptance.

In a society bent upon eliminating many rules from the workplace it might seem strange to advocate the return to a highly structured workplace. Nonetheless, the consequences of corruption and abuse of power allegations to the average law enforcement officer are so great that we would be remiss if we did not do all in our power to provide the officer with as much protection as possible. Having rules and instilling the self-discipline in officers to follow them is the least we can do to help those who fight monsters.

What Can Be Done?

The first thing most executives have to realize is that corrupt practices do not occur out of the blue. It is very rare that a good cop just goes bad one day. It is also rare that a rookie cop goes bad during the first few years on the job. Most officers found to be corrupt have anywhere from 8-15 years on the job. In almost every case, the officer's corruption begins when supervisors overlook or condone minor infractions. Unacceptable behavior becomes habitual and more egregious. Finally, the behavior becomes illegal and begins to taint virtually all of the officer's actions. Officer corruption occurs because they have an absence of good character traits, bad personal habits, extremely poor supervision, and are overly exposed to opportunities to engage in corrupt behavior.

Given the above, law enforcement executives have to understand that in matters of corruption, and/or abuse of power there are more people to blame than just the officer involved. This is not an attempt to negate individual officer's responsibility for his or her behavior. Officers should never be excused from the consequences of their behavior. This is an attempt, however, to suggest that sergeants, lieutenants, and other command officers should have known which officers were prone to cut corners, were poorly trained, resisted supervision, had poor interpersonal relations with the public and other officers, and had a history of misuse of force. In recent corruption and abuse of power cases, internal investigators have found serious deficiencies in the quality of the officer's supervision, a lack of discipline, and a refusal to follow department policies.

While radical, I would strongly suggest that law enforcement agencies consider developing policy in corruption and abuse of power cases where the internal investigation also focuses on the role played (or not played) by the front line, mid-level, and upper level managers of the individual(s) involved. I would further argue--in an effort to make a point about poor management--that the department places these managers on administrative leave until their role in the case is resolved to the chief administrator and/or the controlling political body's satisfaction.

We all know that the street can be a very dangerous place for a police officer. We try the best we can to provide the officers with protective devices, weapons, proper tactical training and procedures, and excellent communications equipment. But the street is also dangerous to the officer from a psychological and moral standpoint. Most departments provide little assistance to the officers in these areas. We watch--as if helpless--officers develop drinking problems, marital problems, and financial problems. We observe them becoming more aggressive, more intolerant of others, and more prone to use higher levels of force than are required. We see them become disrespectful of supervisors, contemptuous of department policies and procedures, and the development of an attitude that suggests they believe they are acting in the name of the Lord.

Yet, all too often we stand by and let the officer continue, until he/she does something really stupid. This is not good police management nor, I might add, is it a great reflection on police labor organizations that stand idly by while some of their members slowly drift into deep trouble. Some departments and labor organizations are concerned about these problems, and have developed policies designed to protect officers from themselves. Most have not! It is long past time that we make every attempt to protect our officers from corruption. It is an effort that requires tough-mindedness, but despite initial resentment from officers and labor organizations, it would be extremely beneficial to the officer on the street. The following are some tough-minded suggestions for your discussion, debate, and consideration. Feel free to reject some--or all of them--but in doing so at least become sensitive to the fact that police managers have to devise ways to protect officers in more ways than by providing a protective vest!

Selection and Training

Present selection standards for most law enforcement officers are job-related, legally defensible, and somewhat worthless in predicting future performance. Current written entrance examinations tell us little about an applicant's character, work ethic, or common sense. Yet, these and similar characteristics are critical elements in the law enforcement officer's position. Hopes that such a test can be developed can only be termed, in this political climate, as wishful thinking. Instead, law enforcement has been forced to use more sophisticated and expensive selection procedures. The department's use of selection tools, such as psychological assessments, polygraph examinations, and thorough background investigations have become more widespread in recent years. Even using these more reliable methods, most police administrators have been forced to use the training and probation process as an additional part of the selection process.

What is inherently wrong with this approach is that it produces a training environment that, as its primary objective, seeks to eliminate those recruits who do not measure up. Unfortunately, this is most easily done in the physical and firearms training aspects of the curriculum. What makes it easy is that firearm and physical training abilities can be easily and objectively measured. On the other hand, eliminating recruits who show deficiencies in communication skills, common sense, or interpersonal relations is far more subjective and, thus, less legally defensible. Consequently, our recruit curricula often reflect an over emphasis on firearms and physical fitness at the expense of subjects that teach the organization's values, an understanding of human nature, or an abiding interest in the law and other related subjects.

For example, we all know of situations when instructors identified a particular recruit as being weird. There is no question that the administrator will first look to the firearms and physical training instructors to weed out the unacceptable recruit. I, like every other police officer, had great admiration for my firearms instructor. They are good cops, good people, and great instructors. They are also very influential in the curriculum design process, perhaps, too influential. Giving any subject more time in the curriculum than necessary leads to the inclusion of materials of dubious quality. I would argue that law enforcement is giving firearms training too much time, particularly if the extra time is used to emphasize the necessity for speed. By overemphasizing the street's dangers and using audio-visual training devices to reinforce the need for lightning speed and quick judgement, we produce a recruit with a mindset that, in my opinion, leads to an unjustifiable fear of the street and a tendency to leapfrog the levels of the force continuum. The instructor's mindset has also led many firearms' experts to recommend the purchase of weapons whose primary virtue was an easy trigger pull. The combination of a gunslinger mentality, unreasonable fears, and an easy trigger pull has produced far too many unnecessary tragedies in our business.

An under emphasis on legal training results in just being able to cover the various statutes and criminal procedures. This leaves recruits with little time to pursue the reasons officers should have a deep respect and love of the law. It is no accident that most law enforcement officers view the other parts of the criminal justice system, particularly the courts, with an unjustified degree of contempt. The major reason for this attitude is found in the poor quality of legal training both at the recruit and in-service level.

In a training curriculum that over emphasizes the physical aspects of the law enforcement, recruit training often becomes more of a physical obstacle to overcome, as opposed to an intellectual challenge. Consequently, upon successful completion of recruit training, too many young officers have developed a negative attitude about training and their needs for any additional training. Confidently they believe they can handle all problems encountered on the street with a quick draw and the application of suitable force. While this type of training may be suitable for the military, it falls somewhat short of meeting the ever-changing needs of a law enforcement officer.

Changing the nature and emphasis of law enforcement training can be relatively easy provided, of course, you have some idea of what you want the end product--both at the recruit and veteran officer level--to be able to do, to think, and to feel. In recommending change, consider three important factors. First, the influential officers of the agency have to know what are the department's values and mission. The curriculum's design should reflect only these values--all else is extraneous. Second, it is imperative that the command structure and the organization's controlling political body have a deep appreciation for the necessity of high quality recruit training and that officer's will also need training throughout their careers. Third, law enforcement organizations need to identify and engage a number of outside resource persons to provide in house training.

For the sake of brevity, let me simply recommend that the chief executive officer appoint a competent committee to reexamine every facet of departmental training with the objective being to bring it in line with department values and mission. If the values and mission are not written, then the committee should first determine what they are! Second, the department should require all officers and personnel to have a minimum of forty hours training per year. The chief must go to the political body and secure adequate funding for this training, or at least, obtain permission to go to the private sector for funds and assistance. Third, the officer in charge of training should be tasked with assembling a list of community resource persons, or distance learning centers, qualified to provide training. This training could be conducted at the department, local educational institutions, or local business establishments--mostly, I might add, during off duty hours. Finally, after considering the results of the above recommendations, the chief must impose the changes.

Scruffy Shoes

With deep apology to James Q. Wilson, the originator of the "Broken Windows Theory" for increased crime, I would like to advance a corollary theory concerning the overall quality of law enforcement agencies. It goes as follows: if you visit a law enforcement agency and observe a facility that is dirty, in need of extensive repair, and obviously not well maintained, you know that the department's administration is questionable. You can also assume that the employees have little respect for their organization and that most employees are equally sloppy in the conduct of their work. Should you also happen to attend roll call and observe officers that are not well-groomed and have scruffy looking shoes, you can bet the farm that there is a serious deficiency in the quality of their supervision. Additionally, they have a total lack of appreciation for the impact their appearance has in regard to their own safety. While some high profile law enforcement agencies may think it is fashionable to dress down these days, I would argue that it is really symptomatic of a poorly managed agency. Unaware, if you will, that the sloppy attitudes displayed by their employees only lead to marginal performance and the greater possibility of corruption. Overly simplistic? Yes! Nonetheless, spit and polish beats scruffy any day of the week.


While I would argue that law enforcement agencies should enforce their policies, procedures, and rules and regulations in a very strict manner, I would not advocate harsh penalties for offenders that do not violate relevant statutes. In my experience, I have observed that law enforcement agencies often use penalties that don't fit the crime. This only develops a culture that tends to want to cover up mistakes, a peer group that is highly protective of its members, and deep resentments by officers who have been overly punished. For example, in the federal law enforcement community if you are found to have used a government vehicle for private purposes you are automatically suspended for thirty days--a few more days if you are a supervisor. This amounts to a fine of several thousand dollars, which by any measure, is far too severe. In the Bureau it was quite common to transfer people from one office to another for being too fat, too controversial, or too dumb. I never quite understood the philosophy behind transferring people who were supervisory problems to another place in the hope the problem would vanish.

I have no objection to harsh discipline for corruption and abuse of power. On the other hand, I would suggest that we use discipline to teach and to change the employees' behavior. I think this is best done if the discipline for minor transgressions is administered quickly, explained in detail, filed for a short time, and then removed from the personnel file and forgotten. In the case of the car misuse, I say fine the fellow twenty bucks, payable to the recreation fund, and then tell him not to do it again. Scruffy shoes would cost a buck. My sense is that any discipline system that is designed to teach as opposed to overly punishing officers and their families would cut down on the number of grievances filed by employees. This might allow the entire labor-management structure to focus on more important issues, such as officer safety and the creation of a corruption-free atmosphere.


There are many reasons to rotate officers from one partner or assignment every two years or so. This policy should also cover first-line supervisors. While a policy of this type would not be practical in those agencies that operate one-man patrol cars, it still remains important that officers be given some type of change in their assignments periodically. Implementing such a policy minimizes the exposure officers have to corrosive elements, which may lead to corrupt practices. Secondly, rotation broadens the experience level of all officers and increases the opportunities for officers to learn additional aspects of the job. Third, rotation lessens the role and power of peer pressure among officers.

It will be argued that rotation would destroy the expertise built up in various, specialized units such as SWAT, the detective division, or the vice squad. This argument has merit--as a policy of rotation will lessen--for a time--the expertise of any particular unit. I would only counter the argument by saying that the expertise of the entire department would increase and that the threat of corruption and abuse of power are greater when officers are left in their assignments for too long.

I think we all would agree that leaving an officer in an undercover assignment without adequate supervision and controls only increases the chance that the officer will suffer negative consequences. I think the same can be said of other officers as well. The extent of rotation will depend on the exigencies of each department. However, those who are first concerned about officers' welfare and the department's health should seriously consider this practice.


The most important position within a law enforcement agency, in regard to police operations, is the first-line supervisor. In most agencies, this role is filled by the sergeant, although, other agencies may vest this responsibility with a corporal or squad supervisor. Whatever the rank, this particular individual supervises the activities of 8-15 individuals who work the street, investigate cases, or perform administrative duties. Just for the sake of discussion, I would argue that in all of the recent corruption and abuse of power cases throughout North America there exists, in each case, a significant failure on the part of sergeants to properly supervise the officers involved in the case.

The problem with sergeants is that they often don't know for whom they work. Rising from the ranks they have tremendous loyalty to the troops they command. Not wanting to offend their former friends and fellow officers, some sergeants regard loyalty to their troops more important than loyalty to the chief or the organization. While this is understandable, it is wrong for all of the parties concerned. The first thing a newly appointed sergeant must be made to realize is that they are part of management, responsible for implementing or maintaining policy, procedures, and rules and regulations. Second, sergeants should know they are the most influential leaders within a department. Every comment, gesture, or non verbal communication is interpreted by their subordinates as either support for, or rejection of, a management position. Third, sergeants must realize that the best way to protect those individuals under their supervision from mistakes, corruption, or abuse of power is to be demanding, tough-minded, and a stickler for rules--there is no other viable option.

It should be noted that the desirable traits in sergeants, as outlined above, can be taught. To think that an individual can assume the position of sergeant without a period of extensive training is both foolish and a disservice to those we ask to hold the position. The training of sergeants is far more important than any other training program in law enforcement--including recruit training. This fact has long been ignored in all law enforcement organizations, needs to be understood and steps taken to improve the existing situation.


Once, when I was preparing a training video on informant development, a seasoned FBI agent told me that in virtually every major FBI investigation, success depended upon information developed from a confidential source. His statement underscored the necessity for all law enforcement investigators to develop reliable sources of information. However, as we all know, many great sources of information on criminal activities are those people who are, or have been, engaged in criminal activities. Establishing a relationship with these people is both difficult and risky. The reasons an individual cooperates with law enforcement as an active informant is either for money or the possibility of preferential treatment at a later date. Few informants are involved for idealistic reasons. What makes dealing with them risky is their almost universal desire to compromise the handler. Sharing informant payments with the handler or providing the handler with gifts or favors helps the informant separate the handler from the rules of the organization. Once this is accomplished it becomes questionable as to just who is the informant and who is the handler.

For example, once an informant provides a handler with a gift, or allows a cut to be taken from a payment, the handler is placed in a position where the act cannot be reported to the department. When the relationship is tainted like this, the handler is susceptible to extortion. One such act can lead to another and, in a short period of time, the entire police operation is compromised. It happens most often when the handler and informant are of the opposite sex. I should note that the FBI agent whose opinion I note in the first sentence of this paragraph is presently under indictment for furnishing information to individuals involved with organized crime. Several years ago, another agent was convicted of murdering his female informant after their sexual relationship was in danger of being exposed. We all know of many other officers who have fallen on their sword in dealing with informants.

Protecting officers from the inherent risks of handling informants is a difficult problem. While rules and procedures to follow in handling informant matters can help, most of these rules can be circumvented. Training courses can help officers realize the dangers they may encounter in their relationship with informants, but this information can also be easily ignored. The bottom line is that while organizations can require payment receipts, various reporting requirements, and that two officers meet with an informant, it still comes down to the self-discipline of the handler. Knowing the informant's motivation is essential if the handler is to avoid the psychological trap often laid down by informants. Close and very active supervision of all such matters by a single, experienced officer is the best approach an organization can take to protect officers from themselves. Unfortunately, handling informants properly is a task for which the individual officer bears the most responsibility.

Internal Affairs

Every law enforcement agency should have either a department, or an individual, charged to ensure that there is compliance with every department policy, rule or regulation. This entity should report directly to the chief executive officer. In addition to ensuring compliance, the internal affairs office should investigate all allegations of corruption either using its own resources or obtaining resources from an outside investigative agency. Recognizing that many departments are too small to have a single person dedicated to this position full time, it still is imperative that an internal audit of the department be conducted on an annual basis. Alternative ways and means to conduct this audit can be found by enlisting the aid of larger departments, state police organizations, or private community resources. Concerns are often expressed about the internal affairs function in that it is often loathed and feared by officers and that it is detrimental to morale. There can only be one response to this--Good!

What Can the Officer Do?

Very few officers, regardless of their background, begin their law enforcement career with the objective to become corrupt. Most are idealistic young people and dedicated to public service. Most retire from the job with their ideals intact, even though the reality of life on the street has tested them to the limit. My observations of great cops indicate they all have the following characteristics:

    They were unfailingly honest.
    They realized the necessity of knowing the law and its underlying principles.
    All knew the necessity for lifelong training/education.
    They were intensely loyal to their wife and family.
    They respected and understood the limits of their power.
    Their peers did not overly influence them.
    They had a life outside the organization and participated in activities such as, fraternal clubs, church, or civic organizations.
    They maintained their defensive tactics skills and a high level of physical fitness.
    They maintained currency in the law enforcement profession by reading law enforcement literature or by membership in professional organizations.
    They were loyal to their organization, superior officers, and/or subordinates.
    They were just as interested in proving innocence as guilt.
    They controlled their emotions and never allowed personal biases to affect their judgement.
    They never abused alcohol or used it to relieve stress.
    They were polite and considerate, particularly to the community's less fortunate members and other employees of the department.
    They had moral courage and would defend their convictions regardless of the cost.

Final Thoughts

In the final analysis, the primary responsibility for corruption or an act of the abuse of power can only rest with the individual law enforcement officer. While it is true that law enforcement organizations could do more to help protect officers from the temptations that lead to illegal acts, it is the individual officer who makes the decision to become corrupt or abusive. The choices that are made by officers, which lead to corruption, are made based on either personal greed or extreme cowardice. They are not choices made on the basis of ignorance. I think it fair to say that every law enforcement officer in North America knows the difference between right and wrong. They are also aware of the special trust placed in them by the community and the ramifications of their violation of that trust. Law enforcement officers, who violate that trust and allow themselves to be corrupted, do not deserve sympathy. They are the carpenters of their own cross.

Nonetheless, law enforcement organizations, all of whom have extensive knowledge about the corrosive nature of the law enforcement officer's job, and still choose not to provide adequate training, or protective policies and procedures to their employees on a systematic basis, have also failed the public trust. The penalties for this failure are the justifiable calls for civilian oversight and a thorough housecleaning.

The National Executive Institute Associates Leadership Bulletin editor is Edward J. Tully. He served with the FBI as a Special Agent from 1962 to 1993. He is presently the Executive Director of the National Executive Institute Associates and the Major City Chiefs. You can reach him via e-mail at or by writing to 308 Altoona Drive, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401