U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Bad Cops: A Study of Career-Ending Misconduct Among New York City Police Officers

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2009 Pages: 737-769
Robert J. Kane; Michael D. White
Date Published
November 2009
33 pages
Using confidential files of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as its major data sources, this study reviewed the personal and career histories of all 1,543 officers who were involuntarily separated from the NYPD for cause from 1975 through 1996, and their files were compared with a randomly selected sample of their police academy classmates who served honorably.
The study findings indicate that career-ending misconduct was a relatively rare event during the study period, as the 1,543 officers in the study composed less than 2 percent of the 78,000 officers employed by the department during this period. Moreover, the most common forms of misconduct involved administrative offenses and drug possession and sales; separations for on-duty abuse (use of excessive force, psychological abuse, or discriminatory use of authority) were uncommon. The most intriguing findings from the study involved the link between race and police misconduct. Early in the study period, non-White officers (Black, Hispanic, and Asian) were significantly more likely than White officers to be involuntarily separated from the NYPD for misconduct. Over the course of the study period, however, this disparity faded for Hispanic and Asian officers, making their separation for misconduct indistinguishable from that for White officers. For Black officers, on the other hand, the separation rate remained significantly higher than for officers of other races. Reasons for this finding are explored. Regarding protective factors for police misconduct, the findings highlight the importance of education and training. The study shows that officers with Associate or Bachelor's degrees were less likely to be separated for misconduct compared with less educated officers. Those who performed well in the academy and during the probationary period were also less likely to be separated than those who performed poorly in the formative stages of their careers. 5 tables and 66 references