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Understanding and Preventing Police Corruption: Lessons From the Literature

NCJ Number
Tim Newburn
Barry Webb
Date Published
64 pages
This is a review of the published English language literature on police corruption.
This document attempts to provide a common level of knowledge and understanding of police corruption, its causes and the efficacy of strategies for its prevention. Other relevant issues include the links between integrity (and lapses in it) and the development of corruption, and strategies for instilling organizational values and integrity in staff. The review covers the main English language literature on police corruption and ethics over the past 20 years, including the sociological and criminological literature and the main official inquiries from the United States and Australia. The review presents 11 key findings, including: (1) Police corruption is pervasive, continuing and not bounded by rank; (2) Police corruption cannot simply be explained as the product of a few "bad apples"; (3) The "causes" of corruption include factors intrinsic to policing as a job, the nature of police organizations and the nature of "police culture"; (4) Reform must look at the political and task environments as well as the organization itself; and (5) Reform tends not to be durable. Figures, references