Police Corruption

Most law enforcers would probably suppose that accepting a gratuity or a small gift does not lead to corruption.  However, in Mike Corley’s article titled, ‘Gratuities: There is No Free Lunch,’ the author elucidates readers on the relationship between accepting gratuities and corruption. Corley states that many law enforcement agents take robust positions against corruption but taking a stand against accepting gratuities seem to be a tough task. According to the author, the most difficult questions to answer with regards acceptance of gratuities are ‘how’ and ‘why’ since there appear to be no obvious boundaries, which define when gratuities are linked to corruption or when they are not. Majority of scholars in the law enforcement field, according to Corley, assert that the acceptance of gratuities is a pitfall that leads to corruption. Corley bases his classification of corruption on four experts’ definitions which affirm that corruption entails the act of accepting goods or anything with monetary value ‘for performing or failing to perform duties which are a normal part of one’s job’.[1]

On the other hand, Corley defines gratuity as ‘something given without claim or demand’ (Corley 2005). However, the author contends that it is confounding for the enforcement agents to discern when a gratuity does not come without a claim or demand. Thus, even though law enforcers exercise discretions on accepting presents and gratuities, enforcers should assume that everything comes with a price, based on the supposition that ‘there is no free lunch.’ The author adds that though these ‘acts of kindness’ may not require reciprocity in the present, they may oblige an officer to reciprocate such kindness in the future. In some ways, Corley also admits that there exists people who strive for genuine kindness but individuals involve in the enforcement of law should always presume that everyone wants something in exchange of a gift or gratuity. This, for Corley, may not be a pleasurable notion but it is the safest concept enforcers must harbor in order to evade possible corrupt practices in the future (Corley 2005).

Corley’s hypothesis with regards the close connection between corruption and gratuity is cemented in most law enforcement theories, which similarly assert that the acceptance of bribes leads to corruption. In the book (please provide me title and author of the Chapter 8 outline), the author states that culture and personality contribute to the officers working culture (Skolnick, year). The author further implies that Grass Eaters, those who carry out unlawful activity from time to time, in the course of one’s duties, exists in the organization. Although these individuals commit petty offenses as they failed to repudiate bribes, the action should not be considered ‘petty’ or minor, since any kind of corruption should be deemed ‘major’. [2] More serious offenders who exist in the enforcement agencies are referred to as Meat Eaters ( Chapter 8). These involve officers who seek illegal moneymaking prospects through the use of threat or intimidation. Both types of offenders, the Grass Eaters and the Meat Eaters, can be identified in the police force or in almost every field of law enforcement. Nonetheless, these are only a few of the thorny issues that police officers and administrators frequently confront.

But does the acceptance of a free cup of coffee really entrap new police officers, which could eventually turn them into a ‘Grass Eaters’ or worse Meat Eaters? I think that the answer depends on the law enforcement agent himself. Many new and young enforcement agents aim to be friendly to the people around the communities they serve and thus, face difficulties in refusing offers of gratuities politely. Most would probably think that refusing someone’s kindness is rude and improper, as we have heard many times from others that we have to let others be kind by accepting presents and gifts. A minister in my church, for instance, repeatedly affirmed that rejecting someone’s gift is refusing the giver the opportunity to be virtuous. He stressed that morality and virtue is a two-way street – we need others to exercise virtue and without other human beings to act our virtues on, the idea behind morality and kindness disappears. Indeed morality, kindness and goodness cannot be acted by a solitary being because when she gives something solely to herself, it becomes selfishness. If one acts alone morally, the action is futile because no one would deem it proper or improper. My argument is that, this contention with regards kindness should only be applied to individuals outside the scope of law enforcement. Accepting a gift from someone lets another exercise kindness but we must seriously consider the receiver of the gratuity. Maybe the receiver should be someone who does not hold power to enforce laws or one who does not wield moral responsibility. Yet how do we refuse offer, gratuities and gifts and make it less painful to the giver and to ourselves? I remembered a story about a Japanese hotel concierge in Tokyo. An American tourist came and was pleased with the service and hence, wanted to give the concierge a tip. The tourist found out that he only had travelers checks and told the concierge that if he encashed the checks, he would give him a huge tip. Some hotel managements in Japan prohibit their employees from accepting tips. Consequently the concierge replied that the thought about the American wanted to give him a huge tip was more than enough to make him very happy and the money was unnecessary. I think I could manage a similar reply when offered a cup of coffee.

CITED SOURCES

Corley, M. (2005).Gratuities:There is No Free Lunch. FBI LAw Enforcement Bulletin. 10-14.

[1] Cohen and Feldberg in Corley, M. (2005).Gratuities:There is No Free Lunch. FBI LAw Enforcement Bulletin. 10-14.

[2] John Kleinig, The Ethics of Policing (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 165-166. in Corley, M. (2005).Gratuities:There is No Free Lunch. FBI LAw Enforcement Bulletin. 10-14. p. 13

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