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Monday, February 6, 2012

Essay on Understanding Noble Cause Corruption and its Difference with Traditional Corruption

The public is used to categorizing police officers into either good cops or bad cops. Good cops are police officers who catch the criminal elements in the society. Bad cops are those who protect the criminal elements in the society. In theory, the differences may be clear. However, in today’s society, it is no longer that easy to classify police officers as some of them may start doing bad things for the good of the society.

For instance, a police officer desires to make the streets safer. But he knows that he cannot catch all the bad guys in the streets since they are smart and they know how to dispose of any evidence against them. The police officer may start violating the law by fabricating or planting evidence on these persons for the purpose of ensuring their conviction. The police officer justifies his action by saying that he is only making the society safer. On the other hand, some police officers accept the reality that most of the bad guys they will catch will be able to escape conviction because they have deep connections with judges and prosecutors which make their jobs of enforcing the law very difficult. For this reason, the police officer may decide to disobey the law by executing the criminal offender. The police officer justifies his action by saying that he is only making the society safer from the society’s criminal elements. In the mind of these two police officers they have done nothing wrong. In fact, they are merely reducing the number of criminal offenders in the streets.

These acts are called noble cause corruption. John P. Crank and Michael A. Caldero (2000) define noble cause corruption as a “corruption committed in the name of good ends, corruption that happens when police officers care too much about their work. It is corruption committed in order to get the bad guys off the streets…the corruption of police power, when officers do bad things because they believe that the outcomes will be good."2

In fact, there are studies which say that noble cause corruption has become a part of police subculture. This means that many police officers are doing it and they feel that they are right and that they are justified in their actions.

The United States Department of Justice fears that noble cause corruption has become a practice in many law enforcement agencies. What is most worrisome is that these activities are being done not only by police officer who are known as rotten apples but even those considered as best officers who are also respected by their peers . As such, it is considered as the most threatening type of misconduct. It is basically the idea deeply held by individuals who think that the ends justify the means.

Steve Rothlein cites as an example of noble cause corruption the situation that led to the killing of Police Officer Sherman Griffiths in February 1988. (Steve Rothlein 2) Police officer Sherman Griffiths was killed by Lewin when police officers including Griffiths executed a search warrant in his home. He fought and killed police officer Griffiths. Lewin was eventually charged with murder. However the charges against him were eventually dismissed when the court found out that the affidavit for search warrant was based on false information and a fictitious informant. The police officer responsible was also charged for perjury.

Noble cause corruption must be distinguished from traditional corruption. Traditional corruption is defined as the use of one’s official position for personal benefit and gain. Personal benefit and gain may refer to accumulation of more wealth or getting sexual pleasure or simply deriving pleasure from doing bad or evil things. Contrary to noble cause corruption, a person who is traditionally corrupt does things only for himself. He does not seek to achieve any noble purpose but only seeks to pursue his own interest.

The reason why noble cause corruption has become a practice among many law enforcement officers is that it is very easy to judge a person solely because what he has done in the past. In today’s society there is a clamor for harsher punishment against criminal offenders. The public wants to get rid of the criminal elements. The public wants longer prison sentences or even death penalty. In the midst of the clamor the police officers are forced to engage in these actions. In one sense, it may be said that these actions are beneficial for the society since it gets the job done faster and easier.

In contrast, however, engaging in these actions may get the police officer and the police department in trouble for violation of the rights of the criminal offender. Noble cause corruption is a violation of the constitutional rights of the offender. It does not matter whether he has a past criminal record the police officer has to respect his rights. Consequently, the courts have in a number of cases awarded damages against police officers who have willfully done acts in violation of existing laws.

In many cases, distinguish whether a police officer is engaging in noble cause corruption or traditional may be difficult because some police officers who have become used to committing noble cause corruption may be motivated by personal gain, anger, or hatred when they engage in these actions.


The end does not justify the means. No amount of rationalization and justification can replace respect for the law and the constitutional rights of the accused. Crime is an evil that must be controlled but it should not be accomplished by sacrificing established legal procedures and cherished rights and liberties. Police officers should be the guardians of the law and the primary instruments to enforce the law. They cannot violate the law in the guise of common good.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Essay on Why Noble Cause Corruption can be Dangerous

Essay on the Dangers of Noble Cause Corruption

Noble Cause Corruption is defined as the “corruption committed in the name of good ends, corruption that happens when police officers care too much about their work. It is corruption committed in order to get the bad guys off the streets…the corruption of police power, when officers do bad things because they believe that the outcomes will be good.”

The job of police officers is full of dilemma. They make decisions everyday which may test their ethics or moral judgment. For example, they know that a person is dangerous and he is guilty of a crime. But they just do not have sufficient evidence to file charges against them. However, they cannot simply let him loose because they know that he is going to commit another crime. Why should he do?

There are many instances where a police officer can commit noble cause corruption. An example of noble cause corruption is when a police officer commits perjury in court by making untruthful statements in his Affidavit in order to ensure conviction of a known criminal offender. Another example of noble cause corruption is when a police officer knowingly hides evidence that may help clear a known criminal from liability for a given case. Another example is when a police officer manufactures evidence against a known criminal offender. All these are examples of noble cause corruption. They are considered noble cause corruption because the same is being done with the intention of putting known criminals behind bars.

These instances may appear to be harmless since police officers are merely targeting known criminals. They are merely ensuring that known criminals stay behind bars. Who does not want known criminals to be locked up in jail?

However, when police officers make it a habit to engage in noble cause corruption, problems may occur. There are many reasons why noble cause corruption is very dangerous not only for criminal offenders but even for democracy.

A. Noble Cause Corruption is Part of Police Subculture

First, many believe noble cause corruption has become part of police subculture. Though police officers are tasked to enforce the law, there are indications that when presented the opportunity police officers will not hesitate to fabricate evidence against a known criminal. The same police officers will tolerate the actions of his fellow police officers if they know that the actions lead to the arrest of a criminal offender.

B. Noble Cause Corruption may Degenerate into Traditional Corruption

Police officers justify their actions by saying that they are only helping the society by getting rid of criminal offenders and ensuring that they are locked behind bars. The intention is noble but police officers who continue to engage in noble cause corruption and make it a habit will eventually engage in acts of traditional corruption. This is the kind of corruption that is simply motivated by greed and desire for personal gain. The police officers may become use to their actions that they tend to justify all of their actions as beneficial to the society even if the real motive is green and personal gain.

C. Police officers assume the role of the judge and the executioner

Police officers do not have the right to assume that a person is guilty of a crime. The law says that every person is entitled to the right of presumption of innocence. A person is still given the opportunity to get a lawyer and present every defense available to him so that his guilt may be proven in the court of law. In noble cause corruption, police officers play the role of a judge and the executioner which is very dangerous in a democratic society. What will prevent the police officers from doing the same thing to innocent civilians? What if the persons who are victimized by noble cause corruption are innocent people?

D. Noble Cause Corruption May Influence other Police Offices to engage in the same action.

Another problem with noble cause corruption is that the police officers may actually be influenced to engage in the same actions. For example, a police officer has personal knowledge that his fellow police officer has fabricated evidence to convict an accused. He may fear that if he reports this to his superior he may alienate his fellow police officer or anger them. If he decides to cover up his fellow police officer then he too engages in corruption. When this happens, the police officer may in the future engage in the same action of fabricating evidence based on the idea that other police officers are doing the same thing.

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