Paper on Police Corruption, Misconduct, and Brutality in the United States

Police Corruption, Misconduct, and Brutality in the United States


Police officers have legitimate powers to enforce the law. They are individually required to make choices among some courses of actions as they maintain law and order about the United States Constitution and Criminal Justice field. David Bayley and Robert Perito, however, note that police officers have been abusing their powers by engaging in corruption for personal gain. For example, they assert that some officers have been abusing their police authority for illegal material benefits by participating bribery and extortion. Actions undertaken by corrupt police officers, therefore, violate established codes of conduct for private gain. As a result, corruption among police officers has been identified as an international problem (Bayley & Perito, 2011).

The authors also assert that cases of police misconduct are witnessed almost on a regular basis across the United States. Misconducts or transgressions refer to bureaucratic violations undertaken by officers against established rules and regulations influencing operations carried out by police departments. Thus, police misconduct and corruption should be identified as endemic factors leading the officers to abuse police authority while violating established codes of conduct. Consequently, police brutality is defined as the use of excessive force in enforcing the law and maintaining public order. False arrests, malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment or deaths also constitute police brutality (Bayley & Perito, 2011). The report will discuss two cases. The first case will focus on police corruption and misconduct while the second will address police brutality. Consequently, a conclusion either agreeing or disagreeing with the outcomes of the two cases will be drawn.

Police Corruption and Misconduct

Cases of corruption and misconduct among police officers occur by violating civil, procedural, and criminal rights, rules, and regulations. Misconduct involving police officers violating citizens’ civil rights is regarded as unconstitutional. After police forces violate the established departmental regulations, it is regarded as either bureaucratic or procedural. Consequently, it is unlawful and unethical for law administration officers to violate civic and state laws. There are also conventional forms of misconduct and selective enforcement of the law (Bayley & Perito, 2011).

According to Bernice Young (2011), police officers should strive to attain open rulemaking to promote equal justice. Thus, they should reduce ambiguous elucidation of policies. Consequently, they can carry out the mandate of promoting equality within the established legal limits. The United States system, however, permits law-enforcing officers to decide each case through personal discretion. The personal discretion, however, causes unnecessary inequalities. The system has also led police officers to enforce practices resulting in corruption, misconduct, and brutality. Enforcement policies promoting rules and regulations directly guiding law enforcing officers to respect federal and state laws sustaining equality are vital. It can assist the officers to identify measures and actions they either ought to or should not undertake in the course of enforcing the law reducing moral and legal ramifications.

According to Bernice, police departments across the United States have been focusing on maintaining public order in recent years. The officers, therefore, believe maintaining order is an essential aspect of police work. As a result, professional and public groups have been examining and criticizing such efforts. Subsequently, the groups award officers’ an increasing amount of discretion and freedom to rely on their individual choices as they maintain law and order. Consequently, the potential for abuse, corruption, and misconduct has increased (Young, 2011).

Police Corruption and Misconduct Case: Officers Alex Guerrero and Antonio Martinez Jr

John, Bart, Dick, Thomas, Melissa, and David assert that the Chicago Police Department has been recording cases of police corruption and misconduct after analyzing its activities for five decades. Since 2000, more than one hundred police officers from the department have been convicted of engaging in corruption. For example, the United States Attorney’s Office filed indictments against two Chicago police officers for assisting a gang steal. The officers named Alex Guerrero and Antonio Martinez Jr. were indicted for taking orders from gang leaders. They were also accused of using their police powers to harass innocent citizens either in the streets or in their homes. The indictment alleged the corrupt Chicago Police Department officers had received at least ten thousand dollars from gang leaders. Consequently, the police officers stole hundreds of pounds of drugs and guns. The police officers also stole tens of thousands of dollars. In December 2011, Martinez pleaded guilty in to charges of misconduct and corruption. In July 2012, Guerrero pleaded guilty to similar charges (Hagedorn, Kmiecik, Simpson, Gradel, Zmuda & Sterrett, 2013).

I agree with the outcomes of the case, as the police officers were guilty of corruption and misconduct. I, therefore, believe the Chicago Police Department should apply the case to take the lead in promoting professional behavior among the police officers to curb corruption. The department should also create rules and procedures punishing corrupt practices. The procedures should also be applied to reward police officers promoting integrity within the department.

Police Brutality

According to Bernice, police discretion in a democratic country is required to maintain law and order. Thus, Bernice believes exercise of discretion encourages police officers to maintain law and order inconsistently within a self-governing society. For example, the legal system can confine the powers of an officer to legal duties. More so, it can limit the officers’ ability to rely on personal discretion to exercise the police authority. The system’s power to confine and limit police officers’ authority, however, is unclear. More so, officers have been ambiguously applying acceptable and fair principles as they interact with citizens. The ethical and legal issues arising from application of officers’ discretion have also been inconsistent. Policymakers, scholars, and researchers at the American Bar Foundation sought to conceptualize discretion of police officers. They strived to examine how police officers decide to make an arrest. They also determined the courses of action constituting proper judgment in police discretion. Bernice, therefore, asserts that officers and agencies enforcing the law should be held either accountable or liable for insufficient and inconsistent personal discretions. Thus, nature of work and discretion has contributed to police brutality. For example, several police officers have been accused of using excessive force in arresting and wrongfully prosecuting African Americans (Young, 2011).

Police Brutality Case: Officer Anthony Abbate

On February 19, 2007, a law enforcing officer who was off-duty was accused of brutalizing Karolina Obrycka . He punched and kicked Karolina as she worked at Jesse’s Shortstop Inn. The police officer, Anthony Abbate, was therefore accused of attacking Karolina while she was bartending at the bar located on the Northwest side of Chicago. The officer’s police brutality was caught on camera as the bar had installed CCTV. The videotape showed Officer Abbate attacking Karolina. After watching his actions, which included punching, and kicking Karolina repeatedly, Abbate claimed she had provoked him by refusing to serve him more beverages that are alcoholic. Thus, he claimed it was self-defense although it was evident he was under the influence of alcohol. In 2009, Abbate was convicted in a state court of aggravated battery. He was sentenced to community service, anger management, and two years of probation (Hagedorn, Kmiecik, Simpson, Gradel, Zmuda & Sterrett, 2013).

On November 14, 2012, Karolina was awarded $850,000 in damages. The federal jury stated that the City of Chicago and Abbate had to be held accountable and liable for supporting police brutality. Thus, the jury recognized that police brutality caused Abbate to attack the small-bodied bartender as she worked behind the counter at the bar as he believed he would not be punished. During the trial, Karolina’s lawyer argued the code of silence has been protecting officers committing crimes and participating in police brutality for decades.  The lawyer, therefore, argued Abbate acted with impunity as he was not afraid of the consequences. He also claimed the Chicago Police Department had a history of implementing ineffective disciplinary actions against officers such as Abbate. The lawyer’s allegations convinced the jury by using the videotape to affirm police officers who responded to the attack failed to include Abbate’s name and the fact that he was a law enforcing officer in their official report (Hagedorn, Kmiecik, Simpson, Gradel, Zmuda & Sterrett, 2013).

I do not agree with the outcomes of the case. Although the bartender was compensated for being a victim of police brutality, Abbate should have severely punished. Thus, he should have imprisoned for using force and being under the influence of alcohol to enforce the law. Thus, he should have been locked up for two years rather than being served community service and a probation period. Consequently, should have completed anger management course while locked up. The officers who failed to include Abbate’s name and status as a policeman in the official police report should also have been punished. For example, they should have been put on probation for at least three years affirming the Chicago Police Department does not support police brutality.


Police corruption, misconduct, and brutality are problems affecting the United States impeding the development of police institutions and agencies. As a result, autonomous investigative commissions should be created. They should conduct investigations among police agencies, officers, and departments accused of misconduct, corruption, and brutality. Consequently, they can recommend external and internal oversights over police officers with a particular focus on integrity and ethics. Thus, the government should set contextual conditions and strategies ensuring police departments are punishing officers guilty of corruption, misconduct, and brutality.



Bayley, D., & Perito, R. (2011). Police Corruption: What past scandals teach about current challenges. United States Institute of Peace Special Report.

Hagedorn, J., Kmiecik, B., Simpson, D., Gradel, T., Zmuda, M., & Sterrett, D. (2013). Crime, Corruption and cover-ups: In the Chicago Police Department. Chicago, University of Illinois Anti-Corruption Report.

Young, B. (2011). Police discretion in contemporary America. Washington D. C., Georgetown University.