Thecuriousmail’s Weblog

Police: Will the corruption and abuse of power ever end?

Posted in Uncategorized by thecuriousmail on June 23, 2017


There is  a personality type drawn to employment in a police force, there is routinely an anti-social culture inculcated in the organization, and there are all-too-regular instances of police corruption and abuse of power. The police are a unique organization, and the community expects and insists on a higher standard of behaviour, performance, and accountability.

The larger the organization, the more difficult it is to address issues. Easier to turn around a row boat than an ocean liner, so it makes sense to put a limit on the size of a police organization.

Where hiring/dismissal, disciplinary action, and promotion are solely the province of police themselves, it must change so community members have an involvement, and in fact, have a veto on any decision (community members, not politicians, with a time-limited term).  All reasoning and decisions must be made public. Part of the reasoning for this is similar to as to why jury trials are important to a democratic society.  And the community must set the remuneration. A community that has a respected police service will suitably reward them.

Inculcation begins in a police academy. If such a central training academy is retained, there must be routine and widespread community involvement in the training of new police, and the training itself needs to include education in the mind (ethics, philosophy, reasoning, history etc).

Technology exists, with body cameras and GPS tracking, where the police can be monitored/recorded during their work/non work activities. It must be utilized. GPS tracking and body cameras must be activated and recording at all times while on duty, in the case of the camera, except for toilet breaks. GPS can always show where they were located. There must be penalties, including dismissal, for not having activated, or attempting to disable or circumvent, the camera or GPS. Extensive research shows that when people think they are being watched, they are demonstrably more inclined to do the right thing.  The police are a unique organization, and the community expects and insists on a higher standard of behaviour, performance, and accountability.

The issue of recruitment is problematic, as particular negative personality types are drawn to such employment, and there is a desperate need for diversity.

There have been many articles written about the political personality types of the police. One of the most influential is the 1972 work, The Police Personality: Fact or Fiction by Robert Balch. He explores several questions in an effort to crystallize the various arguments in the research on police psychology: are authoritarian personality types more likely to choose police work as a profession? Are police more or less likely to have authoritarian personality types than the general public? Does being a police officer exacerbate authoritarian impulses?

On the topic of authoritarianism and police, Balch summarized some characteristics:

  1. Conventionalism: rigid adherence to conventional, middle-class values.
  2. Authoritarian Submission: submissive, uncritical attitude toward idealized moral authorities of the ingroup.
  3. Authoritarian Aggression: tendency to be on the lookout for, and to condemn, reject, and punish people who violate conventional values.
  4. Anti-intraception: opposition to the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded.
  5. Superstition and Stereotypy: the belief in mystical determinants of the individual’s fate; the disposition to think in rigid categories.
  6. Power and “toughness”: preoccupation with the dominance-submission, strong-weak, leader-follower dimension; identification with power figures; overemphasis upon the conventionalized attributes of the ego; exaggerated assertion of strength and toughness.
  7. Destructiveness and Cynicism: generalized hostility, vilification of the human.
  8. Projectivity: The disposition to believe that wild and dangerous things go on in the world; the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses.
  9. Sex: Exaggerated concern with sexual “goings on.”

If such personality types are attracted to police work, then there must be great efforts made to address police culture and accountability


 I went to university  in Brisbane in the eighties. Queensland then was the closest I think Australia came to a “parliamentary/police dictatorship”. 

Joh Bjelke-Petersen of the National Party was the Premier. Later, when the dust settled, 2 ministers and the police commissioner were jailed. Joh was tried for perjury, but one, one only, jury member voted for his innocence. So hung jury. That jury member was a member of the National Party! The new ALP premier (and a crook himself) decided not to re-try Joh. An Australian state premier should have gone to jail.

There was a cosy corrupt relationship between the government and the police, where the police were allowed to do what they wanted, provided they supported the government.

There was widespread evidence of police involvement in illegal gambling, drug supply and dealing, extortion, stand-over tactics and assaults, prostitution, various corruptions, perjury, and verballing and planting of evidence on suspects.

It has been said that if you think qld police didn’t kill people thru their criminal activities you are naive. And there was some political and media discussion at the time, when the ALP came into government, but it was quickly and quietly dropped, because, it was said, it would have led to a public crises of confidence in the police. Yes, it sure would have!

Qld police (indeed all police services)  have a long history of corruption, criminal and violent behaviour, and there should be independent ongoing monitoring. In the time of Joh, any good cops were mostly forced out by bent cops, both co-workers and superiors. It wasn’t a good organization with a few bad apples. It was a criminal organization with a few good cops. People who lived thru Joh’s time wonder just how much Qld police culture has changed. Indeed, concerningly, if at all.

Successive governments have stripped away powers from the crime and corruption commission, the body that investigates political and police corruption, so much so, that soon the only official watchdog will actually have no power to investigate. Brave New/Old World.

So police and politicians went to jail,  but interestingly no judges. I would have sacked them all for gross incompetence and cowardice. You know, 45kg 19yo female uni student in a street march charged with assaulting 2 90+ kg policeman. Only they’re uninjured and she has a broken nose and black eye, and there’s credible defence witnesses saying she assaulted no cop.

COP: “Yes your honour, the defendant’s face assaulted my fist.”

JUDGE: “What a lovely man you are officer.  Yes, absolutely clear to me. GUILTY! “.

Crazy times.

it might be hard to fully  appreciate now, there’s been nothing comparable since (well as widespread, maybe, hopefully, err no, that’s incorrect), but at that time Qld was a laughingstock nationally and internationally, with a police culture of corruption, abuse of power, and cover-up.

“With firmness but courtesy”? What is this nonsense (substitute local police motto)? Sounds like “it’ll hurt me more than it’ll hurt you’ (which is rarely the case). Better it were ‘we serve with honesty and without favor’, or some such thing. A police force does not serve the police department,  or the government,  or the state; it serves the community. It is the community’s wish that people not murder, rape etc, and the community tasks the police (and pays for them ) to maintain that peace. And the police are accountable to that community. Police services the world over maintain a hostility, implicit and sometimes explicit,  to the community, or parts of the community, an ‘us and them’, and a fantasy that only they as good and right can control a community evil and wrong.

This police culture must change. It can only lead to police corruption and abuse of power. Police are members of the community,  charged with maintaining peace in the whole community, always with honesty and fairness and in a prescribed manner, and answerable to the whole community. If they either cannot understand their role, or they do not accept this role, their participation as police officers is immediately at  an end.

What can be said of all police forces? A substantial number of police –more than a few or some, maybe most or nearly all– are little different from the criminals they arrest.

Research is possible by googling something  like: how many police are convicted of a criminal offence. The percentage of serving police officers with criminal convictions is about 2.5% (I have seen much higher, but never lower).  The percentage of the general population with a criminal conviction is significantly lower than this. How is it that the police, tasked with upholding the law, demonstrate a higher rate of criminality than the wider community, and how is it that a person with a criminal conviction is hired into, or maintains their position in, the police force?

In Queensland in the last 12 months, serving police officers, on duty or off duty,  have been convicted of offences including murder, extortion, rape, underage sex, assault, and drug dealing. As it is, it is right and proper for the community to demand better, and to insist on a greater control of the police force.

Lightly scratch the surface of every police force and you will find widespread corruption and abuses of power.  I believe this is due to the personality type attracted to the police force, the laughably low entry requirements, and a lack of real accountability by the police to the general community.