Law Enforcement:

Information on Drug-Related Police Corruption

GGD-98-111: Published: May 28, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 1998.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the impact of drug trafficking on the corruption of police in large cities that have a high incidence of drug trafficking and drug abuse, focusing on the: (1) nature and extent of known drug-related police corruption in certain large cities; (2) factors associated with known drug-related police corruption; and (3) practices that have been recommended or implemented to prevent or detect drug-related police corruption.

GAO noted that: (1) drug-related police corruption differs in a variety of ways from other types of police corruption; (2) in addition to protecting criminals or ignoring their activities, officers involved in drug-related corruption were more likely to be actively involved in the commission of a variety of crimes, including stealing drugs and money from drug dealers, selling drugs, and lying under oath about illegal searches; (3) although profit was found to be a motive common to traditional and drug-related police corruption, New York City's Mollen Commission identified power and vigilante justice as two additional motives for drug-related police corruption; (4) the most commonly identified pattern of drug-related police corruption involved small groups of officers who protected and assisted each other in criminal activities, rather than the traditional patterns of non-drug-related police corruption that involved just a few isolated individuals or systemic corruption pervading an entire police department or precinct; (5) federal agencies either do not maintain data specifically on drug-related police corruption or maintain data only on cases in which the respective agency is involved; (6) the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provided GAO with data on FBI-led drug-related corruption cases involving state and local law enforcement officers; (7) however, since the total number of drug-related police corruption cases at all levels of government is unknown, the proportion constituted by FBI cases also is unknown; (8) one commonly identified factor associated with drug-related corruption was a police culture that was characterized by a code of silence, unquestioned loyalty to other officers, and cynicism about the criminal justice system; (9) officers lacking in experience and some higher education were considered to be more susceptible to involvement in illicit drug-related activities; (10) GAO's sources also identified practices that they believed could prevent or detect drug-related police corruption; (11) these practices, although often directed toward combatting police corruption in general, also were viewed as effective steps toward specifically addressing drug-related police corruption; (12) the detection practices GAO's sources discussed included integrity testing, early warning systems to identify potential problem officers, and proactive investigations of individual officers or precincts with a high number of corruption complaints; and (13) lastly, GAO identified several federal initiatives that were directed toward assisting state and local governments in preventing and detecting police corruption.

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