Police corruption: Would you confront your local law enforcer?

Corruption in the police force is the top corruption issue for citizens in many countries across the world. In 31 of the 100 countries covered by our global survey, people told us the police are the most corrupt institution in their country.

Read the personal experience of TI staff who have faced the dilemmas of police corruption.

Every day around the world, too many people are stopped by the police demanding a bribe. They then face the following dilemma: Pay the bribe and you not only lose money, you encourage the policeman to ask for another bribe, and undermine the rule of law. Refuse to pay a bribe to a policeman, and they won’t help you, or worse, you risk intimidation, perhaps even violence.

But how do you stop this incident from happening? How can you tackle corruption among the people who are supposed to be preventing it?

We have looked at efforts to stamp out corruption in the police in ten countries, from the Wood Commission in New South Wales, Australia that showed that corruption was systematic, and not limited to “rotten apples”, to Afghanistan, where 25% of Afghan citizens had to bribe the police despite $29 billion spent on training and equipment.

Shakedowns and ‘Cultures of Silence’: Defining police corruption

Our new report, Arresting Corruption in the Police, presents corruption risks in police forces and examines the mixed success of reform efforts in ten countries.

The Transparency International Defence and Security Programme has had great success in developing a typology defence sector corruption and using this as a starting point for discussion with the armed forces and civil society in a number of countries, allowing people to discuss in detail a subject which is normally taboo.

This same approach has been taken in our new report, examining previous typologies, and presenting a new police corruption risk typology, complete with definitions (pages 26-27). With this, we hope that the report works on not only for comparative examples, but also acts a practical tool for those in the police and civil society who want to push for reform.

In the report, we use the typology and look at stories of police reform failure and success. In China, efforts failed because they did not secure long-lasting change. Instead  they were focused on superficial measures against individual officers – the “bad apple approach”.

Georgia had more success when, in a dramatic move, 16,000 police officers were dismissed and salaries quadrupled for the remaining force. The entire traffic force (30 000) was fired and a new one rehired.

Civil Society helping citizens confront police corruption

The report’s principal conclusion is that civil society has done too little to drive reform. There is a huge need for civil society to engage more with the issues of police corruption and reform.

Civil society organisations can be powerful tools not only in channeling public outrage of police corruption, but also in identifying concrete actions to be taken towards reform.

In preparing the report, we identified great examples of how civil society has pushed for reform of the police and involved citizens in doing it.

Transparency International Russia  ran an online campaign that influenced the content of police reform legislation.

They then made sure that the public knew what the new laws meant, particularly the fact that the police, viewed as the country’s most corrupt institution, are obliged to display identification at all times. See them take to the streets to challenge police officers to show their badge here.

Similarly, Altus, a global network of local NGOs, takes citizens to visit their local police stations and score them. The scores are then used to propose and drive reforms. During the most recent police week, 1044 stations were visited across 20 countries including the U.S.A., Brazil and Nigeria.

We hope that this report proves to be a useful tool to help those who want to tackle police corruption, both from within and outside the police, and creates debate on good approaches. Let us know what you think!

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James Cohen

About James Cohen

James Cohen is Project Officer at Transparency International's Defence and Security Programme.

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8 Responses to Police corruption: Would you confront your local law enforcer?

  1. Soumya Saxena
    soumya 30 November 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton and it holds true for the police force. Given a gun or a baton in hand, arbitary power is not a difficult thing to assume.

  2. Police Chief David Couper 1 December 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Police use of excessive force, especially deadly force, corruption and other misconduct hurts everyone – including the police — in terms of lost cooperation, support and trust – which, in turn, diminishes their effectiveness. That’s the reality. Now what? To learn how to confront and prevent it. Follow my blog at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com. And read my book.

  3. jon lemkin 18 January 2013 at 1:24 am #

    visit my website http://www.jonlemkin.com . i lost my job as a policeman protecting the rights of a civilian. if you do visit click on the ‘ relevant facts’ section

    thank you

  4. jon lemkin 18 January 2013 at 1:25 am #

    please visit my website jonlemkin.com
    see the real corruption in new jersey

  5. dr. Nagy Sándor 5 June 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Dear Sirs,

    My name is dr. Nagy Sándor, and I’m living in Budapest- Hungary.
    After reading the article about the hungarian corruption published in your journal, I decided to contact you.
    Actually the main reason for contacting you is that I was victim of abuses manifested by the hungarian police and the jurisdictional authorities .
    I’m a law graduate, and I worked before as policeman here in Budapest. Thus I daresay that I have the necessary capacity to recognize the situations in which the authorities had been committed abuses, against my person.
    I’ve to mention in advance that these complaints of mine are in connection with the attitude of nowadays of the above mentioned authorities showed in the handling of so called traffic offence’s cases. It is wellknown that the governments in all countries of the world are trying to fill up the gaps of the budgets also from incomes coming from the fines of traffic offenders. There is no problem with this, but here in Hungary this issue turned in many cases into outrageius injustices from the part of police authorities arm in arm with the competent courts.
    Unfortunately also myself I was involved in three traffic offense cases, where I can prove with certitude that I didn’t commited any offences. In spite of this in one these cases, after being exempted by the appeal court I was found as liable by the Hungarian Supreme Court as a result of an hearing in camera (where I wasn’t allowed to be present), and now I don’t have the chance to defend myself against the execution of collecting of an amount of money much higher , since I have to pay also the procedure fees.
    I’m afraid that in the other two cases they are preparing the same scenario.
    The background of these abuses is tacitly supported by the hungarian government, and there is an tendence of intimidation of those who are trying to defend themselves by means of such verdicts carried out in such hearings in cameras, where the defendants don’t have the chance to raise to speak.
    Also in the police departments the administrators of these cases are pushed by their superiors to decide by all means against the complaining peoples, and moreower to try to collect the amounts of the fines as quick as possible.
    Such way they are starting in many cases executive procedures before the cases are closed, that is, before an verdict of the competent court was issued.
    Whatsmore in two of my cases they are continuing to proceed in spite of the fact that due to an obvious loss of right based on the overstepping of the legally established terms , they should close these.
    But the most alarming is that the policeman who are supposed to know properly the rules of the hungarian Highway Code , are failing to comply with this requirement.
    This happened in all three cases in which I was involved by policemen who had been started traffic
    offence against my person being based on the photos made through the watching cameras.
    I can prove at any time with certitude that I didn’t committed any traffic offence by showing the photos of the police authorities and the related legal rules.
    From these it turns out clearly that the policemen were taken into the consideration or just the first part of the sentence containing the concerned legal rule, or they didn’t payed attention to the sentence which followed the one establishing the basic traffic offense, and such way they missed to take into consideration the texts which are constituting exceptions from the basic traffic offense situations, and therefore they should observe that I didn’t committed any traffic offense.
    Whatsmore, in the case in which I was found as liable by the Hungarian Supreme Court, I made an video shooting about the place of the occurence which proves clearly that the police authorities and the Supreme Court judges were unjust in their decisions.
    When I asked for an retrial, after she listen my argues the judge told me that she administers justice but not truth ?!
    And so, my request for retrial was rejected with the motivation that the photos made about the place of occurence (which could prove my truth and thus the fact that I didn’t committed any offence) aren’t to be accepted as new evidences ?!
    After this I tried to contact the institutions which allegedly are fighting for the rights of the abused people, but nor the hungarian ombudsmann, nor the hungarian Helsinki Comittee, nor the hungarian Minister of Justice’s office, nor the hungarian President’s office, nor the hungarian branch of Amnesty International, and nor many other organisations could help me.
    Everbody washes his hands by telling that their oraganisation isn’t dealing with complaints concerning the abuses of officialities manifested in traffic offence cases?
    I know that there are more serious problems as the refugiate cases, or the racism etc, but what about such things as abuses of the officilallities in traffic offence cases?
    What may I do? I can’t believe that nowadays int he 21-st century one has to surrend and acquiesce in these money extorting procedures, just becouse there aren’t any institutions to stop these abusive procedures !!
    As I’ve expounded above the main reason of these abuses in my opinion is the effort of these authorities to collect as much money is possible in order to fill up the gaps of the state budget.
    Howewer, sometimes I have an suspicion that these obvious occurences should be manifested directly against my person.
    Of course this is just an suspicion, and I can’t prove these statements of mine, but nevertheless I consider it important to let you know them.
    Actually, I’ve started in the autumn of 2007 an malpractice case against some Home Office Ministry’s physicians, since in 2003 I’ve lost my left kidney due to quite strange circumstances in one of the hospitals of the Hungarian Home Office Ministry.
    It is well known that these physicians are belonging to the hungarian high society, and they are having serious connections.
    I don’t wan’t to discuss this malpractice case here to long, but you have to know that I made serious efforts just to be able to start this case.
    Now the case is running, but I had to face an very biased attitude of the court and of the forensic experts involved along with their endeavours to close this case int he favour of these Home Office physicians.
    In 2012 they tried to close this case by arguing that there it isn’t known the legal successor of the hospital in which I’ve lost my kidney .
    After obtaining an statement of the Ministry of Health proving that contrary to their argues the hospital sued by me is the legal successor, and as a consequence they couldn’t close this case on this grounds, I had to experience that these traffic offense cases were renewed against my person.
    As I’ve mentioned above I can’t prove this, but sometimes arises in me the suspicion that these traffic offense cases are forced against my person just becouse I’m persisting from years in the achieving of an compensation regarding this case.
    This is my complaint in a brief, but if you would be so kind and have the patience to read the following files, you will have an more complete view about the abuses of the police an jurisdictional authorities, since in these I’m relating detailed with refrences to the concerned legal rules about the facts.
    As a final closure to this letter I would like to ask for your help in order to be able to leave Hungary, since I feel myself totally insecure against these abusive and biased acts of the hungarian authorities, and becouse I would like to fight against them without the fear to be destroyed financially or to end defamed.
    Of course I can prove the above statements with official documents and photos. Also, please see on the Youtube site the film loaded by myself under the title ,,The abuses of the hungarian jurisdiction” composed from 7 parts, in which I’m relating about the above mentioned cases.
    My contacts : Adress: 1044 Budapest, Béla street, no 3/B, ap.: 2; Tel: 00 36 30 9601 124

    Budapest 05-06-2013

    Sincerely Yours : dr. Nagy Sándor

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