Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

How "Police Departments" Become Corrupt

The current issue of the New Yorker has a very sad article ("Shot by the Police in Albuquerque") about the state of the Albuquerque Police Department and the frequency at which police officers shoot and kill people that they interact with.

It mentions a paper, actually with a title slightly different from that in the article, called "How & Why a Department or Jail Becomes Corrupt."  Ostensibly it is solely about the organizational failure of police departments and jails but I would argue that the article pertains to organizational behavior and practice more generally, and failing organizations in particular (such as the DC Fire Department or to some extent, the way WMATA deals with operational failures within subway operations).

From the article:

Phase One -- Administrative Indifference Toward Integrity

It is this widespread indifference that serves as the initial breeding ground for future misconduct to begin. The daily operations of a law enforcement agency most sensitive to
mere integrity-related indifference are ignoring:

1. Poor Recruitment and Hiring
2. Placing New Employees With Poor Role Models
3. Administrative or Political Interference
4. Allowing Leaders to Role-Model Misconduct
5. Anger and Frustration
6. The Lack of Accountability
7. The Code of Silence
8. Ignoring the Personal Needs of Employees
9. Poor Employee Retention
10. Poor Promotion/Transfer Selection
11. The lack of Courage

Phase Two -- Ignoring Obvious Ethical Problems

Since it is clearly in the best interests of an administrator to prevent misconduct, why aren’t leaders more dedicated to stopping unethical behavior? In this phase of the continuum, leaders who are not committed to integrity can be categorized into three distinct levels according to their behaviors.
• At the least harmful level are administrators who don’t devote resources to enhancing or maintaining ethical standards, but are not negative role models themselves.
• The second level of severity is comprised of leaders who intentionally look the other way and ignore acts of indiscretion by workers, even though they continue to grow in severity and frequency.
• Lastly, the most despicable are those who “cover up” misconduct rather than admit the truth and attempt to rectify the situation.

Phase Three -- Hypocrisy and Fear Dominate the Culture

This phase of the continuum is only possible after an administration has orchestrated several years of indifference and deliberately ignored the ethical needs of their organization. This phase is characterized by several clear symptoms that must be resolved, or the likelihood of significant corruption is eminent.
• Fear
• Extreme Bitterness
• Hopelessness

Phase Four -- Hopelessness and Despair

This final and ultimate level of the Continuum of Corruption is dominated by the pervasive intention of most employees to now do whatever it takes to just survive. While the particular circumstances dictate the specific forms of misconduct, there are several common denominators organizations experiencing this phase usually possess..
• The administrator’s lack of knowledge regarding how to prevent unethical acts, combined with the refusal to address it, prevents any attempt to enhance integrity.
• Good, honest employees fear the corrupt, dishonest ones.
• A long tradition of ignoring misconduct has convinced employees are that leaders want misconduct covered up, rather than exposed or corrected.
• The code of silence is both condoned and privately encouraged.
• There is a predominate, unwritten priority to “keep corruption out of the newspapers” at all costs.
• Employees who should be fired, arrested and decertified are allowed to quietly resign,
• Chief administrators believe they would be fired if the truth about corruption were known, so they hide misconduct rather than try to resolve it.
• No one thinks the situation will get any better


Solution One – Ensure Quality Recruitment and Background Investigations
Solution Two - Have A High Quality FTO Program
Solution Three – Fight Political Interference
Solution Four – Ensure Consistent, Fair Accountability
Solution Five – Conduct Effective Career Survival Training
Solution Six – Accept Nothing Less than Positive Leadership Role Models
Solution Six – Accept Nothing Less than Positive Leadership Role Models
Solution Seven – Prevent Officers From Becoming Angry and Bitter
Solution Eight – Implement An Effective Employee Intervention Process
Solution Nine - Training so that it is second nature for officers to step in and intevene at the first sign of misconduct
Solution Ten – Make Character and Role-Modeling Highest Consideration For Promotion


The piece mentions The Continuum of Compromise® as developed by Kevin Gilmartin and Jack Harris. It is a framework "for understanding and teaching how the transition from "honest cop" to "compromised officer" can occur."

The Continuum of Compromise

A Perceived Sense of Victimization can lead to the

Rationalization & Justification of:

Acts of Omission

Acts of Commission - Administrative

Act of Commission - Criminal

Entitlement versus Accountability

Loyalty versus Integrity

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