Tag Archive: police corruption


You must have heard of the rotten apple fairy tale. You know how it goes. It’s the standard establishment explanation for corruption or incompetence: He/she’s a rotten apple in an otherwise clean barrel. According to this theory, rotten apples are either weak assholes in the guise of human beings who have slipped through organisational screening processes and succumbed to the temptations inherent in positions of power, or deviant individuals who continue their deviance in an environment that gives them ample opportunity so to do.

Police departments, governments and the military tend to use the rotten apple theory, or some variation of it, to minimize public backlash after every exposed atrocity or act of corruption or incompetence.

Another approach is the occupational socialization explanation, the polar opposite of rotten apple theory — rotten barrel theory, if you will. According to this view, the very structure of front-line agencies of the state provides ample opportunity to learn the entrenched patterns of deviant power-based conduct that have been passed down through generations.

A functional explanation may be closer to the truth: corruption and institutionalised barbarism may be inherent in society’s attempts to enforce unenforceable laws and undesirable hegemonies.

The footage below pertains to the current US adventure in Iraq but it could, mutatis mutandis, be about Vietnam, Somalia, or the war against the American people at home.

Click here to watch it.

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Slippery Slope

(First published in May 2006)

Imagine there’s a small town somewhere out in the boondocks. Call it Raggedy End or Shimmering Stone, Dodge City or Nottingham, London, Barnsley, New York…

I’ve got it – let’s call it Slippery Slope.

Now let’s take it out of the boonies and place it in the secret centre of Your Town Anywhere, USA, UK or U Name It.

It exists, it’s a city within a city, it’s Cop Town and the potential for gradual deterioration of moral inhibitions hits you as soon as you arrive, the perceived sense of permissibility for deviant conduct is in the air you inhale at the coach stop as you wait to collect your bags.

There are cops everywhere. This is where they live, where they rest, where they internalise the conditions in which they work, conditions that don’t measure up to the rigours of the usual comfort zones, the ones to which we normal people have become accustomed.

In Slippery Slope cops can be cops.

Undercover work?

False identity and crime inducement?

Every day activities, son, like taking the kids to school or mowing the lawn.

Feeding disinformation to the media?

Making false promises to hostage takers and kidnappers?

Interviewing witnesses with a hidden agenda?

Employing deceptive interrogation techniques?

Making all kinds of excuses to avoid responding to “difficult to solve” crime reports?

Trading days off?

Selling desireable work assignments?

All quotidian aspects of life as a cop in Slippery Slope.

Imagine being a cop: you don’t make much money but you’ve got a heck of a lot of power.

So you learn how to play the game, how to angle yourself into cases requiring court appearances so you can put in for the overtime, how to strain the truth in order (at first) to protect loved ones and crime victims to whom you’re sympathetic, how to bend those skills towards more profitable activity.

Come on, all the guys do it, it’s called being a cop, for feck sake what you gonna do?

You come across more cash on a narcotics bust than the gross national product of some small countries… You gonna hand it over?

No way, my friend, I’ll tell you what your gonna do, what you gotta do.

It’s called the Four-way Shakedown. First you secure the cash, spread some of it around to make sure your buddies are sweet; then you seize the product; then you sell the product; then you arrest your customers for buying the product…

That’s what cops do, son, and in Slippery Slope you don’t have to feel bad about it, any of it.

Routine invasion of privacy via covert surveillance?

It’s like going to the bathroom.

Behaviour inconsistent with norms, values or ethics?

What norms? What values? What ethics?

Forbidden acts involving misuse of office for gain?

Oh yeah!

Wrongdoings, violations of departmental procedure?

Only way to get the job done, son.

Unfair bias towards family or friends?

Well if you can’t look after your own, right…?  

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