This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Please check back later for the full article.
Police corruption is a serious problem for numerous reasons. One is that police officers are often armed, and can therefore pose a physical threat to citizens in a way that most other state officials do not. Another is that citizens typically expect the police to uphold the law and be the “final port of call” in fighting crime, including that of other state officials: if law enforcement officers cannot be trusted, most citizens have nowhere else to turn to when seeking justice. Third, if citizens do not trust the police, they are much less likely to cooperate with them, resulting in higher crime rates. Finally, and in extreme cases, low levels of citizen trust in law enforcement agencies can undermine a state’s legitimacy, with all the negative knock-on effects of this.
Yet according to Transparency International’s 2017 Global Corruption Barometer, more people pay bribes to law enforcement officers globally than to any other state officials, rendering the police the most corrupt branch of the state in many countries. Police corruption comes in various forms, from relatively benign but irritating demands for bribes from motorists to improper procurement procedures and—most dangerously—collusion with organized crime gangs in the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans, and sometimes even in contract killing. One other form of miscreancy was identified in the 1980s as largely peculiar to the police, viz. “noble cause corruption.” This term, also known as the “Dirty Harry syndrome,” is applied when police officers deliberately bend or break the law not for personal benefit but in the belief that this is ultimately for the good of society. Many factors drive police corruption, including inadequate salaries, frustration with the leniency of the courts, opportunity, envy (of wealthy criminals), and simple greed. Combating it is no easy task, but methods that have significantly lowered corruption rates in countries such as Singapore and Georgia include reducing discretionary decision-making, radical re-structuring, risk assessments, greater use of psychological testing, improving working conditions, lifestyle monitoring, and introducing anti-corruption agencies that are completely independent of the police.
Badi Hasisi, Simon Perry, and Michael Wolfowicz
Over the last few decades, one of the most pressing issues for governments, societies, and the law enforcement agencies that serve and protect them has been the threat of terrorism. Given that these changes represent a relatively new area for police, it is important to understand how terrorism is best policed and what approaches, strategies, and tactics are most effective. While the evidence base is still in its developmental stages, the evidence that does exist suggests that proactive policing strategies already employed against other forms of crime are the most useful and effective for policing terrorism. Policing efforts that focus on high concentrations of crimes at places (“hotspots”), or among the high-risk offenders, and employ problem-solving perspectives and use community-based strategies show consistent evidence of effectiveness and improving relations between the police and the public. Based on this evidence, policing agencies that undertake proven, proactive strategies toward policing terrorism are better able to incorporate their new role and focus within their broader law enforcement functions. By doing so, policing agencies can expand their role and function in a way that draws on their experience and strengths, rather than “reinventing the wheel” and overstretching resources. Additionally, policing agencies from different countries can draw on their own experience and local knowledge in dealing with other forms of crime, as well as the experience of other agencies and countries, in order to develop a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to policing terrorism.
Vigilantes have arisen at many times in different regions of the world, taking the law into their own hands as defenders, often by force, of their view of the good life against those they see to be its enemies. They have a strong attraction for some commentators and they rouse equally strong hostility in others. For yet others, who attempt to take a broader view, they are a source of deep ambivalence. Academic interest in the phenomenon has grown strongly over recent years, and this has contributed significantly to an increase in knowledge of its distribution beyond the bounds of western Europe, the United States, and particularly in many parts of Africa. Although vigilantes are most commonly male, increased evidence of women’s vigilantism has also come to light in recent years.
Vigilantism is difficult to define in rigorous terms, partly because of general problems of comparative study, but there are also special reasons in this case. Vigilantism is not so much a thing in itself as a fundamentally relational phenomenon which only makes sense in relation to the formal institutions of the state. It is in several ways a frontier phenomenon, occupying an awkward borderland between law and illegality. Many of its manifestations are short-lived and unstable, nor is it always what it claims to be. For these reasons, definitions of vigilantism are best treated as an “ideal type,” which real cases may be expected to approximate to or depart from. This approach provides the possibility of comparing different cases of vigilantism and also allows one to explore the differences and similarities between it and other “dwellers in the twilight zone,” such as social bandits, mafias, guerrillas, and resistance movements.