Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
Police and corruption is not limited to cops taking bribes to protect drug dealers, or cops demanding sexual favors from female suspects. These two examples are forms of police corruption, but they’re only a result of a more profound and systemic cycle of police corruption that emanates from the top down. You’re entering your police career during a time of change never before experienced by past generations of police officers.
In the late 1960’s and early 70’s, police departments underwent major reforms. Police departments were modernized, and organizational systems were well conceived and implemented. Police departments attained levels of efficiency and accountability that had never previously existed.
Ambition and Continuity
Today, police departments are more politicized than ever before. Police chiefs, and their obsequious minions, are more interested in their self-composed resumes describing their numerous grand accomplishments and areas of expertise. One need only divide the accomplishments and expertise by years of service to realize that most resumes are simply autobiographical self-delusions. To be fair, not all police chiefs and those high ranking minions are political hacks. After all, nothing is ever one hundred percent.
As a young person, you’re not going to have a lot of patience. You’re going to want to move as fast as you can as far as you can. It’s always been that way, but things like seniority and actual requirements for experience used to temper the overly ambitious. Continuity was maintained and change was kept within manageable boundaries.
Uncontrolled Change Breeds Police Corruption
When police leadership’s foremost concern is continuity and adherence to well organized systems of control, change can occur at a reasonable and rational pace. When change gets out of control, continuity is lost, and systems are ignored. Think of continuity and systems as a police department’s immune system. For a human being, once the immune system is damaged, the body is susceptible to any number of diseases. For a police department, a damaged immune system results in its susceptibility to numerous forms of police corruption.
Thinking Out of the Box
When you hear a police chief invoke the phrase, “thinking out of the box,” stay as far away from that police department as possible. The chief could be simply parroting the phrase, because it’s popular these days. However, if “thinking out of the box” is a philosophical center piece of that police department, you can be certain that the department is either operating in an environment of confusion or well on its way.
Once a police department is overly infected by politics, destabilization will occur at a rapid rate. You’ll see frequent personnel reassignments within the command structure and throughout the department. There will be constant implementations of new ideas and initiatives. A slavish adherence to current politically correct thought as it pertains to anything and everything will exist. There will be a general decline in competent supervision at all levels. When it gets to the point where everybody is just making it up as they go along, police corruption in all forms will flourish.
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