Posted by Sponsored Post Posted on 9 February 2023

Police Misconduct: Spreading Like a Disease

Police officers are supposed to be men who care about justice and who are always fair and willing to help. Unfortunately, this is not always the case – while some proudly wear their badge and flaunt it whenever they get the chance, only a select amount actually deserve it. 

Police misconduct is spreading like wildfire now, as we keep hearing about police officers being dishonest, abusing their authority, torturing people to force confessions, being fraudulent, using brutality, and so on. 

The bad news is that things don’t seem to be getting better anytime soon. In fact, according to a recent study, when officers in a working group have records of misconduct, the chances of those around them being accused of misconduct grow considerably. 

So, why is police misconduct spreading like a disease?

What the Data Says

A team of economists performed a study to find out why the colleagues of police officers who have a history of misconduct will slowly start misbehaving themselves. 

Now, just like many others said, it is difficult to find out accurate data that shows how police misconduct spreads in reality. At the same time, this new study gives us some numbers that provide insight into how much faster misconduct is transmitted around when one member of the group has already done it. 

Generally speaking, researchers pay attention to certain data patterns, such as how certain things increase or spread when people are surrounded by others who do specific things or have specific habits. 

But instead of following the same pattern, Edika Quispe-Torreblanca, a University of Oxford economist and a University of Warwick graduate, decided to pay attention to trends in 4 years of the London Metropolitan Police Service data. When she and her adviser Neil Stewart spoke to the deputy commissioner, they asked him what he was most concerned about when it came to his department, and he said “misconduct”.

Stewart and Quispe-Torreblanca then had to look through 35,924 personnel files belonging to staff and officers. As many as 15,000 had at least a complaint made against them. 

While in some cases the complaints were simply things like police officers using computer databases to look up their siblings’ new partner to find out if he or she has done bad things in the past, other complaints were more serious. 

Then, the two looked at something else. They checked the number of complaints made against the first and second co-worker groups of each person that received different colleague sets. 

When the numbers became higher than average and then increased when the officer moved from the first group to the second one, the researchers assumed that this was a causal relationship – therefore, the police officer that was linked to them was the reason for the misconduct. 

Results have shown that for every increase in complaints by 10% against the first colleague set, the complaints increased by almost 8% for the second group. As such, it reveals how easily police misconduct can spread. 

What Is the Solution?

Improving policing when it comes to police misconduct can be very complicated. 

One obvious solution would seem to be the removal of police officers with offenses. However, permanently getting rid of bad police department actors is easier said than done. According to Yale researchers, many police officers who lose their jobs due to misconduct end up working for another department that hires them despite their bad behavior. 

Then, this behavior could once again spread to the sets of colleagues they work with. 

Therefore, in order to prevent police misconduct from occurring and then spreading throughout police departments, policymakers and researchers recommended establishing a police behavior national registry. This way, misconduct among officers could be documented and then used by leaders of police departments and policymakers when making decisions regarding training and hiring. 

At the moment, there is the National Decertification Index, which has information about officers who were involved in very severe misconduct. The Index has the purpose to prevent such officers from being hired again by departments that do not know about their bad behavior. At the same time, there are forms of misconduct that sadly do not lead to decertification, like using too much force or doing illegal searches. 

While having a police behavior national registry would be great, there could be some difficulties in establishing it. Every police department follows different complaint record protocols, while there is infrequent adoption of civilian review board recommendations. 

Final Thoughts

Data shows that police misconduct can easily spread throughout police departments. If you’re ever a victim of personal injury caused by a police officer, you can file your complaint within 2 years after the injury. 

For example, in Colorado, there were more than 1,300 police misconduct complaints made by civilians between 2016 and 2021. 13% of these complaints were ruled in favor of the person filing them. If you are ever a victim of police misconduct in Colorado and end up injured, make sure to reach out to Grand Junction personal injury lawyers or other lawyers in your area to help with your case.

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