Theories Regarding Public Corruption Explained

Society-at-large hypothesis

Orlando Winfield Wilson noted that society contributes in corrupting public officers (Normore and Fitch, 2011). This was by observing that the Chicago Police department was suffering massive corruption because the society was extending gratuities to police officers. To perform their jobs, police officers came to expect the gratuities for their services the same way waiters, valets and bellhops expect tips. Wilson averred that the services the general public was offering gratuities for could be purchased by criminals at larger amounts.  By offering gratuities to officers, society opens a door for officers to accept big money in exchange for big favors, with the concomitant corruption among public officers.

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Moreover if some sectors of the society are corrupt, public officers in other sectors will subsequently have no qualms being corrupt (McCartney and Parent, 2015). For example, if a judge or politician is exposed as accepting bribes, a police officer will be encouraged to be corrupt too.

Structural or affiliation hypothesis

This hypothesis as espoused by Arthur Niederhoffer avers that in an organization, there is a top-down movement of values (Normore and Fitch, 2011). This is by leaders trendsetting the values, good or bad, which then trickle down to the rank and file. Hence, ineffective and corrupt leaders transmit ineffectiveness and corruption to those they lead. For example, police rookies will watch how the experienced officers carry out their duties. If they are corrupt, the rookies will pick up this behavior and later pass it on to others who join the department.

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Moreover, the leaders consequently shield their staff by not exposing the corrupt activities in the department hence perpetuating the corruption cycle. The secretive nature of police work further encourages corruption within departments (Petrocelli, 2006).

Rotten apple hypothesis

Dellatre argues that there are people who are just bad by nature. This could be because of their upbringing, peer pressure or a pursuance of associated benefits. Such corrupt rotten apples find their way into the police force through “indiscriminate hiring, inadequate training and poor supervision” (Normore and Fitch, 2011).

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A rotten apple in the police department will engage in criminal activities such as bribery, robbery and or murder. The rotten apple is bound to affect the rest of the group negatively, especially rookies who will be influenced to pick up the habits of the more experienced corruption officers. Too many rotten apples spoil the bunch by lowering the professional standards, turning the police department into a corruption den and reducing the officers into a gang of thugs(McCartney and Parent, 2015).

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In conclusion, corruption among public officers is criminal and unconstitutional and starts with innocuous acts such as accepting gratuities but escalates once the officer sets off on the slippery slope. The society, affiliation and rotten apples enhance the individual or departmental slide down the slippery slope. It is hence important for the society to impinge good values among its members through suitable upbringing, good education and positive peer pressure. Leaders of affiliations should be people of integrity that promote good values among the rank and file. Rotten apples should be weeded out or reformed through proper vetting, training and supervision.

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