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Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice

National Institute of Justice

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f
Julie E. Samuels, Acting Director May 2000

Issues and Findings The Measurement of Police Integrity

Discussed in this Brief: Research ex-
ploring police officers understanding of By Carl B. Klockars, Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovich, William E. Harver, and Maria R. Haberfeld
agency rules concerning police miscon-
duct and the extent of their support for As the history of virtually every police individual approach, sometimes called
these rules. The survey also considered agency attests, policing is an occupation the bad apple theory of police corrup-
officers opinions about appropriate
that is rife with opportunities for miscon- tion, has been subject to severe criticism
punishment for misconduct, their famil-
duct. Policing is a highly discretionary, in recent years.
iarity with the expected disciplinary
threat, their perceptions of disciplinary
coercive activity that routinely takes
place in private settings, out of the sight This Research in Brief summarizes a
fairness, and their willingness to report
of supervisors, and in the presence of wit- study that measured police integrity in 30
misconduct. The results of this survey
nesses who are often regarded as unreli- police agencies across the United States.
have important implications for re-
searchers and policymakers, as well as able. Corruptionthe abuse of police The study was based on an organiza-
for police practitioners. authority for gainis one type of mis- tional/occupational approach to police
conduct that has been particularly prob- corruption. Researchers asked officers
Key issues: Until recently, most stud- for their opinions about 11 hypothetical
lematic. The difficulties of controlling
ies of police corruption were based cases of police misconduct and measured
on a traditional administrative ap- corruption can be traced to several fac-
tors: the reluctance of police officers to how seriously officers regarded police
proachone that views the problem
report corrupt activities by their fellow corruption, how willing they were to sup-
of corruption primarily as a reflection
of the moral defects of individual po- officers (also known as The Code, The port its punishment, and how willing they
lice officers. This research, however, is Code of Silence, or The Blue Curtain), were to report it. The survey found sub-
based on the organizational theory of the reluctance of police administrators to stantial differences in the environments
police corruption, which emphasizes acknowledge the existence of corruption of integrity among the agencies studied.
the importance of organizational and in their agencies, the benefits of the typi- The more serious the officers considered
occupational culture. a behavior to be, the more likely they
cal corrupt transaction to the parties in-
volved, and the lack of immediate victims were to believe that more severe disci-
Researchers asked officers in 30 U.S.
willing to report corruption. pline was appropriate, and the more will-
police agencies for their opinions about
various hypothetical cases of police mis- ing they were to report a colleague for
conduct, thereby avoiding the resis- Until recently, police administrators engaging in that behavior.
tance that direct inquiries about corrupt viewed corruption primarily as a reflec-
behavior would likely provoke. The sur- tion of the moral defects of individual Contemporary approaches
vey measured how seriously officers re- police officers. They fought corruption to corruption
garded police corruption, how willing by carefully screening applicants for po-
they were to report it, and how willing lice positions and aggressively pursuing Pioneered by Herman Goldstein,1 con-
they were to support punishment. By morally defective officers in an attempt temporary theories of police corruption
analyzing officers responses to the sur- are based on four organizational and
to remove them from their positions be-
vey questions, researchers were able to occupational dimensions. Each is
fore their corrupt behavior had spread
rank the police agencies according to described below.
their environments of integrity. The ca- through the agency. This administrative/
pacity to measure integrity in this way is
especially significant for police adminis-
trators, who, this research suggests,
may be able to influence and cultivate
R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

Issues and Findings Organizational rules. The first dimen- only among police agencies but also
continued sion concerns how the organizational within police agencies. Particularly in
rules that govern corruption are estab- large police agencies, the occupational
environments of integrity within their
lished, communicated, and understood. In culture of integrity may differ substan-
the United States, where police agencies tially among precincts, service areas,
Key findings: Based on officers are highly decentralized, police organiza- task forces, and work groups.
responses to questions relating to 11 tions differ markedly in the types of ac-
hypothetical case scenarios involving tivities they officially prohibit as corrupt Public expectations. The fourth dimen-
police officers engaged in a range of behavior. This is particularly true of mar- sion of police corruption that contemporary
corrupt behavior, the following con- police theory emphasizes is the influence
ginally corrupt or mala prohibita behav-
clusions emerged: of the social, economic, and political envi-
ior, such as off-duty employment and
acceptance of favors, small gifts, free ronments in which police institutions, sys-
In assessing the 11 cases of po-
lice misconduct, officers considered meals, and discounts. Further complicat- tems, and agencies operate. For example,
some types to be significantly less ing the problem, the official policy of some jurisdictions in the United States
serious than others. many agencies formally prohibits such have long, virtually uninterrupted tradi-
activities while their unofficial policy, tions of police corruption. Other jurisdic-
The more serious the officers tions have equally long traditions of
perceived a behavior to be, the supported firmly but silently by supervi-
sors and administrators, is to permit and minimal corruption, while still others have
more likely they were to think that
ignore such behavior so long as it is lim- experienced repeated cycles of scandal
more severe discipline was appro-
priate, and the more willing they ited in scope and conducted discreetly. and reform. Such histories indicate that
were to report a colleague who public expectations about police integrity
had engaged in such behavior. Prevention and control mechanisms. exert vastly different pressures on police
The second dimension of corruption em- agencies in different jurisdictions. These
Police officers evaluations of the phasized in contemporary approaches is experiences also suggest that public pres-
appropriate and expected discipline the wide range of mechanisms that police sures to confront and combat corruption
for various types of misconduct were
agencies employ to prevent and control may be successfully resisted.
very similar; the majority of police
officers regarded the expected disci-
corruption. Examples include education
pline as fair. in ethics, proactive and reactive investi- Methodological challenges to
gation of corruption, integrity testing, and the study of police corruption
A majority of police officers said corruption deterrence through the disci-
that they would not report a fellow pline of offenders. The extent to which Although many theories can be applied to
officer who had engaged in what agencies use such organizational anticor- the study of police corruption, the contem-
they regarded as less serious mis- porary organizational/occupational culture
ruption techniques varies greatly.
conduct (for example, operating an theory has an important advantage over the
off-duty security business; accepting The Code. The third dimension of cor- traditional administrative/individual bad-
free gifts, meals, and discounts; or ruption, inherent in the occupational cul- apple theory: The organizational/occupa-
having a minor accident while driv-
ture of policing, is The Code or The Blue tional approach is much more amenable
ing under the influence of alcohol.
Curtain that informally prohibits or dis- to systematic, quantitative research.
At the same time, most police courages police officers from reporting the
officers indicated that they would misconduct of their colleagues. The pa- Corruption is extremely difficult to study
report a colleague who stole from rameters of The Codeprecisely what be- in a direct, quantitative, and empirical
a found wallet or a burglary scene, havior it covers and to whom its benefits manner. Because most incidents of cor-
accepted a bribe or kickback, or are extendedvary among police agen- ruption are never reported or recorded,
used excessive force on a car thief official data on corruption are best re-
cies. For example, The Code may apply to
after a foot pursuit. garded as measures of a police agencys
only low-level corruption in some agen-
cies and to the most serious corruption in anticorruption activity, not the actual
The survey found substantial differ-
ences in the environment of integrity others. Furthermore, whom and what The level of corruption. Even with assurances
among the 30 agencies in the sample. Code covers can vary substantially not of confidentiality, police officers are un-

Target audience: Criminal justice

researchers and policymakers, legis-
lators, police administrators, police
officers, and educators. 2
R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

likely to be willing to report their own seriously officers regard misconduct, responses to the survey questions
or another officers corrupt activities. how amenable they are to supporting suggests that all six integrity-related
punishment, and how willing they are questions measured the same phe-
Unlike the administrative/individual to tolerate misconduct in silence. nomenonthe degree of police intol-
approach, an organizational/occupa- erance for corrupt behavior.
tional culture approach to the study of In an effort to measure the occupational
police integrity involves questions of culture of police integrity, a systematic, Offense seriousness. The 11 case
fact and opinion that can be explored standardized, and quantitative survey scenarios fall into 3 categories of per-
directly, without arousing the resis- questionnaire was designed and pre- ceived seriousness. Four cases were
tance that direct inquiries about cor- tested. The survey sought information not considered very serious by police
rupt behavior are likely to provoke. in key areas that constitute the founda- respondents: Case 1, off-duty opera-
Using this approach, it is possible to tion of an occupational/organizational tion of a security system business;
ask nonthreatening questions about culture theory of police integrity. At the Case 2, receipt of free meals; Case 4,
officers knowledge of agency rules and same time, the survey responses could receipt of holiday gifts; and Case 8,
their opinions about the seriousness of be used to satisfy certain basic informa- coverup of a police accident that in-
particular violations, the punishment tional needs of practical police admin- volved driving under the influence of
that such violations would warrant or istration. The survey attempted to alcohol (DUI). The majority of police
actually receive, and their estimates of answer the following questions: respondents, in fact, reported that the
how willing officers would be to report Do officers in this agency know the operation of an off-duty security sys-
such misconduct. rules governing police misconduct? tem business (Case 1) was not a viola-
tion of agency policy. Respondents
Moreover, sharply different goals and How strongly do they support those considered four other cases of miscon-
visions of police integrity characterize rules? duct to be at an intermediate level of
these two approaches to understanding seriousness: Case 10, the use of exces-
corruption. The administrative/indi- Do officers know what disciplinary
threat they face if they violate those sive force on a car thief following a
vidual theory of corruption envisions foot pursuit; Case 7, a supervisor who
the police agency of integrity as one rules?
offers a subordinate time off during
from which all morally defective indi- Do they think the discipline is fair? holidays in exchange for tuning up his
vidual officers have been removed and personal car; Case 9, acceptance of
How willing are they to report
in which vigilance is maintained to pre- free drinks in exchange for ignoring
vent their entry or emergence. By con- a late bar closing; and Case 6, receipt
trast, the organizational/occupational For a more detailed description of the of a kickback. Respondents regarded
culture theory envisions the police survey methodology and samples, see the remaining three casesthose that
agency of integrity as one whose culture Survey Design and Methodology. The involved stealing from a found wallet
is highly intolerant of corruption. actions taken to enhance the legitimacy (Case 11), accepting a money bribe
of the survey results are discussed in (Case 3), and stealing a watch at a
Methodologically, the consequences of
Validity of Survey Responses. crime scene (Case 5)as very serious
these two visions are critical. For ex-
ample, although it may be possible to offenses.
use an administrative/individual ap- Survey results
Discipline. In general, police officers
proach to measure the level of corrupt The results of the survey, reported in thought that the four cases they re-
behavior, the number of morally defec- exhibit 1, show that the more serious garded as not very serious warranted
tive police officers, and an agencys a particular behavior was considered little or no discipline. Officers thought
vigilance in discovering misconduct, by police officers, the more severely that the four cases involving an inter-
the obstacles to doing so are enormous. they thought it should and would be mediate level of seriousness merited a
Using an organizational/occupational punished, and the more willing they written reprimand or a period of sus-
culture approach, by contrast, modern were to report it. The extraordinarily pension, and that the three very seri-
social science can easily measure how high rank-order correlation among the ous cases merited dismissal.

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

Survey Design and Methodology

C ase scenarios. The survey ques-

tionnaire presented officers with 11 hy-
(see exhibit B). Six of these questions were de-
signed to assess the normative inclination of
police to resist temptations to abuse the
Two related to severity of discipline
one addressed the discipline the respon-
dent felt the behavior should receive
pothetical case scenarios. Displayed in
exhibit A, the scenarios cover a range of rights and privileges of their occupation. To and the other addressed the discipline
activities, from those that merely give an measure this dimension of police integrity, the the officer felt it would receive.
appearance of conflict of interest (Case 1) six questions were paired as follows:
to incidents of bribery (Case 3) and theft Two concerned willingness to report
(Cases 5 and 11). One scenario (Case 10) Two questions pertained to the serious- the misconductone addressed the
described the use of excessive force on a ness of each caseone addressed the respondents own willingness to
car thief. respondents own view and the other report it, and the other concerned
concerned the respondents perception the respondents perception of other
Respondents were asked to evaluate each of the views of other officers. officers willingness to report it.
scenario by answering seven questions
The remaining question asked respon-
dents whether the behavior described
Exhibit A. Case scenarios in the scenario was a violation of the
agencys official policy.
Case 1. A police officer runs his own private business in which he sells and installs security
devices, such as alarms, special locks, etc. He does this work during his off-duty hours.
The incidents described in the scenarios
Case 2. A police officer routinely accepts free meals, cigarettes, and other items of small value were not only plausible and common
from merchants on his beat. He does not solicit these gifts and is careful not to abuse
the generosity of those who give gifts to him. forms of police misconduct, but ones that
were uncomplicated by details that might
Case 3. A police officer stops a motorist for speeding. The officer agrees to accept a personal
gift of half of the amount of the fine in exchange for not issuing a citation. introduce ambiguity into either the inter-
pretation of the behavior or the motive
Case 4. A police officer is widely liked in the community, and on holidays local merchants and
restaurant and bar owners show their appreciation for his attention by giving him gifts of the officer depicted in the scenario.
of food and liquor. Some scenarios were based on published
Case 5. A police officer discovers a burglary of a jewelry shop. The display cases are smashed, studies that had employed a case scenario
and it is obvious that many items have been taken. While searching the shop, he takes approach.a Others drew on the experience
a watch, worth about 2 days pay for that officer. He reports that the watch had been
of the authors. Respondents were asked
stolen during the burglary.
to assume that the officer depicted in each
Case 6. A police officer has a private arrangement with a local auto body shop to refer the
owners of cars damaged in accidents to the shop. In exchange for each referral,
scenario had been a police officer for 5
he receives payment of 5 percent of the repair bill from the shop owner. years and had a satisfactory work record
Case 7. A police officer, who happens to be a very good auto mechanic, is scheduled to work
with no history of disciplinary problems.
during coming holidays. A supervisor offers to give him these days off, if he agrees to
tune up his supervisors personal car. Evaluate the supervisors behavior. Survey sample. The sample consisted of
Case 8. At 2:00 a.m., a police officer, who is on duty, is driving his patrol car on a deserted 3,235 officers from 30 U.S. police agen-
road. He sees a vehicle that has been driven off the road and is stuck in a ditch. He cies. Although these agencies were drawn
approaches the vehicle and observes that the driver is not hurt but is obviously intoxi- from across the Nation and the sample
cated. He also finds that the driver is a police officer. Instead of reporting this accident
and offense, he transports the driver to his home.
was quite large, it was nonetheless a con-
venience sample, not a representative
Case 9. A police officer finds a bar on his beat that is still serving drinks a half-hour past its
legal closing time. Instead of reporting this violation, the police officer agrees to sample. The characteristics of the officers
accept a couple of free drinks from the owner. in this sample are summarized in exhibit C.
Case 10. Two police officers on foot patrol surprise a man who is attempting to break into an The majority of the police officers surveyed
automobile. The man flees. They chase him for about two blocks before apprehending were employed in patrol or traffic units
him by tackling him and wrestling him to the ground. After he is under control, both (63.1 percent). The overwhelming majority
officers punch him a couple of times in the stomach as punishment for fleeing and
resisting. of respondents were line officers; only
one of five police officers was a supervisor.
Case 11. A police officer finds a wallet in a parking lot. It contains an amount of money
equivalent to a full days pay for that officer. He reports the wallet as lost property The mean length of service for the entire
but keeps the money for himself. sample was 10.3 years.

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

The sample has some biases, including

Exhibit B. Case scenario assessment options
overrepresentation of particular types of
police agencies and particular regions of 1. How serious do YOU consider this behavior to be?
the country. Because it includes no State Not at all serious Very serious
police agencies, only one sheriffs agency, 1 2 3 4 5
and only one county police agency, the 2. How serious do MOST POLICE OFFICERS IN YOUR AGENCY consider this behavior to be?
sample overrepresents municipal police Not at all serious Very serious
agencies. The sample also overrepresents 1 2 3 4 5
police agencies from the Northeast. Al-
3. Would this behavior be regarded as a violation of official policy in your agency?
though the sample does include agencies
Definitely not Definitely yes
from the South, Southeast, and Southwest, 1 2 3 4 5
it does not include agencies from the West,
Northwest, or Midwest. 4. If an officer in your agency engaged in this behavior and was discovered doing so, what if
any discipline do YOU think SHOULD follow?
The sample likely has another bias because 1. NONE 4. PERIOD OF SUSPENSION WITHOUT PAY
not all agencies that were asked to partici- 2. VERBAL REPRIMAND 5. DEMOTION IN RANK
pate in the study accepted the invitation.
The reason for an agencys refusal to par- 5. If an officer in your agency engaged in this behavior and was discovered doing so, what if
ticipate could include a fear of revealing any discipline do YOU think WOULD follow?
something untoward. Agencies declined 1. NONE 4. PERIOD OF SUSPENSION WITHOUT PAY
to participate despite assurances that their 2. VERBAL REPRIMAND 5. DEMOTION IN RANK
participation in the survey would be kept 3. WRITTEN REPRIMAND 6. DISMISSAL
confidential; that all individual respondents 6. Do you think YOU would report a fellow police officer who engaged in this behavior?
would remain anonymous; and that re- Definitely not Definitely yes
spondents would be asked about only 1 2 3 4 5
their opinions, not any actual misconduct. 7. Do you think MOST POLICE OFFICERS IN YOUR AGENCY would report a fellow
police officer who engaged in this behavior?
Nevertheless, the sample includes some Definitely not Definitely yes
seriously troubled police agencies. Key 1 2 3 4 5
contacts in a number of such agencies,
including senior officers and high-ranking
union officials, exercised sufficient influ-
ence to arrange the participation of these
agencies in the survey. Exhibit C. Characteristics of the police agency sample

a. A number of studies of police corruption Mean

have employed a research strategy that asked Agency Size Percentage Percentage Length of
police officers to evaluate hypothetical corrup- (number of of National Sample Supervisory Patrol/ Service
tion scenarios. These include Fishman, Janet sworn officers) Sample Size Percentage Traffic (in years)
E., Measuring Police Corruption, New York:
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 1978; Very Large (500+) 59.9 1,937 14.8 64.2 9.18
Martin, Christine, Illinois Municipal Officers
Perceptions of Police Ethics, Chicago: Illinois Large (201500) 19.7 638 23.2 60.3 12.05
Criminal Justice Information Authority, 1994;
Huon, Gail F., Beryl L. Hesketh, Mark G. Frank, Medium (76200) 9.0 292 29.9 59.0 12.29
Kevin M. McConkey, and G.M. McGrath, Per-
Small (2575) 8.5 275 30.8 66.1 11.70
ceptions of Ethical Dilemmas, Payneham, Aus-
tralia: National Police Research Unit, 1995; Very Small (<25) 2.9 93 35.9 64.8 11.29
and Miller, Larry S., and Michael C. Braswell,
Police Perceptions of Ethical Decision- Total/Average 100.0 3,235 19.8 63.1 10.30
Making: The Ideal vs. The Real, American
Journal of Police 27 (1992): 2745.

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

Validity of Survey Responses

T he validity of the surveys results

hinges on the honesty of police officers
service, would make it possible to identify
supervisors. Some officers, for example,
might have been inclined to report that
when responding to the survey questions. certain types of misconduct were more
In addition, at the end of the survey,
Several steps were taken to enhance the serious than they actually thought them
each police respondent was asked two
legitimacy of the survey results. First, offic- to be. At the same time, however, these
questions about the validity of the re-
ers were asked only about their attitudes, officers would be unlikely to report that
sponses. The first was Do you think
not about their actual behavior or the ac- misconduct should be punished more
most police officers would give their
tual behavior of other police officers. They severely than they thought appropriate
honest opinion in filling out this ques-
also were assured that their responses because of the possibility that they might
tionnaire? The second was Did you?
would remain confidential, although po- one day be subject to such discipline, if
In answer to the first question, 84.4 per-
lice respondents are naturally suspicious of administrators believed that they were
cent of police respondents reported that
such promises. recommending it.
they thought most officers would an-
To further allay officers fears that their swer the questions honestly, and 97.8 Furthermore, if any substantial manipula-
identities might be discovered, they were percent reported that they themselves tion of answers had occurred, it would
asked only minimal background questions: had done so. The responses of the 2.2 have been evident in differences in corre-
their rank, length of service, and assign- percent of police officers who reported lation coefficients among the questions
ment and whether they held a supervisory that they had not answered the ques- about seriousness, discipline, and willing-
position. They were not asked standard tions honestly were discarded when the ness to report. In fact, the rank order
questions about age, race, gender, or survey results were analyzed. correlation between all six questions is
ethnicity in an effort to assuage fears that The survey questions also were designed extraordinarily high. Indeed, one could
disclosing such information, in combination to minimize any temptation for officers to predict with great accuracy the ranking of
with their rank, assignment, and length of manipulate responses to create a favor- a scenario on any one of the six questions
able impression on the public or on their by knowing the ranking for any other.

To measure how officers perceived four cases, including three that offic- they would report3 a fellow police of-
the fairness of discipline, the scores ers considered not seriousCase 2 ficer who had engaged in behavior they
on the discipline would receive (accepting free meals and discounts deemed to be at an intermediate or high
scale were subtracted from the scores on the beat), Case 4 (accepting holi- level of seriousness.
on the discipline should receive day gifts), Case 8 (coverup of police
scale. A difference of zero was inter- DUI), and Case 10 (excessive force on Agency contrasts in the
preted to mean that the respondent car thief)more than 20 percent of culture of integrity
thought the discipline was fair. If the police officers believed that the disci-
difference was greater than zero pline administered by their agencies Measurements of the inclination of U.S.
(positive), the respondent thought that would be too harsh. police to resist temptations to abuse the
the discipline was too lenient. Con- rights and privileges of their occupation
versely, if the difference was less Parameters of The Code. An exami- are likely to prove useful for academic,
than zero (negative), the respondent nation of the parameters of The Code of historical, and cross-cultural studies of
thought that the discipline was too Silence, as revealed in the responses of police.4 For police administrators, how-
harsh.2 In 7 of the 11 cases, the over- police officers in the sample, indicated ever, measurements of the culture of in-
whelming majority of police officers that the majority would not report a po- tegrity of individual police agencies are
in the sample thought that the disci- lice colleague who had engaged in be- more relevant than national averages,
pline that would be imposed was in havior described in the four scenarios which often mask significant differ-
the fair range. But in the remaining considered the least serious. At the ences among agencies.
same time, a majority indicated that

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

Exhibit 1. Police officers perceptions of offense seriousness, appropriate and expected discipline, and willingness to
report, ranked by officers perceptions of case seriousness*
Seriousness Discipline Willingness to Report
Own View Other Officers Should Receive Would Receive Own View Other Officers
Case Scenario Score Rank Score Rank Score Rank Mode Score Rank Mode Score Rank Score Rank
Case 1. Off-Duty
Security System
Business 1.46 1 1.48 1 1.34 1 None 1.51 1 None 1.37 1 1.46 1
Case 2. Free Meals, Verbal Verbal
Discounts on Beat 2.60 2 2.31 2 2.13 2 reprimand 2.37 2 reprimand 1.94 2 1.82 2
Case 4. Holiday Gifts Verbal Written
From Merchants 2.84 3 2.64 3 2.53 3 reprimand 2.82 3 reprimand 2.36 4 2.28 3.5
Case 8. Coverup of Suspend Suspend
Police DUI Accident 3.03 4 2.86 4 2.81 4 without pay 3.21 4 without pay 2.34 3 2.28 3.5
Case 10. Excessive Suspend Suspend
Force on Car Thief 4.05 5 3.70 5 3.76 6 without pay 4.00 6 without pay 3.39 5 3.07 5
Case 7. Supervisor: Written Written
Holiday for Tuneup 4.18 6 3.96 6 3.59 5 reprimand 3.43 5 reprimand 3.45 6 3.29 6
Case 6. Auto Repair Suspend Suspend
Shop 5% Kickback 4.50 7 4.26 7 4.40 8 without pay 4.46 8 without pay 3.95 8 3.71 8
Case 9. Drinks to Suspend Suspend
Ignore Late Bar Closing 4.54 8 4.28 8 4.02 7 without pay 4.08 7 without pay 3.73 7 3.47 7
Case 11. Theft From
Found Wallet 4.85 9 4.69 9 5.09 10 Dismissal 5.03 10 Dismissal 4.23 10 3.96 10
Case 3. Bribe From
Speeding Motorist 4.92 10 4.81 10 4.92 9 Dismissal 4.86 9 Dismissal 4.19 9 3.92 9
Case 5. Crime Scene
Theft of Watch 4.95 11 4.88 11 5.66 11 Dismissal 5.57 11 Dismissal 4.54 11 4.34 11
* Scores are based on officers responses to the integrity-related survey questions.

To uncover these differences and allow of agencies on all 11 cases) to 33 (if it ronments of integrity differ across U.S.
comparisons to be made, a system was ranked among the highest third of agen- police agencies, it is useful to contrast
devised for ranking the responses of cies on all 11 cases).5 the responses of officers from two of
officers in each agency. To determine the agencies in the sample. Agency 2,
an agencys overall ranking on how its These summary scores formed the ba- which ranked 8th in integrity of the
officers perceived the seriousness of a sis for placing agencies in rank order 30 agencies surveyed, and Agency 23,
particular offense, the mean score of all from 1 to 30 (with 1 being the highest which ranked in a 5-way tie for 24th
responses by officers in that agency to integrity rating), making it possible to place, are both large municipal police
each of the 11 case scenarios was com- say that an agency ranked n out of agencies. Agency 2 has a national repu-
pared to the mean scores of the remain- 30 in its officers perceptions of of- tation for integrity, is extremely recep-
ing 29 agencies. The agency was then fense seriousness. This procedure was tive to research, and is often promoted
awarded 3 points if its mean score used to calculate a summary score and as a model of innovation. Agency 23
placed it among the top 10 agencies on an integrity ranking for each agencys has a long history of scandal, and its
any question, 2 points if it scored in responses to each of the six questions reputation as an agency with corruption
the middle 10, and 1 point if it scored about offense seriousness, discipline problems persists despite numerous re-
among the lowest 10. These scores were that should and would be received, form efforts. Although a local newspa-
then totaled for all 11 case scenarios. and willingness to report the offense. per once dubbed Agency 23 the most
Using this scaling system, an agencys Exhibit 2 summarizes those rankings. corrupt police department in the coun-
score on its officers perceptions of the The environment of integrity in try, six other agencies in the sample
seriousness of the offenses could range two agencies. To illustrate how envi- appear to have integrity environments
from 11 (if it ranked in the lowest third that are as poor or worse.

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

In both agencies, the correlation of the

Exhibit 2. Composite scores on seriousness of offense, discipline, and
scores rank ordering among the catego- willingness to report, rank-ordered by agency
ries was very high, as it was for all 30
agencies surveyed. For every agency, Other Other Summary
Own Officers Discipline Discipline Own Officers Score/
the mean rank order of officers re- Agency Opinion of Opinions of Should Would Willingness Willingness Integrity
sponses to the six integrity-related Number Seriousness Seriousness Receive Receive to Report to Report Ranking
questions was nearly identical. Further- 1 3 3 3 3 3 3 18/1
more, the rank ordering of the scenarios 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 18/1
differed little among the agencies. 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 18/1
6 3 3 3 3 3 3 18/1
Although differences in the rank or-
10 3 3 3 3 3 3 18/1
dering of the scenarios were minimal,
17 3 3 3 3 3 3 18/1
both within and between the two agen-
30 3 3 3 3 3 3 18/1
cies, discrepancies in the agencies
absolute scores reflected significant 2 3 2 3 3 3 3 17/8
differences (see exhibits 3 and 4). 18 2 2 3 3 3 3 16/9
Estimates of offense seriousness were 7 3 2 2 2 3 3 15/10
consistently higher for Agency 2 than 11 3 3 2 2 2 2 14/11
for Agency 23. The differences were 12 3 3 3 1 2 2 14/11
especially large (between 0.5 and 1.0 5 2 2 2 3 2 2 13/13
on a 5-point scale) for three scenarios: 19 3 2 2 2 2 2 13/13
Case 6 (auto repair shop kickback), 20 3 2 2 2 2 2 13/13
Case 9 (drinks to ignore late bar clos- 29 2 3 2 1 2 2 12/16
ing), and Case 10 (excessive force on 26 3 2 2 2 1 1 11/17
car thief). Police officers from Agency 27 2 2 2 1 2 2 11/17
2 evaluated each of these cases as 24 2 2 1 1 2 2 10/19
substantially more serious than did 21 1 1 2 3 1 1 9/20
officers from Agency 23. 22 1 1 2 2 1 2 9/20
9 2 1 2 1 1 1 8/22
The mean scores for discipline indicate
that, in almost every case, police offic- 16 1 1 1 1 2 2 8/22
ers in Agency 2 not only expected 13 1 2 1 1 1 1 7/24
more severe discipline than did officers 14 1 1 1 2 1 1 7/24
in Agency 23, but they also thought 15 1 1 1 1 2 1 7/24
that more severe discipline was appro- 23 1 1 1 2 1 1 7/24
priate. The differences in perceptions 25 1 1 1 2 1 1 7/24
of discipline were especially great for 8 1 1 1 1 1 1 6/29
the most serious types of corruption, 28 1 1 1 1 1 1 6/29
such as the scenarios described in
Case 3 (bribe from speeding motorist),
Case 5 (crime scene theft of watch), The most systematic and dramatic dif- they and their colleagues would report
and Case 11 (theft from found wallet), ference between Agencies 2 and 23, the behavior described in the seven
as well as for Case 10 (use of excessive however, is evident in their attitudes other cases. In Agency 23, however,
force). While officers in Agency 2 toward The Code of Silence. In both there was no case that the majority of
thought that dismissal would result agencies, few officers said that they or officers indicated they would report. In
from the four most serious cases, offic- their police colleagues would report sum, while The Code is under control
ers in Agency 23 expected that dis- any of the least serious types of cor- in Agency 2, it remains a powerful in-
missal would follow only one scenario, rupt behavior (Cases 1, 2, 4, and 8). fluence in Agency 23, providing an
Case 5 (theft from a crime scene). Officers from Agency 2 reported that environment in which corrupt behavior
can flourish.

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

Exhibit 3. Agency 2 vs. Agency 23: Officers own perceptions of seriousness of misconduct, discipline warranted, and
willingness to report offense
Agency 2 (A2) vs. Agency 2 (A2) vs. Agency 2 (A2) vs.
Agency 23 (A23) Agency 23 (A23) Agency 23 (A23)
Perception of Seriousness Discipline Should Receive Willingness To Report
Case Scenario A2 A23 Difference t test A2 A23 Difference t test A2 A23 Difference t test
Case 1. Off-Duty Security -2.82 -3.60 -4.78
System Business 1.57 1.36 0.21 p<.05 1.47 1.24 0.23 p<.001 1.57 1.22 0.35 p<.001
Case 2. Free Meals, -1.80 -2.48 -6.67
Discounts on Beat 3.04 2.85 0.19 p<.01 2.50 2.31 0.19 p<.01 2.42 1.75 0.67 p<.001
Case 3. Bribe From -3.72 -6.28 -16.09
Speeding Motorist 4.94 4.78 0.16 p<.001 5.02 4.44 0.58 p<.001 4.67 3.02 1.65 p<.001
Case 4. Holiday Gifts -2.47 -1.35 -6.24
From Merchants 3.07 2.79 0.28 p<.01 2.73 2.59 0.14 NS* 2.74 2.05 0.69 p<.001
Case 5. Crime Scene -4.21 -12.64 -15.97
Theft of Watch 4.97 4.79 0.18 p<.001 5.85 4.90 0.95 p<.001 4.92 3.36 1.56 p<.001
Case 6. Auto Repair -6.74 -6.47 -15.63
Shop 5% Kickback 4.58 4.02 0.56 p<.001 4.41 3.74 0.67 p<.001 4.38 2.71 1.67 p<.001
Case 7. Supervisor: -1.24 -0.72 -8.68
Holiday for Tuneup 4.16 4.05 0.11 NS* 3.58 3.51 0.07 NS* 3.68 2.66 1.02 p<.001
Case 8. Coverup of -4.32 -2.69 -5.66
Police DUI Accident 3.16 2.68 0.48 p<.001 2.85 2.57 0.28 p<.05 2.67 2.03 0.64 p<.001
Case 9. Drinks to Ignore -9.96 -10.45 -16.02
Late Bar Closing 4.68 3.77 0.91 p<.001 4.10 3.17 0.93 p<.001 4.21 2.48 1.73 p<.001
Case 10. Excessive -10.12 -8.30 -13.42
Force on Car Thief 4.45 3.49 0.96 p<.001 3.97 3.15 0.82 p<.001 4.02 2.53 1.49 p<.001
Case 11. Theft From -6.85 -14.17 -17.41
Found Wallet 4.94 4.55 0.39 p<.001 5.42 4.13 1.29 p<.001 4.74 2.95 1.79 p<.001
* Not significant.

Conclusions and implications differences in the environments of makes, administrators have a clear
integrity in U.S. police agencies. responsibility to communicate this
Redefining the problem of police cor-
information to officers. If officers do
ruption (i.e., the abuse of police author- The ability to measure environments of not regard certain misconduct as suffi-
ity for gain) as a problem of police integrity in police agencies holds great ciently serious, if they regard discipline
integritythe normative inclination potential for academic studies of po- as too severe or too lenient, or if they
among police to resist temptations to lice and for practical police adminis- are willing to tolerate the misconduct
abuse their authorityenables the di- tration. For researchers, quantitative of their police peers in silence, admin-
rect measurement of the major proposi- cross-cultural, historical, and national istrators have an obvious obligation to
tions of an organizational/occupational comparisons that were previously un- find out why. A police administrator
theory of police integrity. The research thinkable have now become feasible. can take specific actions to deal with
reported in this Research in Brief dem-
Equally important, such measurements each of these problems.
onstrates that police attitudes toward
the seriousness of misconduct, the dis- have direct implications for practical The survey instrument used in this
cipline that should and would result, police administration because each of study was designed to assess only one
and the willingness of officers to toler- the propositions of an organizational/ aspect of police integrity. In all case
ate misconduct in silence can be mea- occupational theory of integrity im- scenarios but onethe use of exces-
sured. Moreover, the measurements plies a specific administrative re- sive forcethe misconduct described
reported in this national sample are sponse. If officers do not know whether was motivated by personal gain. In
relatively easy to collect. At the same certain conduct violates agency policy discussing environments of integrity,
time, they demonstrate substantial or what disciplinary threats the agency

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

Exhibit 4. Agency 2 vs. Agency 23: Officers perceptions of how most police would assess offense seriousness, discipline
that offense would receive, and whether most police would be willing to report offense
Agency 2 (A2) vs. Agency 2 (A2) vs.
Agency 23 (A23) Agency 2 (A2) vs. Agency 23 (A23)
How Most Police Agency 23 (A23) Whether Most Police
Regard Seriousness Discipline Would Receive Would Be Willing To Report
Case Scenario A2 A23 Difference t test A2 A23 Difference t test A2 A23 Difference t test
Case 1. Off-Duty Security -1.61 -5.08 -3.12
System Business 1.52 1.31 0.21 NS* 1.70 1.33 0.37 p<.001 1.52 1.31 0.21 p<.05
Case 2. Free Meals, 0.41 -3.27 -3.83
Discounts on Beat 2.53 2.57 -0.04 NS* 2.77 2.51 0.26 p<.05 2.07 1.74 0.33 p<.001
Case 3. Bribe From -4.25 -5.06 -13.89
Speeding Motorist 4.82 4.60 0.22 p<.001 4.90 4.45 0.45 p<.001 4.23 2.90 1.33 p<.001
Case 4. Holiday Gifts -1.10 -1.94 -4.65
From Merchants 2.73 2.61 0.12 NS* 3.07 2.88 0.19 p<.01 2.49 2.03 0.46 p<.001
Case 5. Crime Scene -6.16 -10.33 -14.99
Theft of Watch 4.93 4.62 0.31 p<.001 5.73 4.93 0.80 p<.001 4.63 3.25 1.38 p<.001
Case 6. Auto Repair -6.28 -5.35 -12.51
Shop 5% Kickback 4.31 3.75 0.56 p<.001 4.45 3.91 0.54 p<.001 3.92 2.64 1.28 p<.001
Case 7. Supervisor: 0.04 2.78 -6.80
Holiday for Tuneup 3.85 3.85 0 NS* 3.24 3.52 -0.28 p<.05 3.34 2.60 0.74 p<.001
Case 8. Coverup of -2.61 -4.92 -4.55
Police DUI Accident 2.80 2.54 0.26 p<.05 3.33 2.83 0.50 p<.001 2.40 1.95 0.45 p<.001
Case 9. Drinks to Ignore -9.13 -8.92 -13.89
Late Bar Closing 4.32 3.44 0.88 p<.001 4.11 3.29 0.82 p<.001 3.79 2.35 1.44 p<.001
Case 10. Excessive Force -8.00 -6.86 -9.98
on Car Thief 4.01 3.22 0.79 p<.001 4.11 3.46 0.65 p<.001 3.44 2.38 1.06 p<.001
Case 11. Theft From -8.53 -10.79 -16.20
Found Wallet 4.83 4.24 0.59 p<.001 5.24 4.25 0.99 p<.001 4.38 2.74 1.64 p<.001
* Not significant.

therefore, this survey makes no obser- vide any evidence of abusive or dishon- and Manning, Peter K., and Lawrence
vation about abuses of discretion in ar- est practicespast, present, or future. Redlinger, The Invitational Edges of Police
Corruption, in Thinking About Police, edited
rests, order maintenance, discourtesy The survey findings do describe, in a
by Carl Klockars and Stephen Mastrofski,
to citizens, or other police misconduct fairly precise way, the characteristics of New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993: 398412.
not usually motivated by temptations a police agencys culture that encour-
of gain. A second generation of this age its employees to resist or tolerate 2. Note that the notions of greater than zero
(positive) and less than zero (negative) are
survey will explore those problems.6 certain types of misconduct. merely shorthand for discipline perceived as
too lenient and too harsh, respectively. In other
A final note Notes words, because the data are ordinal, positive or
negative differences will not be used in any al-
This survey does not measure the ex- 1. Goldstein, Herman, Police Corruption: Per- gebraic context. Rather, these differences will
spective on Its Nature and Control, Washington, be used solely as indicators to classify respon-
tent of corruption in any police agency
DC: Police Foundation, 1975; and Goldstein, dents into three groupsthose who perceive
or institution. Rather, it measures the H., Policing a Free Society, Cambridge, MA: discipline to be fair, too lenient, or too harsh.
culture of police integritythe norma- Ballinger, 1977. See also Sherman, Lawrence
tive inclination of police officers to re- W., Scandal and Reform, Berkeley: University 3. The frequency distribution of responses to
sist the temptations to abuse the rights of California Press, 1978; Marx, Gary, Surveil- the question about officers own willingness to
lance, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University report a particular offense was analyzed. The
and privileges of their office. The sur- Press, 1991; Punch, Maurice, Conduct Unbe- five-point scale of offered answers ranged from
vey does not identify either corrupt or coming: The Social Construction of Police Devi- 1=definitely not to 5=definitely yes. A cu-
honest police officers; nor does it pro- ance and Control, London: Tavistock, 1986; mulative frequency above 50 percent for 1 and

R e s e a r c h i n B r i e f

2 was interpreted to indicate that police offic- 5. An alternative summary ranking system this research intentionally seeks to blunt any
ers would not report the offense. A cumulative could, of course, be based on the full range of false sense of precision by allowing agencies
frequency above 50 percent for 4 and 5, on the 30-point rankings for each of the 11 scenarios. to score, in a sense, only high, middle, or
other hand, was interpreted to indicate that the This type of system would create a scale that low on any given question.
police officers would report the offense. could range from 330 (for an agency that scored
the lowest of the 30 agencies on all 6 questions 6. A summary of the status of progress with this
4. See, for example, Haberfeld, Maria, Carl for all 11 scenarios) to 1,980 (for an agency next generation of measures of police integrity
Klockars, Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovich, and Milan that scored the highest of all 30 agencies on all can be found on the videotape of the Research
Pagon, Disciplinary Consequences of Police 6 questions for all 11 scenarios). Such a scor- in Progress seminar Measuring Police Integ-
Corruption in Croatia, Poland, Slovenia, and ing system would, however, magnify small and rity, presented by Carl Klockars at the Na-
the United States, Police Practice and Re- primarily meaningless differences in mean tional Institute of Justice in January 1999.
search, An International Journal 1 (1) (2000): scores, creating a false sense of precision. The Copies are available through the National
4172. ranking system developed for and employed in Criminal Justice Reference Service at 800
8513420. Please refer to NCJ 174459.

Carl B. Klockars, Ph.D., is professor The study reported in this Research Findings and conclusions of the research
reported here are those of the authors and do
in the Department of Sociology and in Brief was supported by the Office not necessarily reflect the official position or
Criminal Justice at the University of of Community Oriented Policing policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Delaware. Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovich, Services and NIJ through NIJ grant
Ph.D., is a doctoral student at number 95IJCX0058. The National Institute of Justice is a
Harvard Law School. William E. component of the Office of Justice
Harver, Ph.D., is assistant professor Police administrators interested in Programs, which also includes the Bureau
applying the approach used in this of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice
of social science in the College of Statistics, the Office of Juvenile Justice and
Arts and Sciences at Widener Uni- study to measure the environment of
Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for
versity. Maria R. Haberfeld, Ph.D., integrity in their own agencies are Victims of Crime.
is assistant professor in the Depart- advised to contact Professor Carl B.
ment of Law, Police Science, and Klockars, Principal Investigator, This and other NIJ publications can be
Criminal Justice Administration at Enhancing Police Integrity Project, found at and downloaded from the NIJ
the John Jay College of Criminal Criminal Justice, University of Web site (
Justice, City University of New York. Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.
NCJ 181465

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