Understanding Police Deviance

  • James F. Albrecht
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Criminology book series (BRIEFSCRIMINOL)


Given the rampant negative reporting about the police and the perceived lack of public trust and confidence in law enforcement officials in the United States, one may be surprised to learn that allegations of acts of police brutality, serious misconduct, and corruption are extremely rare. Empirical evidence reveals that the overwhelming majority of American law enforcement personnel routinely conduct themselves professionally and with the public’s interests and concerns in mind. However, the few isolated incidents that have involved the excessive use of force by police or acts of corruption, among other forms of police deviance, have clearly tarnished the positive reputations of law enforcement personnel, not only locally but at times nationally. A number of respected criminology and criminal justice researchers have attempted to define police deviance, corruption, misconduct, and inappropriate behavior, but none of them have done so with universal agreement and often not reflecting practical realities. The author has proposed a new typology for the five most obvious categories of police deviance: (1) police corruption, (2) police criminality, (3) excessive use of force, (4) abuse of authority, and (5) police misconduct.


Police deviance Police corruption Police brutality Noble cause corruption Control balance theory 


  1. Barker, T., & Carter, D. L. (1993). Police deviance (3rd ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  2. Crank, J. P., & Caldero, M. A. (1999). Police ethics: The corruption of noble cause. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  3. Erikson, K. T. (1962). Notes on the sociology of deviance. Social Problems, 9, 307–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fyfe, J. J., & Kane, R. (2006). Bad cops: A study of career-ending misconduct among New York City police officers. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  5. Haberfeld, M. R., Klockars, C. B., Kutnjak Ivkovich, S., & Pagon, M. (2000). Police officer perceptions of the disciplinary consequences of police corruption in Croatia, Poland, Slovenia, and the United States. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal, 1(1), 41–72.Google Scholar
  6. Harris, D. A. (2009). How accountability-based policing can reinforce—Or replace—The fourth amendment exclusionary rule. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 7, 149.Google Scholar
  7. Hickman, M. J., Piquero, A. R., Lawton, B. A., & Greene, J. R. (2001). Applying tittle’s control balance theory to police deviance. Policing, 24(4), 497–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department. (1991). Report of the independent commission on the Los Angeles police department. Los Angeles: Independent Commission on the LAPD.Google Scholar
  9. Kappeler, V. E., Sluder, R. D., & Alpert, G. P. (1998). Forces of deviance: Understanding the dark side of policing (2nd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  10. Klockars, C. B., Kutnjak Ivkovich, S., & Haberfeld, M. R. (2003). The contours of police integrity. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  11. Packman, D. (2010). National police misconduct Reporting system. Washington, DC: Cato Institute.Google Scholar
  12. Punch, M. (2000). Police corruption and its prevention. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 8, 301–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Tittle, C. (1995). Control balance: Toward a general theory of deviance. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  14. Transparency International. (2017). Corruption Perceptions Index 2016. Berlin: Transparency International.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • James F. Albrecht
    • 1
  1. 1.Pace UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations