The Origins of Police Misconduct

The psychological literature on "evil" generally leads us to one thesis: Most of us become evil.  See, e.g., The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil (here).

While there are sociopaths among us, most of us are socialized into being law-abiding and mostly decent.  Put in the right situation, we can become evil.  A fun illustration is with the Stanford prison experiment - which was chillingly depicted in Das Experiment.  (You must rent The Experiment, which is available on Netflix.)  

What's all of this got to do with Section 1983?  It has everything to do with Section 1983.

Police officers do not start off evil.  Yet officers regularly brutalize civilians and lie in court - so-called testilying.  Even the "good" cops do nothing to stop the bad cops, instead acquiescing to the culture of corruption.  One reason good cops go bad is because pressures from on high.

In this insightful interview with ABC News, an on-the-beat cop explains how police quotas lead to false arrests and wrongful convictions.  Anyone concerned with our judicial system should check out the story:

1 comments:

  Tom Lincoln

11:28 AM

Mike, it is correct that in general most police officers don't start off evil. But I have had more than one case in Puerto Rico defending corrupt cops in federal drug trafficking cases. What I learned from watching videos recorded by FBI of group meetings by the defendants was that many of them were dealing drugs from the time they attended the Police Academy (if not before) and that becoming a policeman for too many of them was getting a license to commit crimes.