Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Criminology

Major Professor

Lorie Firdell

Keywords

deviance, informal norms, law enforcement, organizational, susceptibility

Abstract

Police corruption is a primary concern for law enforcement agencies. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that could predict the likelihood of police officer susceptibility to corruption. Data was collected through surveys of 1083 officers within eight U.S. police agencies that were participating in the National Police Research Platform funded by the National Institute of Justice. The data were analyzed using multilevel structural equation and base multilevel models.

The theoretical model for this study addressed susceptibility to corruption on both the departmental (clusters) and individual officer levels. Four main constructs were utilized in this study. Acceptance of deviant norms was the outcome variable operationalizing susceptibility to corruption. Anomie was a departmental predictor operationalizing expectations that socially accepted goals could not be accomplished through socially acceptable means. Decoupling was a departmental predictor measuring the extent to which departmental pragmatic goals were out of alignment with official ethical codes. Moral disengagement was the individual predictor operationalizing the ability to use cognitive mechanisms to excuse unethical decision-making.

Departments higher in anomie and decoupling were hypothesized to have higher acceptance of deviant norms that condone corruption. Officers with higher levels of moral disengagement were also expected to have a greater acceptance of deviant norms. The departmental environment was expected to have more influence than individual officer traits such that anomie and decoupling would moderate the effects of moral disengagement within departments.

The results demonstrated the promise of the multilevel theoretical model. Anomie was a strong predictor of acceptance of deviant norms. Moral disengagement was also a moderately strong predictor of acceptance of deviant norms in the base multilevel models. Anomie moderated the effect of moral disengagement to some degree, although it had no impact on the slope between acceptance of deviant norms and moral disengagement. Differences between departmental subgroups indicated how officer assignments and demographic characteristics may impact susceptibility to corruption.

Study limitations related primarily to the multilevel structural equation model, scale construction, and sampling. Limitations are addressed as regards their general relevance to theory and methodology. Implications of the results for policy and future research are discussed.

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