What’s the harm in violating community trust?

To view the video transcript in English, French, and Spanish – click here [PDF 215 kB]

The police officer in the video thinks accepting a “tip” from a woman running late is merely a mutually beneficial arrangement. But to Kathleen O’Toole, the police chief of Seattle, Washington, it is clearly corruption and the practice completely erodes public trust in law enforcement.

“When I hear a scenario like that, it sickens me,” she said. “Nobody despises a bad cop more than a good cop, because the good cops are out there day-in and day-out treating people with courtesy and playing by the rules. One bad actor in a scenario like that undermines all the great work that is done by the good cops.”

O’Toole said the public cannot have confidence or trust in law enforcement when they think the police are motivated by their own personal agendas instead of their duty to care for the community.

She acknowledged that in some countries “tipping,” or, more accurately, bribing a police officer is “just considered a way of doing business.” It was common in the United States as recently as the 1960s and 1970s.

“We’ve undergone an evolution here, and I think other jurisdictions around the world will undergo similar evolutions,” and likewise see the practice as a form of corruption. “Anytime the police take some sort of bribe or favor, it affects the execution of their authority. It’s corruption and it really undermines public trust and confidence,” she said. “That type of activity inevitably leads to even more serious activity.”

In addition, police who are unethical and accept bribes are “often more likely to abuse their powers” when it comes to vulnerable communities like ethnic and religious minorities or the poor. O’Toole said this is because these communities are often “afraid to come forward” to report wrongdoing or otherwise feel they don’t have the power to take on the system.

Ask yourself: Can a police officer who accepts bribes really help the community or fellow officers?

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Civil Society,




What's the Harm?