Police corruption has become rampant over the past decade as many departments and countries globally struggle with the vice. Police corruption is grave misconduct as the officers abuse their power for personal gain. Police corruption hinders the public from getting the required service from the disciplined officers and taints the image of the whole department. African and South American police departments are widely known for rampant corruption, which heavily encourages crime in these regions. However, corruption is also present in the United States police departments though such cases are not often reported in the media.
There are several forms of police corruption, such as taking bribes, destroying evidence, selling criminal information, altering testimonies, and much more. One of the most prevailing forms of police corruption in the United States is the destruction of evidence. Tampering with evidence in a case for any reason by a police officer is a quest to curb a fair judicial process, and this is corruption that harms the institution and halts access to justice.
There have been several cases in which police have been bribed to destroy evidence in their possession, and this hinders the victims’ access to justice. Several studies by various stakeholders have proved that hundreds of police officers have been bribed to destroy evidence or offer misleading testimonies in court. According to a report by Inside Justice, 77 percent of police officers have witnessed evidence getting destroyed or lost either intentionally or by mistake (Miller, 2016). Some of the most affected cases are usually related to murder, sexual offenses, drugs, firearms handling, and much more.
According to Wood (2017), over three-quarters of criminal justice, practitioners have stated that they worked in cases where evidence was lost, destroyed, or contaminated. These cases of destroying evidence are not exclusive to the United States police officers but are universal. In countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and Chile, drug traffickers often pay police officers to destroy evidence in their cases. Some of the most notorious drug traffickers have several police officers on their payroll, and they were tasked with several duties, including destroying evidence (Wood, 2017). Destroying evidence curbs access to justice for a significant percentage of victims.
Tampering with evidence significantly halts access to justice for several victims and as the police officers seek financial and material gain. Some media organizations have invested in researching police corruption cases in the United States. These media organizations gathered tens of thousands of investigations concerning police corruption that dates back to the 1960s. Out of the thousands of cases, more than 5000 police officers were recorded to have offered uncredible evidence in courts (Wood, 2017). These police officers tampered with evidence to save their masters and offered altered testimonies in courts.
All this was in a bid to release criminals back to the world as they sought to gain financially. When police tamper with evidence, it becomes a challenge to public trust as the citizens lose confidence in the department (Miller, 2016). Corruption is against human rights and violates legal violations, which lead to severe consequences in the society. Several societies do not relate well with their police departments because of rampant corruption by their officers.
Several police officers have been prosecuted for tampering with evidence in their possession. These police officers have caused shame and distrust to the force as it becomes hard for the public to trust the institution after such incidences. According to Fiallo (2021), one of the police officers who has been charged of tampering with evidence is Detective Jarda Bradford. The detective is accused of failing to disguise earrings in a picture lineup she had gathered to show a witness. Jarda Bradford was a detective with the Tampa Police Department and had been one of the most hardworking officers there.
When other officers pointed out the mistake to Jarda Bradford, she altered the photos she had shown to the witness (Fiallo, 2021). After altering the photos, she later them as evidence in the case, and this significantly challenged its nature due to distortion of evidence. The police officer was arrested on two counts for tampering with evidence in the case (Fiallo, 2021). This is one of the best examples of how altering any detail in evidence amounts to police corruption, and it is punishable by law.
Detective Bradford tampered with evidence in a murder case which had happened in October 2020. The police officer was the investigating officer in the October 17 shooting and murder in Tampa (Fiallo, 2021). Bradford was suspended from her duties without pay, and she would be charged with the two counts that involved tampering with physical evidence. The Tampa Police Chief stated that Bradford had violated the department procedures by altering the photos. Tampering with evidence in such a case makes it hard to prosecute the offenders, and this significantly hinders access to justice for the victims.
Bradford was a police officer in the Tampa Police Department for ten years and had been a detective for only two and a half months (Fiallo, 2021). When such cases happen, the police departments should take action against the officers responsible, and this will help build trust with the public (Wood, 2017). However, in some cases, the police department and other senior officers fail to disclose that their officers tampered with evidence, which corrupts the judicial process.
There are cases where police officers have tried to arrest criminals who are usually hard to catch or find hard pieces of evidence that will lead to their prosecution. In some of these cases, the police officers tamper with evidence in a bid to make sure that these criminals get prosecuted and eventually imprisoned. Some police officers and district attorneys have been charged with tampering evidence to charge criminals, especially the hardcore ones, to jail them (Wood, 2017).
When such happens, it is a move from the quest for justice as much as it leads to the prosecution of these hardcore criminals. Some of the most common cases where such tampering with evidence happens include murders, rape, human trafficking, and much more (Miller, 2016). Some police officers also tamper with evidence as they try to save their friends or loved ones from a fair judicial process. It is illegal and a form of corruption to tamper with such evidence even in a bid to search for justice.
When police officers mispresent evidence of a case for any reason, it is a form of corruption, and this hinders a judicial process. The report has discussed how tampering with evidence is illegal and halts access to justice for victims and society. The example of Detective Bradford shows how it can disrupt a fair judicial process. The public loses trust in its police force when their officers engage in corruption to alter a fair judicial process. Therefore, police officers should always ensure that they do not tamper with evidence and do not engage in any form of corruption.
Fiallo, J. (2021). Tampa police detective faces charges of tampering with evidence. Tampa Bay Times. Web.
Miller, K. (2016). Watching the watchers: Theorizing cops, cameras, and police legitimacy in the 21st century. In The politics of policing: Between force and legitimacy. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Web.
Wood, S. E. (2017). Police body cameras and professional responsibility: public records and private evidence. Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture, 46(1), 41-51. Web.