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Police Corruption in Zambia as a form of Institutional Corruption

Introduction

Police corruption is considered to be a specific kind of corruption involving a specific part of the society and having much significance as there are serious impacts of misuse of the police powers in a corrupt manner (Prenzler, 2009). The fact that police generally has wide powers and that such power can be employed in a corrupt manner makes police corruption and important area of research in corruption studies (Prenzler, 2009). In Zambia, the perceptions regarding the police forces have been generally positive, but there is an increase in level of distrust in police forces due to perceptions of increase in police corruption (Robins, 2009).

There are some specific issues with regard to the Zambian police, which is increasing the dissatisfaction with the police due to the perceptions of ineffectiveness of the police. These issues relate to the centralised and bureaucratic nature of the police in Zambia, which has implications for effectiveness (Robins, 2009). Police in Zambia is also increasingly seen as brutal and indulgent in human rights violations (Robins, 2009). In response to these concerns, certain accountability mechanisms have been introduced in Zambia, including parliamentary oversight and the Police Professional Standards Unit (PPSU), which was established in 2003 (Robins, 2009). The task of the latter is to investigate corruption in the police forces, complaints of arbitrary arrests of civilians and other unprofessional behaviour (Robins, 2009). The parliament also established the Public Police Complaints Authority (PPCA) in 2003 for the purpose of investigating complaints from the public as well as complaints into deaths in custody (Robins, 2009). Despite these mechanisms, there are perceptions of weak oversight on police (Robins, 2009). There are also doubts with relation to the effectiveness of the PPSU (Robins, 2009).

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The principal research questions that this research study poses are:

What is corruption and how is police corruption defined?

What is the perception of general public on police corruption in Zambia?

What is the perception of police officers on the level of corruption in police forces in Zambia?

What are the measures taken in Zambia for responding to police corruption? What is the general perception about the level of effectiveness of these measures?

The overarching research question in this research study relates to the level of police corruption in Zambia as perceived by the general public and police officials in Zambia and the level of effectiveness of the anti-corruption measures as perceived by the general public. It is possible that there are disparities in how the general public perceives the level of corruption and how the police forces themselves view it.

The objectives of this research are as follows:

To understand current literature on corruption in general and police corruption in particular;

To understand current literature on interlinks between corruption and police activity and the factors for corruption;

To explore the current approaches to responding to corruption in police forces in Zambia;

To draw conclusions and make recommendations for reduction of corruption in the police forces in Zambia.

Literature review

Literature on corruption throws up different definitions of corruption, making corruption one of the difficult terms to define in a uniform manner. The problem of defining corruption in a uniform manner after perusing the different definitions of corruption has been likened by one commentator to “exploring a complicated maze replete with dead ends and surprising turns enough to frustrate the hardiest venture” (Caiden, 2009, p. 9). However, in order to define police corruption for the purpose of this dissertation, it is important to identify a definition of corruption. Some of the more popular definitions of corruption is that it entails an “abuse of public office for personal gain” (The World Bank, 1997, p. 8). The use of public office or official position by those in power for the purpose of amassing unauthorised private gains has been considered to be an essential aspect of corruption (The World Bank, 1997).

Literature also defines police corruption in specific terms. Police corruption has been defined as:

“an action or omission, a promise of action or omission, or an attempted action or omission, committed by a police officer or a group of police officers, characterised by the police officer’s misuse of the official position, motivated in significant part by the achievement of personal gain” (Kutnjak Ivkovic, 2005, p. 16).

As the definition above indicates, police corruption is defined in terms of public corruption, where the officials entrusted with powers and public functions misuse their public office for private gain. The general idea of corruption as an activity involving public officials in the misuse of their powers for private gain echoes in the conceptualisation of police corruption as well.

Corruption in the police force can also be characterised as ‘institutional corruption’ when such corrupt practices are widespread. Institutional corruption is defined as follows:

“Institutional corruption is manifest when there is a systemic and strategic influence which is legal, or even currently ethical, that undermines the institution’s effectiveness by diverting it from its purpose or weakening its ability to achieve its purpose, including, to the extent relevant to its purpose, weakening either the public’s trust in that institution or the institution’s inherent trustworthiness” (Lessig, 2013, p. 2).

When police forces in a country are systemically corrupt or where the corruption in the police forces attains a strategic influence in the police forces, which undermines or compromises the effectiveness of the police forces, it can be said that police corruption has become institutional corruption. Therefore, in order to be characterised as institutional corruption, police corruption should be widespread and should lead to the weakening of the effectiveness of the police forces and weakening of the public trust.

Some police forces in the world have already been considered to be institutionally corrupt. For instance, Ghana is found to have a widespread police corruption for which reason it is considered to have institutional corruption in the police forces (Tankebe, 2010). The general perception about authoritarian regimes is also that these regimes thrive on the basis of corrupt police forces where the police starts acting as an agent of state power (Newburn, 2015). This contention is supported by evidence of institutionalised corruption in authoritarian states like communist Russia (Prenzler, 2009, p. 3).

In literature related to police corruption, some attention is also given to what is called as ‘noble cause corruption’, which relates to deviation by police officers from authorised actions for the purpose of attainment of higher good (Caldero & Crank, 2010, p. 18). Noble cause corruption is deviation from accepted actions, but some police officers may justify it on the basis of the deviant actions leading to some higher good for the society (Caldero & Crank, 2010). Policemen may involve themselves with unauthorised killings of criminals or manipulating the evidence against certain persons believed by them to be anti-social and criminal (Caldero & Crank, 2010). Policemen may also be involved in providing false testimony for securing a conviction against individuals believed by them to be dangerous but against whom there is little evidence (Caldero & Crank, 2010). Noble cause corruption is not motivated by personal gain like corruption in general is, which may be a reason why some police officers may justify noble cause corruption as they believe that they are ethically incorrect but are acting in interests of general good (Porter & Warrender, 2009).

General corruption in police forces can take several forms. There are a number of corrupt practices that policemen may involve themselves in. These practices include taking bribes, indulging in criminal behaviour, or illegal businesses such as prostitution, drugs, pornography, smuggling in contrabands, etc (Newburn, 2015). Bribes are also called as ‘kickbacks’, and this form of corruption refers to the receipt of money or some other benefit in return for doing some unauthorised act for another person or doing an authorised act in an unauthorised manner (Newburn, 2015). Corrupt behaviour of the police may also be of a nature where they are involved in ‘opportunistic theft’. Such theft occurs when policemen steal something from those arrested by them or when they steal something from dead bodies (Newburn, 2015). Police officers may also be involved in what is called as ‘the fix’, which involves the planting of fake evidence to frame someone for an offence, or providing advance warnings to criminals about potential raids by police on their premises where some illegal activity is carried out (Newburn, 2015). Policemen may indulge in these practices by abusing the power vested in themselves as public officials and abusing the trust reposed in them (Newburn, 2015). The difference between noble cause corruption and general corruption is that in the latter policemen are acting in self-interest and are trying to make private gains out of their public office.

When studying police corruption as a phenomenon, an important question that arises is the extent of the problem of corruption within the police forces in a specific country. Researchers may be interested to know whether the level of corruption in a specific country is so widespread that it impacts the effectiveness of the police and can be termed institutional corruption (Lessig, 2013). This is important where the perceptions regarding level of corruption suggests that there is widespread corruption in the police forces of a particular country, but the empirical evidence collected by the researcher may suggest otherwise and it is just a case of few ‘bad apples’ and not systemic corruption in the police forces (Newburn, 2015).

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Another question that arises in the context of research on police corruption in a country is whether there are specific factors that lead to police corruption in a particular country as explained by Newburn (2015) in an extensive literature review. Newburn (2015) lists the different factors, both personal and contextual, which may be responsible for police corruption in a specific country. Some of these factors are listed as discretionary powers of the subject to possibility of misuse; lack of supervision on subordinate actions; low visibility of police work and lack of transparency around police work; low salaries and high temptations, to name a few (Newburn, 2015, p. 8).

Literature on police corruption also considers the responses to police corruption at the national and international level under different frameworks for anti-corruption (Breit, Lennerfors, & Olaison, 2015). Literature suggests that police corruption can be tackled through creation of a strong framework of legislation and through promotion of ethics at an institutional level (Breit, et al., 2015). The UK Bribery Act 2010 is an example of the former method. In most countries however, there is a visible lack of promotion of ethics at the institutional level (HMIC, 2011). Therefore, an important area of study in Zambia could be the measures taken to counter corruption in police forces through the promotion of ethics. Institutional reform, which can be brought forth through institutional measures such as promotion of ethics can be useful as seen in the case of institutional reform in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia after major scandals on police corruption broke out in these places (Newburn, 2015).

In the context of reform of police corruption, an important question raised in literature is that of use of leadership (Prenzler, 2009). In Australia, the Fitzgerald inquiry into police revealed specific issues like lack of discipline, disinterest, and abuse of authority, which were linked to vacuum in leadership in police forces and which led to the increase in corruption (Prenzler, 2009).

Literature review indicates that there are several areas that can be utilised to conduct a research into police corruption in Zambia. Relevant areas are related to level of corruption, possible institutional nature of police corruption, factors responsible for increase in corruption, and measures of anti-corruption taken to respond to increase in corruption in the police forces.

Methodology

Research is a systematic process in which the researcher focusses on collecting and analysing data on a particular research question or hypothesis, where the researcher may use qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods research methods (Collis & Hussey, 2009). In this research, the researcher will use qualitative research methodology. As part of this research methodology, the researcher will employ a systematic literature review of literature in journals, academic books, and relevant reports in the library and electronic data bases (Green, et al., 2011). The electronic online databases are useful because these help to locate sources and give the researcher an opportunity to appraising high-quality literature and empirical studies (Bettany-Saltikov, 2012).

The researcher will also employ semi-structured interviews to collect primary data on perceptions on police corruption in the general public and police forces. Interviews are useful in this area because these can help the researcher to gain in-depth knowledge and insight into the perceptions and opinions of the participants on police corruption (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2012). An example of a recent research where the researchers used semi-structured interviews is in the study conducted by Light (2014) on police corruption in Georgia, and on the perceptions on recent police reforms. The research was conducted with 20 semi-structured interviews and was able to shed much light on the perceptions on the reforms in police forces (Light, 2014). No such research has been undertaken in Zambia so far. Semi-structured interviews can be particularly useful in gaining more insight because these allow the researcher to conduct the interview as per the comfort of the participant and allows the participant more control over the process (Hammer & Wildavsky, 1989). In this research, police officers are also a part of the sample for interviews and they will be more comfortable in semi-structured interview, which will allow the researcher to conduct the interview more comfortable and may possibly yield more information (Yin, 2009).

The sample for the interviews will be selected through purposive sampling for the police officers; this is appropriate because this research is being done as per qualitative research methods (Saunders, et al., 2012). However, for the general public sample, random sampling will be employed to select a small sample of interviewees. Through these methods, two samples of 10 participants per sample will be collected. Therefore, there will be a sample of 10 policemen and 10 civilians for this research.

Foreseen Limitations

One of the limitations of this work is that the sample size for the general public and the police interviews will be small. This is because the researcher is bound by constraints in time as well as resources. It will not be possible to take the interviews with a large sample of the population. A limitation of the small sample size is that it may not yield results that are generalisable. This is not the just the limitation due to the sample size but also due to the qualitative nature of this research, which means that there is a possible element of subjectivity in qualitative data collection and analysis and the difficulty in replicating the findings in qualitative research (Perrin, 2015). However, as this research will employ both a literature review and primary data, there is a possiblity for responding to this limitation through a method of triangulation. Triangulation can be done by comparing the responses of one participant with the other, or by comparing the findings of the primary data with the findings of the secondary data.

Research Schedule/Timeline

References

Bettany-Saltikov, J., 2012. How To Do A Systematic Literature Review In Nursing: A Step-By-Step Guide: A Step by Step Guide. London : Mc Graw and Hill.

Breit, E., Lennerfors, T. T. & Olaison, L., 2015. Critiquing corruption: A turn to theory. Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization, 15(2), pp. 319-336.

Caldero, M. A. & Crank, J. P., 2010. Police ethics: The corruption of noble cause. Burlington (MA): Routledge.

Collis, J. & Hussey, R., 2009. Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students. London: Palgrave Macmillon.

Green, S. et al., 2011. Introduction. In: J. P. T. Higgins & S. Green, eds. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions . London: John Wiley and Sons.

Hammer, D. & Wildavsky, A., 1989. () ‘the Open-Ended, Semi-Structured Interview: An (Almost) Operational Guide’ in Craftways: On the Organisation of Scholarly Work. s.l.:Transaction Publishers.

HMIC, 2011. The rules of engagement: A review of the August 2011 disorders, London: HMIC.

Kutnjak Ivkovic, S., 2005. Fallen Blue Knights: Controlling Police Corruption. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lessig, L., 2013. “Institutional corruption” defined. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 41(3), pp. 553-555.

Light, M., 2014. Police reforms in the Republic of Georgia: the convergence of domestic and foreign policy in an anti-corruption drive. Policing and Society, 24(3), pp. 318-345.

Newburn, T., 2015. Literature review: police integrity and corruption. London: Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Perrin, K., 2015. Principles of Evaluation and Research for Health Care Programs. Burlington: Jones and Bartlett.

Porter, L. E. & Warrender, C., 2009. A multivariate model of police deviance: examining the nature of corruption, crime and misconduct. Policing & Society, 19(1), pp. 79-99.

Prenzler, T., 2009. Police corruption: Preventing misconduct and maintaining integrity. Boca Raton : CRC Press.

Robins, S., 2009. Addressing the challenges of law enforcement in Africa Policing in Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia. Istitute for Security Studies, Volume 16, pp. 1-4.

Tankebe, J., 2010. Public confidence in the police: Testing the effects of public experiences of police corruption in Ghana. The British Journal of Criminology , 50(2), pp. 296-319.

The World Bank, 1997. Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A., 2012. Research Methods for Business Students. London: Pearson.

Yin, R., 2009. Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Fourth Edition. Applied Social Research Methods Series, Volume 5.. London: Sage Publications.

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