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Examining Police Officer Crime

Dr. Philip Stinson, Bowling Green State University
Dr. Philip Stinson, Bowling Green State University, discusses the findings of his research on crimes committed by police officers.

Based on the research findings, law enforcement officers appear to commit crimes at a much lower rate than the general public. However, in some cases, at times due to the stressors of the job and frequent exposure to trauma and violence, officers engage in misconduct or criminal behavior. The National Institute of Justice understands what’s at stake for public safety and officer wellness when we ignore warning signs of officers struggling with occupational hazards and other psychological hardships.

In this video, Dr. Stinson discusses what he learned about six different crimes (alcohol-related, drug-related, sex-related, violence-related, and profit-motivated crime).

Watch more of the interview with Dr. Stinson: Police Officer Crimes and Police Integrity."


There are three goals for the project.

The first goal of the research was to determine the extent and the nature of crimes by police officers in non federal law enforcement agencies across the country.

The second goal is to determine what factors influence how law enforcement agencies respond when their officers are arrested.

And the third goal is to look at correlates of police misconduct and determine whether there are any correlates we can look at you know in relation to the officers who arrested.

One of the ways I look at police crime, as I have a topology of police crime, where almost all crimes committed by sworn law enforcement officers falls into one or more of these types. These aren't mutually exclusive categories but we have alcohol-related police crime, sex-related police crime, violence related police crime, drug-related police crime, and profit-motivated police crime.

In our seven years of data,  we have almost 1000 cases where an officer was arrested for drunk driving.

Almost twenty percent of these cases involve officers who are actually charged with hit and run, where they actually fled the scene of an accident.

One other thing with the alcohol-related offenses, about fourteen percent of the cases the officer was on duty, so driving a police vehicle. And we see a number of these cases actually involve take home police cars.

The sex related police crime is really troubling. We have over 400 rest cases where an officer was arrested for a forcible rape.

We have almost 400 cases where an officer was arrested for forcible fondling.

And almost a hundred cases where an officer was arrested for sodomy

So when we look at those cases one of the things we see is really troubling is that the victims of sex crimes committed by law enforcement officer are very young. Almost half the cases we find the victims are actually under the age of 18.

In terms of the cases that result in officer being convicted, about 80% four out of five of these cases, where it's a sex-related crime the officers convicted of a crime. And in terms of job loss the simple odds of an officer losing their job about 2.8 times greater if the officers convicted of a sex related police crime

With violence-related police crime we took a close look at officer-involved domestic violence.

And we have almost a thousand cases where an officer was arrested for a crime involving domestic violence.

In these cases are troubling for a variety of reasons.

One of the reasons is that only about a third of these cases result in an officer actually losing their job.

And when we look at conviction in these cases the officer is least likely to be convicted if the victim of the domestic violence crime is the officer spouse.

The more distant the relationship comes in a domestic violence case, the more likely and officers actually be convicted of their crime.

When we looked at these cases one of the things that's of concern is that under the Lautenberg Amendment to the Federal Gun Control Act of nineteen sixty-eight. Anyone who's been convicted for qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is forbidden from possessing or owning firearms or ammunition. There's no exception for military personnel.

There is no exception for law enforcement officers. So when we look at these numbers we're aware of a large number of officer-involved domestic violence arrest cases where an officer was convicted of a qualifying misdemeanor crime of domestic violence and they did not lose their job.

The first thing that we notice is that drug-related police crime seems to spawn all kinds of other problems with police crime and police misconduct. They seem to be crossing over into other areas.

Another point to make is that the drug-related crime there that we're looking at with police officers more likely than not is not personal use.

And it's more involved with the drug trade. So facilitation of the drug trade drug trafficking and we see a lot of cases where officers are arrested for shaking down drug dealers. So either a traffic stop or something like that something on the street where they're actually shaking down or stealing from drug dealers.

In terms of the typology of Police Crime drug-related police crimes account for fewer than any of the other types of Police Crime.

We have about 700 rest cases where an officer was arrested for drug-related police crime.

We see it's more often that somebody is arrested for sex related crime, profit motivated crime, or violence related crime or an alcohol-related crime

When we look at the profit motivated police crime, these are not crimes that are typically white collar crimes.

More often they're more like Street Crimes. We have a lot of theft from buildings. We have embezzlement related things.

We have extortion related charges. Typically the profit motivated crimes are crimes that are committed on duty.

The greatest predictor of job loss in a profit motivated crime is if the crime is also a drug-related police crime.

There's a few things that have surprised me with this research. One of the things that surprised me is that we see about

Twenty percent of the officers who were arrested are within three years of retirement eligibility.

So we see bumps 18 to 20 years we see bumps at 23 to 25 years, 20 to 30 years and even 33 to 35 years of service.

So that's an interesting thing because prior research would suggest that if a police officer is going to get in trouble

They're going to do so early in their career. We see something completely different.

We see that there's something going on towards the end of some law-enforcement officers careers where they're finding themselves in trouble and actually getting arrested.

And it's for a wide variety of crime. Instead of looking at these arrest cases as isolated events, one of the things that's important is to look at how these instances of police crime impact the larger law enforcement community and the greater communities in general. Police crime impacts police legitimacy because it undermines the public trust.

And it serves to work against police authority and police legitimacy.

One of our goals is to improve the quality of officers lives and to improve the quality of police officers families lives.

And one of the things we want to do is look at the types of problems that officers getting involved in.

And seeing if police chief's can look at this research and come up with ways where they can help officers.

So they're not getting in trouble not getting arrested not getting convicted not losing their jobs.

Date Created: February 23, 2017