Why do Police officers think they are above the law

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Last updated: March 23, 2019

Introduction: Police is an agency of a community or government that is responsible for maintaining public order and preventing and detecting crime. Police officer is therefore a member of the police force. In the United States, there is a fragmented system of police administration comprising some nineteen thousand separate municipal and country law enforcement agencies and an estimated twenty one thousand additional federal, state and local agencies with specialized jurisdictions of responsibility (Microsoft Student 2008)Today, about eight hundred Police forces operate in Canada. Their operation resembles those of the United Kingdom and the United States. Most European countries have Police forces that are organized on a national basis.

Policing in France is primarily the responsibility of two national law enforcement bodies: the Gendarmerie Nationale which polices rural areas and small towns, and the Police Nationale, which is responsible for policing Paris and provincial urban jurisdictions with population of more than ten thousand. (Microsoft Student 2008)Many times Police officers who are meant to maintain public order and to resolve and prevent crimes freely commit crimes! Someone once reported ‘excuse me while I try to calm myself down after watching a grown man, an officer of the law, beat a girl half his size for kicking at him or towards him…’ Many police officers fail to observe traffic rules and regulations while off duties, many park their cars illegally, many freely fight in bar and even injuring bar attendants in the process, many also drink and drive on highway which is against highway code. In a small-town Edgewater park, Burlington County, a Police officer bought a Burger king meal for a female prisoner in 2002-then forces her to have sex in a police van…(TFS MAGNUM 2006). It was said that once the abusers cross the line, they attack again and again before they are caught. In the United States, over eleven thousand out of seven hundred and fifty thousand cops are indicted each year for felony crimes. In fact, many cops violations go unreported! One may ask: what is responsible for all these behaviors from those we expect to enforce the law? The answer might be because some Police officers think they are above the law!Why do police officers think they are above the law?Ignorance of law: some sections of the citizenry are ignorant of the law of the land. They have little or no idea about their rights under the law.

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Those Police officers who are in the habit of trampling on citizens’ rights recognize this fact. So, many citizens’ rights are subsequently breached with impunity. This is because their victim neither reports the act to law enforcement agency nor seeks redress in any court of law.Ego: Microsoft Encarta dictionary defines ego as an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a feeling of superiority to other people. Many Police officers often display such ego! They see other people as being inferior to them and they therefore think it is not only expected but also understandable if they trample on other people’s rights.Many police officers are overworked: many people believe that Police officers are grossly overworked. Because of the enormous stress, there may be some physiological derangements which may influence their behavior after day’s work. It was argued that it is natural for the Police officers to react in an exaggerated manner which most often will graduate to commission of crime.

Underpayment: in many countries, Police officers are truly underpaid despite their patriotic service to their fatherland. Because of their underpayment, they see no reason why they should protect the law any longer. They are not only uncommitted to their duty but also go a step further into trampling on citizens’ rights. The commission of crimes by Police officers in countries like United States and Britain may not be connected with underpayment as Police officers in these countries are well paid.Impediment to investigation: because Police officers are saddled with the responsibility of investigating any alleged crime, they are versed in how to manipulate or suppress the process of investigation into any crime committed by them.

Though, most investigations begin with careful, objective observations that are then assembled, collated and matched against applicable law, these officers when they are the suspects will do everything possible to make sure the system is frustrated in a bid to suppressing the investigation. In fact, a picture movie released in Italy in 1970 described how a police officer wanted to manipulate investigative process. The movie was described as ‘Investigation of Citizen Above suspicion, motion picture about a police inspector who murders his mistress and plants false evidence to prove otherwise’ (Microsoft Student 2008). Though a movie, ‘Investigation of Citizen Above suspicion’ reflects what a common occurrence among the Police officers is when they commit crime. Many citizens believe that once a police officer commits a crime, he will weasel his way out of any punishment.Juries’ bias towards Police officers: in a situation where the investigative procedure is thorough and it has been very difficult for Police officers to manipulate the process, they are finally charged to a court of law for formal trial. During the formal trial, many Judges/Juries demonstrate ‘biases’ toward these Police officers that commit crimes. The juries give the police officers the benefit of doubt.

Most Police officers are brave, respectable, and truly do their best to honor their mission statement: to serve and protect. As with any organizations, there are some bad apples, however. And what happens when a Police officer abuses his or her badge to break the law or harass a citizen? If it goes to court and it’s the citizen’s word against the Police officer’s, unfortunately, many judges and juries will give the Police officer the benefit of doubt.

(Stephen Littau 2007) This has further encouraged Police officers in committing crimes.Legislation: in Canada, there has been a federal legislation known as ‘law enforcement justification provisions’ since 2002. This legislation allows Police officers to be shielded from prosecution while acting in the line of duty.

With the legislation, some Police officers had been committing crime against citizens knowing fully that they are shielded from prosecution even if caught. When it was evident that this legislation has encouraged law breaking activities among Police officers, there had been clamors for its review by the parliament but unfortunately, mandatory parliamentary scrutiny of the criminal code has been stalled.Departmental policies: when a Police officer commit a crime-on or off duty and he is reported to the department to which he belongs, it is unfortunate that some departments have some policies in which they use internal affairs to cover up such an act that may embarrass a  department’s image. This, rather than discourage Police officers from committing crimes had served as lever in elevating criminal tendencies among Police officers.

Conclusion: as it has been established that many crimes are being committed by Police officers who are supposed to maintain laws and orders and protect citizens’ rights on daily basis, it is unfortunate that these officers are encouraged to do so by factors ranging from citizens’ ignorance of their rights, under-remuneration of officers, impediment of investigation by officers, Juries’ bias towards Police officers who coming crime to faulty legislations in some lands that shield officers from prosecution. These acts of crime against citizens by Police officers if not checked are capable of not only portraying the law enforcement agency in bad light but also reducing citizens’ confidence in the activities of the law enforcement agency. To address this problem therefore, proper policies must be put in place to educate the citizenry on their rights, more officers employed to reduce the workload of Police officers which will subsequently reduce or eliminate stress related crimes, proper remuneration for officers which will go a long way in motivating officers to protect the law, and review of all legislations that seem to shield officers from prosecution if found guilty. Judges should realize that though they may be morally right by giving police officers a benefit of doubt during trial, such benefit must not be given at the expense of the law in particular and the citizenry at large. No one should be seen to be above the law. If any discretion is to be used at all, it should be the same discretion for everyoneReferences:1.      ‘’Police’’ Microsoft Student 2008 [DVD].

Redmond, M.A: Microsoft Corporation, 2007.2.       Stephen, Littau Jimmy Justice: Policing the Police (2007). http://www.

thelibertypapers.org/2007/08/22/jimmy-justice-policing-the-police/3.      TFS MAGNUM, Tuesday, August 15, 2006 Cops Committing Crimes http://wheelgun.blogspot.com/2006/08/cops-committing-crimes.html


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