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The Dirty Harry Problem is similar to the Noble Cause Corruption. John P. Crank and Michael A. Caldero (2000) define noble cause corruption as a “corruption committed in the name of good ends, corruption that happens when police officers care too much about their work. It is corruption committed in order to get the bad guys off the streets…the corruption of police power, when officers do bad things because they believe that the outcomes will be good.”
It is feared that the Dirty Harry Problem is now a widespread problem in many police department. Many say that these activities are being done not only by police officer who are known as rotten apples but even those considered as best officers who are also respected by their peers . As such, it is considered as the most threatening type of misconduct. It is basically the idea deeply held by individuals who think that the ends justify the means.
Steve Rothlein cites as an example of the Dirty Harry Problem. Police officer Sherman Griffiths was killed by Lewin when police officers including Griffiths executed a search warrant in his home. He fought and killed police officer Griffiths. Lewin was eventually charged with murder. However the charges against him were eventually dismissed when the court found out that the affidavit for search warrant was based on false information and a fictitious informant. The police officer responsible was also charged for perjury (Steve Rothlein, 2008, p. 2).
Noble cause corruption must be distinguished from traditional corruption. Traditional corruption is defined as the use of one’s official position for personal benefit and gain. Personal benefit and gain may refer to accumulation of more wealth or getting sexual pleasure or simply deriving pleasure from doing bad or evil things. Contrary to noble cause corruption, a person who is traditionally corrupt does things only for himself. He does not seek to achieve any noble purpose but only seeks to pursue his own interest.
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The reason why noble cause corruption has become a practice among many law enforcement officers is that it is very easy to judge a person solely because what he has done in the past. In today’s society there is a clamor for harsher punishment against criminal offenders. The public wants to get rid of the criminal elements. The public wants longer prison sentences or even death penalty. In the midst of the clamor the police officers are forced to engage in these actions. In one sense, it may be said that these actions are beneficial for the society since it gets the job done faster and easier.
In contrast, however, engaging in these actions may get the police officer and the police department in trouble for violation of the rights of the criminal offender. Noble cause corruption is a violation of the constitutional rights of the offender. It does not matter whether he has a past criminal record the police officer has to respect his rights. Consequently, the courts have in a number of cases awarded damages against police officers who have willfully done acts in violation of existing laws.
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