‘A Nod and a Wink’: Do ‘Gaming Practices' Provide an Insight into the Organisational Nature of Police Corruption?

Date01 September 2011
AuthorRodger Patrick
Published date01 September 2011
Subject MatterArticle
Research Associate, Institute of Local Government Studies,
University of Birmingham, Solihull
Whether police corruption is an individual or an organisational
phenomenon has been a feature of recent criminological
debates. The def‌inition of police corruption has also changed
and more modern def‌initions, based on the motivation behind
the behaviour, include perverse practices designed to give a
false impression of improved performance. Such practices are
referred to as ‘gaming’, and examples involving law enforce-
ment agencies are regularly cited in the academic literature on
this subject. In this article statistical patterns in police perform-
ance data are linked to particular forms of ‘gaming’ behaviour.
It is argued that the scale and seismic nature of f‌luctuations
linked to particular events, sometimes involving scandals or
other exposures, indicate that the behaviour is organisational
and linked to objectives being pursued by senior off‌icers.
The contributions of Her Majesty’s Government Statistical
Off‌ice and Home Off‌ice Research Development and Statistics
department are acknowledged in the provision of the statistics
on which this article is based.
Keywords: gaming; performance management; police cor-
ruption; police recorded crime and detection rates
Police corruption comes in many guises, from accepting bribes
to fabricating evidence in order to secure the conviction of a
suspected criminal. Such a wide variety makes it diff‌icult to
formulate a def‌inition which encapsulates all forms of the
behaviour. Earlier studies tended to concentrate on the more
obvious forms of illegal behaviour, which are adequately legis-
lated for in criminal law:
Police scandals are of three predominant varieties: corrup-
tion, such as accepting bribes; procedural abuse that perverts
The Police Journal, Volume 84 (2011) 199
DOI: 10.1358/pojo.2011.84.3.529
the course of justice; and the excessive use of force against
suspects. (Waddington, 1999: 121)
However, such a def‌inition does not extend to behaviours
designed to give the impression of improved performance by
perverse means. Such practices are referred to within the service
as ‘f‌iddling the f‌igures, massaging the books or more recently
good housekeeping (Chatterton, 2008: 46). In academic circles
the phenomenon is referred to as gaming and has recently been
associated with Performance Management (Loveday, 1994,
1999; De Bruijn, 2002, 2007; Bevan & Hood, 2006).
Def‌initions of police corruption do extend to cover such
perverse practice:
Police off‌icers act corruptly when, in exercising or failing to
exercise their authority, they act with the primary intention
of furthering private or departmental/divisional advantage.
(Klienig, 1996a: 166)
Newburn concentrated on the motivation behind the acts in
question and thus his def‌inition would encompass police gam-
ing practices:
In attempting to def‌ine corruption, attention must be paid to
the means, the ends and the motivation behind the conduct;
corruption need not necessarily involve illegal conduct or
misconduct on the part of a police off‌icer (the goals of the
action may be approved); corrupt acts may involve the use
or abuse of organisational authority; corruption may be
internal as well as external, i.e. it may simply involve two
(or more) police off‌icers; and the motivation behind the act is
corrupt when the primary intention is to further private or
organisational advantage. (Newburn, 1999: 78)
The theories on what drives such deviant behaviours are also
varied, although they tend to position themselves in two distinct
camps: theories which concentrate on the character and beha-
viour of the individual and those which look at the organisational
factors driving such behaviours. The view that police corruption
is an individual failure, i.e. a few bad apples damaging the
organisations reputation, is proffered by a number of senior
. . . good ethical cops do not need a rule to tell them not to
steal, be brutal or plant evidence. They will not anyway. And
200 The Police Journal, Volume 84 (2011)

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