Spider webs illustrate an extremely common setting in which “Misconduct” terms are written by USA court systems. A Spider lays down many spiral turns of sticky silk in order for insects flying into its web. It gets trapped instantly and then struggles helplessly to its end. The spider hangs away from the web so as not to become entangled. An oil on the spider’s body is resistant to the stickiness of the silk. Police regulations share many similarities in that they let the big, mighty, and rich mosquitoes through its web but focus on catching the small ones—i.e. the weak and the poor. Although, for the public to be aware of the “legal jargon” of police misconduct is important, the following ideas are my best interpretations of them. Of course, nothing said herein is legal or adequate to form any significant decision related to them since there are countless complexities in each and variations of each in different states. Legally, “Misconduct” is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action—a forbidden act—a dereliction from duty—unlawful behavior—willful in character—improper or wrong behavior. Examples include dishonest acts or attempts to persuade legal authorities by deceptive or reprehensible methods. Its synonyms are Misdemeanor, Misdeed, Misbehavior, Delinquency, Impropriety, Mismanagement, Offense, but not Negligence or Carelessness. Some say the “Big Four” are: Murder, Rape (coitus without the other’s consent—particularly with force, impairing power to resist, generating fear, or under legal age), Aggravated Assault (purposeful serious bodily harm with a sadistic display), and Robbery (especially armed theft associated with violence—or putting one in fear of these—as opposed to “Simple Robbery”). Others include Kidnapping and Arson (not deemed as significant for it is a property crime and the assumption is made that one can collect from ones insurance company). Prins (Medicine, Science and the Law, 2008) says Murder is the unlawful killing of another with malice Aforethought (that is planned with criminal intention).
Black’s Law Dictionary defines “Unlawful” as “that which is contrary to, prohibited, or unauthorized by law…or acting contrary to, or in defiance of the law; disobeying or disregarding the law.” In short, “without excuse or justification. Apart from certain exceptions, Murder is committed when a person of sound mind and discretion unlawfully kills any reasonable creature with intent to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm.” Manslaughter (unlawfully causing the death of another without malice aforethought) is considered Voluntary if the accused was: (a) provoked; or (b) acting in pursuance (in the course of carrying out) of a suicide pact; or (c) suffering from diminished responsibility. Involuntary Manslaughter concerns unintended killing, but where there was an intention to commit an unlawful or dangerous act, gross negligence, or disregard for the lives and safety of others. Other types of Manslaughter include: Child Destruction–an offence to destroy the life of an unborn child, unless there is compliance with provisions of current abortion legislation; Causing death by dangerous or careless driving and/or under the influence of drink or drugs; Infanticide is killing of a ‘newly born child’—perhaps under 12 months of age; and Hedonistic—e.g. ‘Lust’ killings, thrill-seeking (for kicks), and for psychological and physical security–derived perhaps from the victim’s property.
From ancient Babylon to the present all of these have been daily occurrences by police. Now, an official Misconduct or Occupational Deviance definition is criminal/noncriminal behavior (i.e. policy violations) that occur during work hours and committed under guise of a police officer’s authority (Long, Social Psychology Quarterly, 2013). Corruption relates only to activities involving misuse of authority for personal gain. Thus, Misconduct includes a broader array of activities, one of which may be Corruption. Example: of greatest significance is the unique coercive powers and authority police possess over citizens—powers that, simply by their decisions, can determine people’s lives or deaths. Such powers to be ‘little gods’ as well as being assured of loyalty from all officers paves the way for certain ones to step beyond the police policy’s “serve and protect” boundaries. Since it is not necessary to show respect (‘because I’ve got the gun’) and since they receive no benefits from being respectful, insensitivity to feelings and legitimate interests of the ‘un-favored’ people are easily developed. Of course, when Black People are involved, all of this is about biases and prejudices.