Unconstitutional Policing: The Ethical Challenges in Dealing with Noble Cause Corruption

When uncovered as a pattern or practice, the police crimes defined as noble cause corruption can result in constitutional rights litigation that can financially cripple agencies. In promoting police integrity, the U.S. Department of Justice repeatedly emphasizes the duty of law enforcement agents to respect the value and dignity of every person, including criminal citizens.1 The Department of Justice has recently emphasized this message, and has entered into consent decrees with cities stemming from allegations of patterns of police abuse of authority.

Rogue officers are tempted to engage in noble cause corruption in situations where they perceive no administrative accountability and decide to push the constitutional envelope, even though police must know and respect the constitutional laws upon which their very authority is derived. Departmental leaders must address noble cause corruption by defining what it is, what fosters it, and how to eliminate it.