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Essay on Noble Cause Corruption as Threat to Law Enforcement

Essays, Essays on Criminal Justice System

Here is a blog post from entitled “Anthony Watts interviewed on “Noble Cause Corruption”

There exists a serious threat to law enforcement, which can compromise the high ethical standards and values our profession has achieved during the past several decades. This threat is typically referred to as “Noble Cause Corruption.”

Traditional corruption is defined as the use of one’s official position for personal gain. The personal gain can be economic or otherwise, such as sexual favors. As a profession, we have long understood this type of abuse of power and, when discovered and investigated, those involved are arrested.

A less obvious but perhaps even more threatening type of misconduct in law enforcement is Noble Cause Corruption. This type of misconduct involves not necessarily the rotten apples in the agency but sometimes involves the best officers in the agency, or the golden apples. Noble Cause Corruption is a mindset or sub-culture which fosters a belief that the ends justify the means. In other words, law enforcement is engaged in a mission to make our streets and communities safe, and if that requires suspending the Constitution or violating laws ourselves in order to accomplish our mission, then for the greater good of society, so be it. The officers who adopt this philosophy lose their moral compass.

You can see why the term was adopted by Watts’ friend Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit. It is one Watts clearly likes. I asked him what he meant by it in the climate context. He replied:

Noble Cause Corruption is a belief that what you’re doing is so much more important than what anyone else is doing because your cause is noble, you’re saving the planet, and because you’re saving the planet, you are doing it for the good of mankind. Therefore your cause is much more important than everyone else’s. There was a time when I actually felt that way, when I was doing a project related to planting trees, and having TV meteorologists plant trees back around 1990. It’s easy to get caught up in that Noble Cause Corruption because it makes you feel good. It makes you feel important. It makes you feel powerful. And so all of those things combine to put a blinder on you as to what you’re really doing.

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