Police corruption: a comparison between China and India

Author:George Chak man Lee
Position:Centre of Development Studies, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
Pages:248-276
SUMMARY

Purpose There is no comparative research into the Chinese (PSB) police and the Indian police generally and none on police corruption in particular. This paper aims to show what police corruption and malpractices look like in China and India and offer up some suggestions as to why wide spread malpractices persists. Design/methodology/approach Horses’ mouth qualitative research is supported by primary public and police survey data. Findings... (see full summary)

 
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Police corruption: a comparison
between China and India
George Chak man Lee
Centre of Development Studies, Trinity College, University of Cambridge,
Cambridge, UK
Abstract
Purpose There is no comparative research into the Chinese (PSB) police and the Indian police generally
and none on police corruption in particular. This paper aims to show what police corruption and
malpractices look like in China and India and offer up some suggestions as to why wide spread
malpractices persists.
Design/methodology/approach Horsesmouth qualitative researchis supported by primary public
and police surveydata.
Findings There are many similaritiesin corruption tricks of the tradein both the countries, as well as in
the reasons for its persistence.However, petty police corruption is more pervasiveand less subtle in India. But
both the forces suffer from politicizationof policing, criminalization of politics, culture of tolerance towards
substantivejustice over procedural justice and master/servantattitude towards the public. In China, the police
have administrativepowers beyond criminal legislation, and Indian corruption is underscoredby the culture
of Jugaad.
Research limitations/implications This is largely a qualitative research, so the usual arguments
regarding limitations on its generalization applies. However, the insights in this article may provide some
understandingof this under-researched topic andmay stimulate further research in this eld.It may also offer
pointersto potential solutions for practitioners and policymakers.
Practical implications By providing data on what corruption looks like and why it persists,
policymakers can usethe ndings of this study to develop measures to address them. In sodoing they would
create a police service in India and China that is less prone to corruptionand misconduct, thereby increasing
public trustin these institutions.
Social implications Peace and security is a prerequisite condition for economic and social
modernization through the rule of law. Reform of the police is a critical success factor in this process.
Therefore, by reformi ng the police, India and Chi na stand a better chance of era dicating poverty and
reducing inequality.
Originality/value There is little in the way of research into theChinese Police and none into Chinese
police corruption. Thereis also no comparative study of the Chinese and Indian police generallyand none on
police corruptionin particular.
Keywords Chinese/Indian police, Comparative study India/China, Jugaad/guanxi, Police corruption,
Police misconduct/malpractices, Police trust
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
This paper aims to providea perspective on whether the Chinese and Indian police are up to
the task of modern policing. As a 17-yearBritish police veteran, my experience tells me that
whether and to what extent a police force is perceived to be corrupt is a key determinant of
public trust. The lack of public trust impairs police efciency and effectiveness including
tackling economic crime. This is because policing relies on cooperation and information
from victims, witnesses, the mediaand the general public. There are obviously other factors
(e.g. regime legitimacy, police efciency and effectiveness) that affect public trust, but the
JFC
25,2
248
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.25 No. 2, 2018
pp. 248-276
© Emerald Publishing Limited
1359-0790
DOI 10.1108/JFC-10-2017-0096
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1359-0790.htm
scope of this paper focuses on police corruption. More specically, we will examine what
police corruption in China and India looks like and offer up some potential reasons for its
persistence. I decidedto conduct a comparative study between China and India becausethey
share similarities (e.g.both have large populations, long cultural historiesand started on the
economic reform road roughlyabout the same time), as well as differences (e.g. China is said
to be the largest authoritarian regime in the world and India the largest democracy).
Moreover, because of their size and growing importance on the world stage, any internal
societal shifts will not only impact their own population but also have potential
consequences for the wider world.
2. Literature review
There is no universally accepted denition of corruption (Holmes, 2015) but the traditional
view is that it involves economic improprieties, such as, bribes and embezzlement by a
public ofcial and there is usually an element of reciprocity in the corrupt transaction
(Heidenheimer and Levine, 1989;Glaeser and Goldin, 2008; Porta et al., 1997). However, the
concept of corruption has evolved and the scope widened to include both private-to-private
sectors without the need for a public ofcialas shown by the passing of The UK Bribery Act
2010 (Comer and Stephens, 2013). Additionally, according to Meny (1997), the practice of
nepotism and cronyism whichleads to privileged insiders may also be viewed as corruption
in some circumstances.
The Knapp Commissions investigationof the New York Police Department in the early
1970s is a much cited report in the eld of police corruption. The commission coined two
terms that describespolice corruption which is now frequentlyused. They are grass-eaters
and meat-eaters. The former refers to police ofcers who will accept bribes if offered to
them and the latter refers to morepredatory ofcers who actively seeks or solicit bribes but
some analysts prefersto use the terms proactive and reactive corruption(Holmes,2014).
However, I would argue that when researching into police corruption, the traditional
understanding of corruption is insufcient because other police malpractices extends
beyond those described above. Forexample, there exists the term noble cause corruption
in policing which has been depicted in popular cultureby Hollywood movies such as Dirty
Harry and Apache the Bronx.This is where an ofcer abuses his position of authority
through administering the ofcers versionof substantive (result justies the means) rather
than procedural (stickingto legal rules of evidence and procedures, etc.) justice.
For the purposes of this paper, the denition of corruption includes bribes,
embezzlement, rent extraction, nepotism, cronyism, cover ups for police misconduct and
abuse of power (including noble causeand unlawful violence). Other activities such as
mumping(Punch, 2010)orblagging, i.e. proactivelyseeking freebies such as gifts, food
and drinks, are also corruptionif the ofcer acquires it from businesses who gives it
grudgingly because the owner feels intimidated by the ofcer. However, if the businesses
provide these as gratuitiesbecause they are genuinely grateful for the work that the police is
doing in their community –“slippery slope(Sherman, 1974) not withstanding then they
may be contrary to the discipline codes of the policeforce in question (e.g. Singapore) but the
act is not police corruption for the purposesof this paper.
The effect of corruption is wide ranging and impact directly in the lives of the masses in
many ways. For example, it has social, economic (Madsen, 2013), politico-legal,
environmental, security-related, international and inequality implications(Holmes, 2015)for
the host nation, as well as risks for trading partnersand global nancial institutions. If left
unchecked, it erodes the quality of everyday lives of its citizens and has a demoralising
impact on its people,as well as legitimacy challenges for the ruling elite (Holmes,2015).
Comparison
between China
and India
249

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