Knapp Commission

Knapp Commission

The Knapp Commission (officially known as the Commission to Investigate Alleged Police Corruption) stemmed from a five member panel initially formed in April 1970 by Mayor John V. Lindsay to investigate corruption within the New York City Police Department. The creation of the commission was largely a result of the publicity generated by the public revelations of police corruption made by Patrolman Frank Serpico and Sergeant David Durk.

Investigation and Public Hearings

While the Knapp Commission (named after its chairman, Whitman Knapp) began its investigation of corruption within the police department in June 1970, public hearings didn't start until October 18, 1971. In addition to the testimony of whistleblowers Serpico and Durk, at these public hearings, testimony from dozens of other witnesses, including former Police Commissioner Howard R. Leary, corrupt patrolmen and the victims of police shakedowns, were heard.

As an immediate result of witness testimony, criminal indictments against corrupt police officials were handed down. Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy, who was appointed by Mayor Lindsay shortly after the commission was formed to clean up the department, started implementing proactive integrity checks, massive transfers of senior personnel, job rotation in key areas, ensuring sufficient funds to pay informants, and cracking down on citizen attempts at bribery.

Whitman Knapp nominated as a Federal Judge

On June 15, 1972, Whitman Knapp, Chairman of the Knapp Commission, was nominated as a Federal Judge for the Southern District of New York by President Richard M. Nixon.

Recommendations of the Knapp Commission

The commission issued its preliminary report on August 15, 1972 and issued its final report on December 27, 1972. In its final report, the commission found widespread corruption in the New York City Police Department, and made the following recommendations:

  • commanders should be held accountable for their subordinates' actions.
  • commanders should file periodic reports on key areas that would breed corruption.
  • field offices of the Internal Affairs division should be created at all precincts.
  • undercover informants should be placed in all precincts.
  • improve screening and selection methods and standards.
  • a change in police attitudes.

"Grass Eaters" and "Meat Eaters"

The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption identified two particular classes of corrupt police officer, which it called "Grass Eaters" and "Meat Eaters". This classification refers to petty corruption under peer pressure ("eating grass") and aggressive premeditated major corruption ("eating meat").

The term "Grass Eaters" is used to describe police officers who, "accepts gratuities and solicit five, ten, twenty dollar payments from contractors, tow-truck operators, gamblers, and the like but do not pursue corruption payments." 'Grass eating' is something that a significant number of officers are guilty of, but they learned to do so from other cops or from imitating the deviants they watch and investigate every day. The commission even concluded that 'grass eating' was used by police officers in New York City to prove their loyalty to the brotherhood, and with that came incentives like side jobs. One method of preventing cops from becoming corrupt is to eliminate this step by removing veteran cops who do this, without any veteran cops to learn this from, new officers might never decide to 'eat grass'.

"Meat Eaters" are officers who "spend a good deal of time aggressively looking for situations they can exploit for financial gain." An example of this is shaking down pimps and drug dealers for money because, not only does the officer profit from it, but he or she can neutralize their guilt by convincing themselves that the victim deserves it. They justify taking advantage of criminals because they are considered the dregs of society.

See also

Further reading

  • Barker, T. (1978) An Empirical Study of Police Deviance Other Than Corruption. Journal of Police Science and Administration 6(3): 264-72.
  • Barker, T. & D. Carter (1990) Fluffing Up the Evidence and Covering Your Ass: Some Conceptual Notes on Police Lying. Deviant Behavior 11: 61-73.
  • Barker, T. & D. Carter (Eds.) (1994) Police Deviance. Cincinnati: Anderson.
  • Braziller, G. (Ed.) (1972) The Knapp Commission Report on Police Corruption. New York: George Braziller.
  • DeLattre, E. (1996) Character and Cops: Ethics in Policing. Washington DC: AEI Press.
  • Dershowitz, A. (1996) Reasonable Doubts. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Kania, R. & W. Mackey (1977) Police Violence as a Function of Community Characteristics Criminology 15: 27-48.
  • Kappeler, V., R. Sluder & G. Alpert (1994) Forces of Deviance: Understanding the Dark Side of Policing. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
  • Kleinig, J. (1996) The Ethics of Policing. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Sherman, L. (1974) Police Corruption: A Sociological Perspective. Garden City, NJ: Doubleday.
  • Trautman, N. (1997) The Cutting Edge of Police Integrity. FL: Ethics Inst.


External links

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