Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Justice Wood's the Rotten Apple Theory from Wood's Royal Commission.

The Hon Justice JRT Wood, in his final report on the New South
Wales Police Service in 1987 (“the Wood Royal Commission”), said at
26-27, paragraphs 2.6 and 2.7:
“2.6 The ‘rotten apple’ theory of police deviance by which
corruption has been understood in terms of individual
moral failure has been long discounted. The narrow
perspective of corruption offered by the rotten apple
theory has been criticised as a defensive approach which
denies the social determinants of corruption and the
reality that organisations can be corrupt:
Consequently it would seem that acceptance by police
managers and political elites, of a rotten apple concept of
police corruption, is a defensive, face-saving exercise. The
solution is simply seen as removing ‘bent’ officers without a
need to evaluate organisational procedures. It is, in essence, a
means of ‘papering over the cracks’ without admitting that
there is a fundamental problem of major significance (K Bryett
& A Harrison, Policing in the Community, Butterworths,
Sydney, 1993, p 74).
2.7 The Knapp Commission, reporting on police corruption
in New York in 1972, concluded that the New York City
Police Department’s (NYPD) reliance on the rotten apple
theory had functioned as an obstacle to meaningful
According to this theory, which bordered on official
According to this theory, which bordered on official
Department doctrine, any policeman found to be corrupt must
promptly be denounced as a rotten apple in an otherwise clean
barrel. It must never be admitted that his individual
corruption may be symptomatic of underlying disease… A
high command unwilling to acknowledge that the problem of
corruption is extensive cannot very well argue that drastic
changes are necessary to deal with the problem.

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