Nevertheless, while not all theories hold that the defining purpose of policing is the enforcement of law, there is general agreement that police, at least in legitimate states, are servants of the law, and that behavior that conflicts with that role is, at least potentially, corrupt.
Second, there are disagreements about what might be called the scope of police corruption.
Moreover, the extent of corruption clearly varies considerably across different settings.
In some Indian police services, for example, corruption appears to be virtually universal, with bribery a precondition for police attention; in totalitarian states the police are part of the repressive structure that keeps the regime in power and, using a broad understanding of police corruption, much of their official activity is corrupt in nature.
The decision makes the police service less effective than it should have been, but it is not an instance of corruption.
It is necessary, then, to find a definition of police corruption which is not unduly broad.
Corruption is a process of subversion or corrosion of a noncorrupt, pure, or ideal state of affairs.
“Police corruption,” then, refers in the first instance to acts which undermine the proper functioning of a police service (and perhaps more broadly of the criminal justice system) and, derivatively, of the moral character of the police who engage in it.
First, there are differences about the role of police, and hence of the ideal that provides the contrast against which police corruption is identified.
Those differences stem from the wide range of activities that police engage in—from collecting fees on behalf of government departments, and informing people of the death of a family member in an accident, to arresting suspected criminals and testifying in court—and the variety of purposes they appear to have in doing so—including enforcing the law, saving lives, maintaining social calm, and protecting people’s rights.