Knapp Commission | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Policing / Ethics

The Knapp Commission refers to an investigative body created in 1970 by New York City to probe into allegations of rampant bribery and corruption within the New York City Police Department (NYPD).

This Commission carries the name of its chairman, Whitman Knapp, a respected federal judge. Its formation followed a series of disturbing revelations. Journalist David Burnham wrote a string of New York Times articles alleging that police officers regularly accepted bribes and engaged in corrupt practices. The city, stunned by these accusations, responded by setting up the Knapp Commission.

Probing Deep: The Commission’s Investigation

With its mission set, the Knapp Commission embarked on a two-year investigation. They interviewed hundreds of witnesses, collected vast amounts of evidence, and sifted through numerous records. The process was exhaustive, but the goal was clear: to expose any corruption within the NYPD.

The Shocking Findings

In 1972, the Knapp Commission shared its findings with the world. Their final report was damning. The document outlined rampant corruption in the NYPD. Officers had been accepting bribes, committing theft, falsifying records, and even perpetrating acts of brutality against citizens.

The Commission also revealed an unspoken ‘code of silence’ among officers. This code enabled police to protect each other and conceal illegal activities. Essentially, it allowed corruption to flourish undetected within the ranks of the NYPD.

Reforming the NYPD: The Aftermath of the Investigation

The Knapp Commission’s revelations shook the NYPD and sparked immediate change. Reforms were put into action, aiming to eliminate the corruption the Commission had brought to light.

The NYPD established an internal affairs division tasked with investigating police misconduct allegations. New training programs were implemented, designed to instill ethical conduct and discourage corrupt behavior. A civilian review board also came into existence, serving to oversee police behavior and ensure transparency and accountability.

The Legacy of the Knapp Commission

The Knapp Commission stands as a landmark in the history of police corruption and reform. Its investigation exposed the dark underbelly of the NYPD, leading to sweeping reforms. The Commission’s work served as a blueprint for similar investigations in other cities and countries.

Its impact goes beyond the NYPD. The work of the Knapp Commission has influenced how law enforcement agencies across the world address corruption within their ranks. This investigative body shone a light on the shadows, proving the power of truth and transparency in fostering accountability and integrity within police forces.

In conclusion, the Knapp Commission was a significant turning point. It exposed corruption, sparked reforms, and left an enduring legacy that still resonates in the battle against police corruption today. The story of the Knapp Commission underlines the importance of vigilance, transparency, and accountability in maintaining the integrity of our law enforcement institutions.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/28/2023

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