Last week, three Memphis police officers were arrested for stealing drugs from dealers.
Arthur Sease, who left the department in 2005 for unrelated reasons, was charged in a 50-count indictment that included charges of civil rights conspiracy, distribution and possession of controlled substances, extortion, kidnapping, and firearms violations.
Officers Alexander Johnson and Antoine Owens each face two counts of conspiring to violate civil rights and to distribute controlled substances.
According to U.S. attorney David Kustoff, the trio would convince an individual to arrange a drug purchase. During the exchange, the officers would "bust" the dealers and take their cash, drugs, and jewelry. Then they'd usually instruct the dealer to keep quiet about the incident and let him or her leave without being charged.
The most recent charges bring the number of indicted Memphis police officers to 19 in the past two years. With more than 2,000 officers on the force, that figure accounts for almost 1 percent of all Memphis police officers.
Chip Burrus, assistant director of the FBI's criminal-investigations division, says this sort of "crooked cop" behavior is fairly common all over the country.
"There's 18,000 police agencies throughout America, and 99 percent of the officers are doing exactly what they should. They're obeying the law, following the Constitution," says Burrus. "It's the 1 percent that we always worry about."
He says the appeal of extra money often gets in the way of a cop's sense, but better ethics training in police departments can help.
"A corrupt cop doesn't just one day say, 'I'm going to be a corrupt cop tomorrow,'" says Burrus. "It's a gradual baby step toward the line. Sometimes that line is blurry and difficult to determine. But when they cross it, they've crossed it."