Which is worse, a corrupt, bad cop or a criminal?

I think criminals do more harm in totality because there are more of them.
But, on an individual level, a single corrupt cop, arguably, does more harm than a single professional criminal, because, in addition to whatever harm comes from whatever crime he commits, he erodes public trust in law enforcement, and tars every good cop with his wrongdoing.
There was an episode of the original
Dragnet series from the ‘50’s in which Joe Friday gave a soliloquy about the harm a bad cop did to law enforcement. James Moser wrote the script. The episode was entitled “The Big Cop.” It ran on 2 August 1951 on radio, and on 1 Jan. 1953 on TV.
You get this straight, Mister. You’re a bad cop! You want to know what that means? What that really means? This isn’t a private affair. You’re a bad cop, Mister!

You’ll be all over the front pages tonight and tomorrow morning. Everybody’s going to read about you. A bad cop. It makes great news. They’re not going to read about 9000 other cops. The guys who patrolled their beats last night. The guys who risked their lives, and did their jobs the way they’re hired to do. People aren’t going to read about them. The Wynns and the Smiths. The rookies pounding their feet flat in the sticks. The traffic boys on the motorcycles. Or the guy in Robbery who stopped a slug last night. They’re not going to read about them on the front page. They’re not going to read about millions of man-hours turned in by thousands of honest cops here and across the country. People aren’t going to read about honest cops who worked 40 honest years. The Donahoes and the Steeds and the MacCauleys and all the rest of ‘em. They’re not going to read about the 98 per cent, Mister. They’re going to read about you. One crooked, thieving cop. He worked with a burglary ring. He had an apartment that he rented for his girl and he stole a fur coat for her, and he was a cop. And he had a nice wife and two great kids, and he was a cop.
Do you know what all this means? Every kid whose got a dad or mom who’s a cop will have to fight his way out today because of you. Every cop’s wife is going to go shopping today, and try not to wilt at the stares she gets from the butcher, and the grocer, and all of her neighbors. Every cop in the country is going to have to stand trial because of you.
We could’ve piled up a hundred years of great cops, people with honor, and brains, and guts, and you tore down the best part of ‘em. The people who read it in the papers, they’re going to overlook the fact that we got you. That we washed our own laundry and cleaned this thing up. They’re going to overlook all the good. They’re going to overlook every good cop in the country.
But they’ll remember you. Because you’re a bad cop. You’re a bad cop.
That’s more than 60 years ago. But if you change “papers” for “TV and the ‘Net,” it’s still mostly true. One bad cop tars all cops.

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More Answers Below

Roger Curtiss, Retired Detective
Answered Jul 18 2017 · Author has 307 answers and 82.1k answer views

Cops are given a great deal of responsibility and trust and are the only individuals authorized to arrest people. Taking advantage of that privileged status is a violation of that trust. People expect criminals to commit criminal acts- the same cannot be said of police officers.
61 Views · View Upvoters

Kieth Moreland, Police Sergeant (2014-present)
Answered Jul 18 2017 · Author has 1.6k answers and 2.2m answer views

I think a bad/corrupt cop is much worse. He/she makes the rest of us look bad. He/she also gets trusted initially and is often allowed into secure spaces or has access to the weakest of society they can exploit. You know what you're likely going to get from a criminal, so expectations can be set low. You and I should be able to expect honesty and integrity from a cop...too bad, I've known a few who let us down.
159 Views · View Upvoters · Answer requested by Miguel Buitrago

Miles Gordon, Over 15 years as a city cop
Answered Jul 18 2017 · Author has 2.7k answers and 7.4m answer views

They are the same thing. The problem is, people expect more from cops, as well they should. A bad cop sullies all cops and makes our job harder because folks seem to paint us all with the same brush.
188 Views · View Upvoters

Adam Klimczak, studied Police and Law Enforcement (1996)
Answered Jul 19 2017

A bad cop is much worse. A criminal is what he is, but a corrupt cop is not only a criminal but they destroy the credibility of so many men and women who honor the bad. Some criminals can be rehabilitated but a dirty cop is marked for life.
47 Views · View Upvoters

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Moussa SANGARÉ, MPhil Law International Humanitarian Law & International Human Rights Law, Obafemi Awolowo University (2017)
Answered Jul 19 2017

I think a corrupt and bad cop is worse because he contributes largely to the promotion of criminals. Einstein was right when he said that the worl is not destroyed by those who do bad things but by those who remain silent. So it exactly portrays at a lower stage the question about a corrupt and bad cop and a criminal.

Alexis Bailey, B.A Accounting, Wayne State University (2020)
Updated Feb 3, 2018

I think it depends on the deed. If the corrupt cop steals $10 worth of drug money and the criminal is a murderer well it's the criminal who is worse. If we make the cop a killer that abused their position and the criminal stole $10 from someone the cop is worse.
Broad generalizations are hardly ever useful.
90 Views · View Upvoters

Stephen Thomas, CEO & Founder
Answered Jul 18, 2017

There is no difference. They both have bad intentions.
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