Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Justice Studies

First Advisor

Judah Schept

Department Affiliation

Justice Studies


The literature on corruption within law enforcement typically addresses factors such as brutality, dishonesty, accepting bribes, and using falsified evidence. This research project examines noble cause corruption (NCC), an area that scholarship has ignored until the last ten years. NCC is defined by Crank and Caldero (2007) as using illegal means to achieve good ends. Although NCC is not a new phenomenon it has become of greater focus in television and movies. Many recent television shows have represented NCC in a positive light, almost disguising it as if it were not present. Therefore the topic of this paper is not only about noble cause corruption, but also how media, through television shows such as Dexter, portrays NCC. These two shows were chosen because they desensitize viewers to noble cause corruption by portraying those who are corrupt in a positive light.

Dexter revolves around the life of one man in the Miami Metro Police Department who works in the crime lab attempting to mask his true self. Outside of the crime lab Dexter is a serial killer self admitted monster who kills serial killers he is able to track down through his job. Although Dexter does kill he is not an "average" serial killer, killing only the people he fit a "moral code" taught to him by his father.

This topic has become increasingly important because there are not very many published sources defining this type of corruption in depth as other forms of corruption within law enforcement. Many authors focus on the idea of police corruption as breaking down into brutality, accepting bribes, and violating codes of conduct. NCC is a more specific type of corruption that does not have the same recognition as the other types of corruption. There are no existing studies of television portrayals of NCC. This thesis offers a new perspective on how television misrepresentations of noble cause corruption can shape society's opinion. Through the shows I will be evaluating the portrayal that noble cause is a positive trait, when in reality the characters are using illegal means to achieve good ends and portrayed as the hero.