Everyone knows that Prohibition brought about several unintended consequences, one of them the rise of organized crime. Less known is that it also brought about a huge increase in corrupt policemen and other law enforcement agents. Why?
During Prohibition, thousands of federal agents were hired to enforce the new laws against selling alcohol. In spite of this, historians estimate that only about 5% of all illegal liquor produced in the U.S. was ever intercepted. Were these agents stupid or lazy or ill-equipped? No, they were bought off! You have only to look at the numbers to see why.
Federal agents made $1,800 a year. There was so much money to be made in bootleg liquor that they could easily be bribed. An agent could make $500 in one day just by letting his underworld contact know he was going to phone in sick, thereby allowing area shipments to move without anyone worrying about getting caught. Not just federal agents, but police, too, were bribed too, with money, liquor, women, or all three. All they had to do was look the other way. And to most people, it didn’t seem like a real crime–something that had been legal forever was suddenly illegal with the stroke of a pen.