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Psychology of Power: Why People Abuse it?

JACKSON, Miss. — The balance between power and abusing that power can sometimes be a fine line.

This has been seen in Mississippi recently in towns and cities dotted across the map.

Whether it’s former Sheriff Mike Byrd on the coast with almost 30 felony counts against him, former Mayor Greg Davis in Southaven charged with spending outlandish amounts of taxpayer money on personal items, or former Mendenhall Police Chief Bruce Barlow extorting money from his own citizens, the real life examples exist.

“What I think happens with some people that are in high positions is that once they gain the power, they think they’re above the law,” said psychiatrist and author Dr. Ron Riggio. “They think they’re the exception to the rule.”

Riggio said, that at times, it is a self-centered thing.

“If you’re talking about police aggression, it’s a little bit different,” he said. “That’s really more about the role and expectations, and there’s a lot of research to back that up.”

Riggio said the only way to curb the abuse of power is to hold people accountable, and points to a trial going now in southern California.

“These people were giving themselves million dollar salaries and they were a poor community,” he said.

He relayed in many instances it’s a slippery slope for people that ultimately get caught.

“First you take a gift, and then later on you take a bribe,” said Riggio. “It just escalates and it’s been going on since the beginning of time.”

 

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