Ethics in Policing CJS/210 November 1, 2009 William Whitlatch, Instructor Ethics in Policing According to Webster’s Dictionary, ethics is defined “as the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” (Merriam-Webster Online). This concept is prevalent in the world of police work since police officers are supposed to be the “good” in whatever is considered a “bad” situation. Many police departments offer training in ethics during the time in which a cadet is in the police academy and after officers are put on the streets, which is called in-service training.
It is the hope that while this training is available to officers, that they hold a basic code of ethics within themselves which would deter them from that which is considered “bad” in today’s society. In some instances, that is not the case. More often than not, police officers are ethical and are forthright in their jobs; however, there are a select few that step over that line. Police officers are put to the test on a daily basis to maintain a high standard of ethics.
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They are constantly scrutinized by society and the parameters in which they can perform their duties are growing smaller in this litigious society. They do not want to overstep their bounds when it comes to police work. They are trained professionals performing in a skilled position whose main goal is providing a service and protecting the public. Since they are so visible, ethics and ethical standards are paramount. They must always do the right thing at the right time and be in the right place for the right reason.
There are expectations that the public has for police officers that always have to be met or exceeded, regardless of whether they are municipal, state, county, or federal police. Police officers not only have to enforce the laws of the jurisdiction where they work, but also the US Constitution, which is the basis of all law. Police officers not only have to “keep it clean” on the job, but in their personal lives as well. The police have a code of conduct, which works in conjunction with the law enforcement code of ethics.
While the wording of the police code of conduct may vary by jurisdiction, the end result is the same??? “protect those that need protecting, perform the job with integrity, keep others information confidential unless the performance of duty or legal provision requires otherwise, use discretion based on reasonableness, never employ use of force unless in the defense of life, and behave in a manner that does not discredit the office in which they are employed” (Ethics and Law Enforcement, 2002). Corruption Police corruption is one of the ethical issues affecting law enforcement officers.
Corruption is defined as “impairment of integrity, virtue or moral principle; inducement to do wrong by improper or unlawful means” (Merriam Webster Online, 2009). While the most recognizable form of corruption involves officers taking money for favors (bribery), the actions that are considered corruption include filing false police reports, harassment of any person due to sex, race, creed, religion, national origin or sexual orientation, and failure to protect the rights of citizens. Corruption exists in all levels of law enforcement. When people think of police misconduct, they immediately think of police brutality.
While police brutality is a form of police misconduct, the term is much broader. Police misconduct is any conduct that is outside the ethical code that officers are sworn to follow. More to the point, police misconduct can involve a violation of departmental policies, a violation of constitutional protections, a violation of the law itself, or a combination of the three. As mentioned before, police brutality is one of the actions that fall under the vast umbrella that is police misconduct. Police brutality is not only physical attacks, but it can also be verbal attacks on citizens by police officers.
While it is true that officers are allowed to utilize force in the apprehension of a suspect and when it is necessary for officers to protect themselves, excessive force used that is above and beyond what is necessary is considered police brutality. This is an example of a violation of a suspect’s 5th amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. All of the aforementioned behaviors are frowned upon by police departments and citizenry alike. Police departments are striving to cut down if not eliminate instances of unethical behavior amongst their officers.
The worst part is, as long as there is good and bad, there will be ethical and unethical. References Corruption. (n. d). In Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved from www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary Crime and Misconduct Commission. (2007). What is misconduct. Retrieved from www. cmc. qld. gov. au Ethic(s). (n. d). In Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved from www. merriam-webster. com/dictionary Grant, J. Kevin. “Ethics and law enforcement. “??The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. 71. 12??(Dec 2002):??11(4). General OneFile. Gale. Apollo Library. 1 Nov. 2009?? .