Ethics in Law Enforcement Every Individual Dreams Essay

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Ethics in Law Enforcement

Every individual dreams of living an ideal life filled with peace, prosperity, love and comforts. Many a time's people get money but no peace of mind and often they have incomparable mental solace without the wealth. Scholars like Aristotle, Plato and Socrates believed that an ideal life did not exist but a successful; peace filled life was only possible with adherence to ethics or moral principles of conduct.

In today's world, the public's peace of mind is largely dependent on their safety and the realization of their rights. Nations give their residents freedom of speech, belief and thoughts. They have the right to express their thoughts and practice their religion. However, the modern world is overflowing with incidents of violation of these rights, or terrorism, murder, deceit, rape etc. It is the moral obligation of law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of the residents.

The paper will look into the general code of ethics followed by all criminal justice systems, the significance of such philosophy for law enforcement circles and the effect of the code on the functioning of a department.


According to Plato all actions of the human race have an aim or purpose behind them, the nobility or duplicity of the rationale decides the moral soundness of the act (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2009). Ethics is a set of moral principles that govern human behavior, they are values such as kindness, love etc. (, 2012). These ethical values that tell right from wrong vary from nation to nation, culture to culture and society to society. Tribes, families, organizations and even individuals have their own distinctive ethical rules of conduct.

According to what Plato says the aim and purpose of law enforcement agencies is to maintain peace in their area of influence. Their duty is to ensure the safety of the public's property and person. Law enforcement is a public service division and it serves the public by protecting them from oppression, violence, intimidation and minor or major crimes (Port Washington Police Department).

Adherence to ethics such as honesty, dedication, selflessness etc. is extremely important in a department that has such a major responsibility to fulfill. A transparent and dedicated Police Department will do its best to maintain peace and order in its area of influence, where as one devoid of ethics, or in other words corrupt, will only look after their personal gains. A corrupt police department or criminal justice system will feel no responsibility towards the citizens and would be lax and careless in the performance of their duties.

Experts say that it's necessary to have a set of principles that will help the officials know how to conduct themselves in dangerous or ethically compromising situations. Although it believed by some that 'ethics' is too abstract a term but the truth is that every organization can choose the most important rules according to their profession. Without a proper ethical framework to base on the officers would be left with adrenaline, emotion, instinct and even personal values to guide their actions. In which case, the personal ethical codes of individuals are often a cause of conflict. A single code will ensure that all decisions made by various officials are on the level, moral and proper. Officials are trained in the ethical code of their particular department, and such training improves decision making, analytical and reasoning skills. It improves their understanding of the justice system as well as develops an appreciation of the complexity of human nature which would lead them to deal with the public with sensitivity and compassion. It also acquaints them with the possible outcomes of their actions and hence cautions them against rash behavior. Also ethics are central to the decisions involving punishments of individuals, use of force, due process, and arrests because in most situations the patience and character of the officer is sorely tested and they might be induced to act without thinking. Therefore it's important to put a prior check and restrain on all law enforcement officials (Banks, C, 2004).

"Members of the Academy are especially careful to avoid incompetent, unethical or unscrupulous use of criminal justice knowledge. They recognize the great potential for harm that is associated with the study of criminal justice, and they do not knowingly place the well-being of themselves or other people in jeopardy in their professional work." Another reason is the unchecked and careless actions of these important individuals can endanger the lives of the officials and public, alike (Ozyasar, H. 2012)

It is part of the code that all law enforcement officials sign, at the time of appointment that they would maintain the highest standard of conduct at all times. According to the first NYPD Superintendent George Chandler, a police officer has to realize that he or she has to function within some prescribed boundaries; he can't change or implement his own moral rules and should avoid being used by others. His duty is simply to settle grievances and provide maximum protection to the people. The code of ethics that governs a law enforcement agency is used as a training tool by the instructors. They engrain in the law enforcement officials their ethical limitations and accepted behavioral code (Kardasz, F. 2008).

The normal oath for officials also includes injunctions or promises like: they will "develop self-restraint, and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department." Also that they will not, "permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or friendships to influence my decisions." That they will not stop from "relentless prosecution of criminals." The officials also promise to "enforce law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities." (Port Washington Police Department).

According to the official code of ethics for the Washington Port Police Department the officials must know their bounds and limitations, plus realize the importance of the responsibility the public has placed on them. He will continue to improve his knowledge of law and even seek his superior's aid in matters that elude his understanding and knowledge. This is important because without complete knowledge of what is expected of the official he or she can't be expected to fulfill all his duties properly. The official must be aware that no amount of laxity or disrespect of law will be bearable or acceptable and his conduct should only bring good name to the department and field of law enforcement. He should at no time accept gifts or favors from individuals (Port Washington Police Department).

The criminal Justice system today is not entirely without immoral acts and incidents. The system is rife with instances of corruption, not just among Police Force, but as high as the Judiciary and top level agents. Another element is the presence of racial discrimination, especially in U.S., and religious discrimination in other country's justice system.

For instance in 1990, an African-American Adolph Archie was injured by the police of New Orleans, who claimed that he killed a white officer. Later Archie also died and his death happened in uncertain circumstances. It is reported that he had been injured and while he was being transported to the hospital he was showered with death threats from other white officers. The hospital where he should have been taken was a short distance but it took the officers around 12 minutes to get there. On the way for no apparent reason he was also taken to the Police station, where he was hit and even fell. The tests revealed that he was beaten severely, but no one was held responsible, and even his reports and X-rays vanished from records. Some reports say that his death was caused by the injuries, while others blame the iodine injection, to which he was allergic, responsible for his death. It took the superintendent just a day to clear all involved officers though it was also heard that other officers harassed the officer who arrested him because they expected him to kill Archie. An independent judicial finding revealed deep rooted corruption and indicated the existence of a 'code of silence' in the entire department. The committee reported that the officers were guilty of causing Archie's death but were never reprimanded or suitably punished. In 2000 a total of 8 prisoners, who were set to be executed, were released because, apparently they were wrongfully incarcerated. In one case mentally challenged man had been imprisoned for 14 years before the court decided that he did not commit the crime for which he was being executed. The man was convicted despite lack of any evidence placing him on the crime scene, and solely on the evidence of a spy, famous for lying (Banks, C. 2004). Incidents like these mean that law is a puppet in the hands of the officials and they would use it as…[continue]

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