Ethics Discretion and Decision Making - Paper Sample

Published: 2023-11-09
Ethics Discretion and Decision Making - Paper Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Ethics Police Community
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1559 words
13 min read


The public expects the police to have high ethical standards as they serve. Thus, in their serving duty, the law enforcement strives to adopt to these set standards for effective maintenance of order. Police ethics such as integrity, honesty, and transparency are some of the traits that create a culture of high standards. Every day, individuals working in policing are faced with situations where they have to make difficult decisions with ethical implications. Therefore, it is crucial for law enforcement departments to have a continuous process of ethical guidelines and legal training to avoid occasions of unethical behavior and ethical complacency. This paper entails a discussion on ethics as they apply to customer and community relationships, discretion, and operational confidences that can be incorporated in the continual ethics and legal guidelines training sessions.

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Importance of Legal and Ethical Guidelines

A commitment to legal and ethical guidelines involves a submission to the standards of professional police practice. Firstly, ethical guidelines are essential for the police department because these guidelines ensure that there is maximum care of police to an individual and the public. According to the guidelines, every officer's fundamental duty is to be of service to their community and to safeguard lives and property. Secondly, the guidelines authorize the police officers to admonish unethical behavior. The police badge acts as a symbol of public faith, ensuring that the police point out where there is a wrong and help them avoid engaging in acts of corruption and bribery. Thirdly, the ethical principles also highlight the confidentiality at the police department and define the type of information shared by the public. Fourthly, the police have a duty to serve the public; thus, these legal ethical principles permit the police to consider all the needs without favor and removes prejudgment of a situation. Finally, these ethical guidelines help maintain professional standards among officers. The principles help officers keep their private lives unsullied to act as an example to the general public. Honesty, integrity, and being exemplary in obeying the law are examples of professional standards that are outlined in the legal code of ethics in the police department.

Personnel in Their Annual Training Cycle

There should be a continuous process of ethical guidelines and legal training to avoid occasions of ethical complacency that can fast occur among the officers. Teaching ethics helps stress that police should not be complacent about their safety and, in all situations, follow the law's requirements in handling risky issues. According to Markos (2017), continually training the police on ethics helps them understand how to tackle situations of dilemmas and those that may put their lives at risk.

Ethical training should also be done continuously to address current trends and practices in law enforcement. Wyatt-Nichol and Franks (2009) denote that improved training to all staff members without ignoring the junior members, coupled with effective programs, is vital in increasing the overall effectiveness of and improving ethical decision-making. Wyatt-Nichol and Franks (2009) add that, for all personnel, continuous ethical training has a potential impact on improving ethical reasoning. Although ethical training alone cannot end police abuse of power and increase the public's level of trust, continuous education is essential as it contributes as part of a solution to the bigger problem.

Unethical Decisions

Decisions made by the police in the public eye affect the way that the community views the department. When a police officer commits a mistake or does a remarkable job, the effects are directly reflected by the department. For instance, a case where a police officer decides to arrest an African American without enough evidence, the whole department ends up being crowned as racist. This makes the pubic loose trust in the department. According to Bouza (2013), individual police behavior may undermine or strengthen the legitimacy of the overall law enforcement department. Bouza (2013) also adds that the police department may be viewed as corrupt due to the negative influence that a police officer's behavior has on society. For instance, a lie said by an officer in denying their conduct often leads to the conclusion that the officers make up the story to protect other fellow officers or departments as a whole.

Additionally, unethical decisions made by police officers foster bad working climates in the organizations where there is self-interest. In the process of trying to cover up unethical activities, a culture of corruption is built in the police department. The self-interest subculture is further cultivated when the norm is passed on to other junior officers joining the department during training (Bouza, 2013).

Police Relationships With the Customers

In relating to these customers, a police officer has an ethical role in responding quickly to the reported criminal activity. In the case of a consensual encounter, it is the responsibility of the police to make the person approached feel safe by avoiding the use of force and sirens. Ethical issues are essential in improving the relationship between the police and the customer by allowing them to practice their right to walk away if they want to or refuse to identify themselves. Ethics also requires that when an officer detains a person for investigation, then there must be a reasonable suspicion (Conser et al., 2013). The officer must respect the customer’s fifth amendment when they choose to remain silent. The suspicion for a stop must depend on the totality of the circumstances, and a mere suspicion of crime may not be sufficient and is unethical. Thus, it is ethical the responsibility of the police officer towards the customers contacted on a routine basis to make a non-biased, reasonable decision, and non-discriminatory calls to protect citizens. Transparency and accountability another set of vital ethical values essential in strengthening the police-community relationship (Conser et al., 2013). It is the police's role to release to the customers as much information as possible so that the citizens do not feel as if the information is purposefully withheld from them.

How Discretion Impact the Police Department

Discretion helps enhance decision making among officers in the department. Discretion gives law enforcers an opportunity to make fast decisions while on duty when there are no clear solutions. Additionally, discretion done through administrative lawmaking creates specific requirements for officers to follow, thus allowing for consistency. Although this advantage of administrative rulemaking may limit how the police use their training to help others, it is vital in creating a communication network between the department and the public. Police use discretion to find a solution to a myriad of problems because it plays a central role in the department's functioning. For instance, the police operating without a warrant have to decide on behalf of the department whether the alleged crime is enough to offer a warrant of arrest. For example, for a person drunk in public, one officer may choose to arrest him while another may choose to put him in a car and send him to his home.

Discretion negatively impacts the police department by not only diminishing the credibility of the officer's actions but also weakening integrity. Discretion gives room for poor handling and, in some cases, fabrication of evidence; this affects the department's integrity. Police managers find it challenging to provide effective leadership to those police officials who have more discretion and independence than the management. Philips (2016) argues that it is as a result of discretion accorded to the police officers at the operational level that the officer's work is left unsupervised.

Importance and Impact of Operational Confidences for Administrative Issues

Close-hold information and operational confidences are an essential means of protecting a wide range of information, including client identity, immigration status, and other records such as medical. Gathering close-hold information is also vital in a tactical war enforcement mission by identifying possible future threats. When the law enforcement team has classified information about an individual or group, it is easier to use it to control their future actions that could be detrimental to the nation. While ensuring that the adversaries know none of the government's secrets, the law enforcement uses confidential strategies in obtaining all secrets and special information of the adversaries that could be useful in future conviction. Close-hold information also permits a continuous collection of more information about individuals that can help link them to an illegal act (Acquisti et al., 2015).

Another operational confidence is maintaining the privacy of individuals that are victims of a serious crime such as human trafficking (Acquisti et al., 2015). Holding such serious information is essential in avoiding future exploitation of information from the victim. When information is held in confidence, the victim is kept safe and encourages disclosure. The police analyze in different stages private information that they deem useful in solving a case, thus making the process of decision making more efficient and accurate.


Police subcultures result in a culture of shared values. The values aid the police officers to survive in times when they are faced with difficult tasks that are emotionally demanding. Some of the values that the police officers share includes empathy, caring, loyalty, sacrifice, perseverance, and teamwork. Through teamwork and loyalty, members who find themselves in dangerous situations can always count on their colleagues. Additionally, due to police subcultures, members can adopt values such as bravery and sacrifice, which enables them to place themselves in harm's way. According to Grasso (2017), police subculture is vital to law enforcement personnel that interpersonal differences are easily eliminated.

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