Ethics is a significant foundation in the criminal justice system. Ethics helps society in developing moral reasoning to be applied, define criminal activities and determine what is to be accepted as punishment. In criminal justice, there are three critical areas where justice plays a vital role; police operations, court systems and correction institutions. Among these three, the police are the one that is confronted with more ethical issues than the others as it involves various elements such as; profiling, acting impartially, necessary force, upholding the law and human rights, and off-duty life (Williams & Arrigo, 2008).
The individuals tasked with the police work are expected and required to fully execute their law enforcement duties according to the ethics that have been defined and formulated by the International Association of Police Chiefs, These codes of ethics creates dilemmas and ethical issues for the persons serving to uphold the law.
Police officers are highly respected in society and are held to very high standards requiring their personal lives to portray the integrity of the position that they hold in society. They are expected to uphold professional image every time since they are always under continued public scrutiny and highly depends on the trust of the public to maintain their power positions. Most of the other jobs usually end when a person leaves the workplace, however, the police officers are faced with the task of ethical issues of being expected to maintain their social respect and ensure they adhere to the law of the land at all times. Therefore, this sometimes puts them in constant conflicts with the community, and especially those individuals who do not respect the law or the badge.
Upholding the Law and Human Rights
Every police officer takes an oath to uphold the law of the land and also defend the person’s constitutional rights. One of the significant ethical issues that a police officer may face daily is the capability of upholding the elements of these oaths since they seem to be highly contradictory. The vital contradiction can be found in the national drug laws and subsequent drug wars whereby the police officers are forced to take actions that are based on the best interests of the state instead of those of an individual.
The current Black Lives Matter Movement in the United States of America emphasizes the concerns of the public over the application of unnecessary force by individual police officers. This movement aims at holding the police accountable for all the cases that involve the use of excessive and unnecessary force. An ethical issue is that all police officers have the authority to apply necessary force in upholding the law, but in some of cases, the use of force is deemed unjustified (Miller & Blackler, 2017). Therefore, it has been determined that the ethical issues faced by police officers daily put their lives in danger when dealing with non-compliant individuals. Thus, in most of the cases, the police officer is expected to make a split-second decision on the level of force that is necessary since the lack of proper judgment could lead to the injury or death of the officer.
Another ethical issue that police officers are faced with is the requirement for them to act impartially. This element is deemed to cause many problems in real-life situations since it is not always possible to act with impartiality, especially for small-town and local police officers. They are always handling the same crowds of people throughout their career life.
Miller, S., & Blackler, J. (2017). Ethical issues in policing. Routledge.
Williams, C. R., & Arrigo, B. A. (2008). Ethics, crime, and criminal justice (pp. 3-26). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. https://ogur.org/362025.pdf
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