Current Issues with Policing and Ethics

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Final Essay

Shallan Ley
CJ340: Applied Criminal Justice Ethics Professor: Kevin Stoehr April 27, 2011

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (2009) states the following: A police officer acts as an official representative of the government; he is required and trusted to work within the law. The officer's powers and duties are conferred by statute. The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community; safe-guarding lives and property; protecting the innocent; keeping the peace; and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice. (As cited in Banks, 2009, p.31) Ethical standards based on Constitutional principles are absolute because police officers take this oath to uphold them. The police in the United States are entrusted with enormous power. With such power and immediate capability to deprive a citizen of their liberties, law enforcement officials must adhere to the strictest of ethical standards in carrying out their duties. On a daily basis, police officers must overcome ethical dilemmas while performing the essential duties of the job. It is the duty of the professionals in law enforcement to continuously improve police ethics training. This paper will examine some current issues in policing, in which ethical decision making have become a pattern.

The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (As cited in Abadinsky, 2009, p.8). After Twenty-plus years of militant Islamic terrorist attacks, President Bush signed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (U.S. A. Patriot Act), on October 26, 2001, in an effort to strengthen the nation’s counterterrorism resistance. In Organized Crime, Former Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s Office inspector, Howard Abadinsky summarized the main points of the legislation: [The Patriot Act] . . . increased the ability of law enforcement agencies to search telephone and e-mail communication, as well as medical and financial records. Under the Patriot Act, the FBI is able to bypass the judicial scrutiny required for obtaining certain categories of records from third parties, such as telephone billing records, electronic communication transactional records, financial records, credit information, and business records through the use of National Security Letters (NSLs). . . The act eased restriction on foreign intelligence gathering within the United States and expanded the Secretary of the Treasury’s authority to regulate financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities. The act expanded the definition to include “domestic terrorism,” and the Department of Justice has used many of these powers to pursue defendants for crimes unrelated to terrorism, including drug violations, credit card fraud, and bank theft. (p.372)

The signing of the Patriot Act has impacted law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. For example, “A 2004 survey reported that highway patrols in all 50 states found themselves with increased responsibilities in homeland security initiatives. About 75 percent of all state police agencies reported significant leadership problems gathering and disseminating intelligence data in their state. State police must also conduct more vulnerability evaluations, which impacts the roles of police officers and investigators” (“Homeland Security”, n.d).

Criticisms of the Patriot Act claim the law to be unconstitutional. The ability to modify current Court decisions on Constitutional provisions stirs controversy. Considering Fourth Amendment rights and the right to privacy, some may argue that the government is granted too much power. Concerns may suggest that an individual working in law enforcement could possibly use the...
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