Integrity, Morality, Ethics and the Law

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Integrity, Ethics, Morality and The Law
Amy E. Moody
Strayer University
CRJ 220

Integrity, Ethics, Morality and The Law
Being a police chief or a county sheriff in today’s society is not an easy job. Society is already over-critical of law enforcement as a whole and being the person at the top of the chain of command unfortunately places the burden of responsibility of any and all actions on him/her. Society demands a higher level of professional conduct, ethical and moral standards than any other profession. I attribute this to the fact that these individuals are the ones responsible for making on the spot decisions as to what is right and wrong and acting upon these perceptions.

Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, or incorruptibility. Integrity is one of the essential qualities for law enforcement officers and even more so for a police chief or county sheriff. The reason that the police chief and county sheriff must maintain such a high level of integrity is because we expect and demand that they will be able to effectively uphold the law and do what is right in a case where one of their officers does something morally or ethically wrong. We look to them to be incorruptible, to always do what is right no matter what the circumstance. If integrity didn’t exist, our whole justice system would fall apart and become null and void.

Webster’s dictionary defines ethics as the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. I think that sound ethics are also important for a police chief or county sheriff. In the public’s eye, if the police chief or county sheriff is not adhering to a specific code of conduct, they will assume that all personnel under them are also not in compliance and corruption will become the buzz word. We all expect our law enforcement officers to perform a certain way and do the right thing whether they are in view of society or not. Making good ethical decisions INTEGRITY, ETHICS, MORALITY AND THE LAW 3 gives law enforcement credibility among society.

I think that ethics and morality are very similar. Both involve adherence to a set of principles of conduct. I think that ethics are considered more institutional and morals are more internal to a person, but the end result is whether or not one adheres to the code of conduct as set forth by their position. Morality serves as a regulator of one’s internal motives as well as their external actions. Law is different in that it both regulates and controls human conduct. It does not take into consideration what ones motives were. Law only comes into play when actions have translated into something illegal or have caused harm to someone. Laws are upheld the power of the state, while morality is supported by society and individual conscience. The focus for law enforcement officers is to apprehend those who have broken laws, but their conduct while exercising their authority must adhere to sound ethical and moral principles.

When making a decision, a police chief or county sheriff must always ask themselves if what they are doing is in line with their code of conduct. This must be at the forefront of their decision making process. They must also consider what society will think of their decision. I understand that there are instances where one would not have time to make any considerations before making a decision, but if time and situation permit, they must always consider their code of conduct and question whether what they are doing is morally and ethically right. Instances where morality and ethics are not considered have resulted in situations such as the police beating of Rodney King. Do you think that those officers took morals, ethics or even the law into consideration before they acted?

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