Police Corruption: A Perspective View Into the
Definition, Cause, & Harm
BSLS Capstone, LS498-01 – Unit 9
December 17, 2011
Corruption in law enforcement is not victimless and creates a negative perception of the United States legal system.
There are few professions in the United States that are entrusted with protecting society’s safety and system of laws that have been established throughout the course of American history. One of those professions is that of a police officer. It is an admirable calling for an individual to deal with criminals and place themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis. It is certainly not a job that can be done by everyone and it takes a special kind of person to handle the stress and rigors that the job entails. Police officers often wear two faces. They have the face of professionalism and duty to uphold the law when they put their police uniform on at the beginning of each shift. The second face that they wear is when their shift has ended and they have to go home to their family. Some of the stressors, and at times atrocities, that police officers have been exposed to throughout their shift have to be forgotten about. This has to be done to keep their families from being exposed to the same psychological issues that police officers are trained to handle. There are many levels of law enforcement included within state and federal agencies and this paper will discuss several levels of law enforcement. The stepping stone to the system of law enforcement in the United States is the individual police officer. The individual police officer is who society recognizes and creates a relationship with. This is possible because the individual police officers are seen on a daily basis by the community and they are, in most cases, viewed as an authority figure. Inherent issues arise when individuals are placed in a position of trust and authority. Police officers are placed in situations where their morality and ethicality are tested every day. When dealing with the criminal element of society, police officers have an overwhelming duty to uphold the law and protect the public. Although society holds police officers to such a high standard, the pay that they receive is not normally sufficient to support them. According to Tulley (1998): About four out of five law enforcement agencies permit officers to seek outside, part-time employment during which they perform similar duties as they do on the job. It would be nice if law enforcement officers did not need to seek secondary employment, but as we all know, our salaries have not kept up with either inflation or the demanding nature of our work--I doubt they ever will. So, secondary employment is something that many of us have to do to keep our heads above the water and to provide our families with an adequate standard of living. (para. 22)
An article by Tulley (1998) described the power and authority that have been given to police officers by the public and how some police officers believe that the authority that has been entrusted to them can be abused. Ethics play an important role in every police officer’s life and they are tasked every day with making choices that are either ethically right or ethically wrong. There are many different definitions of the word ‘ethics’ and each police department has its own set of ethical standards that are usually portrayed in the form of an oath. Johnson and Cox (2005) contended that “stated most simply, ethics is the moral behavior of an individual or group in its surroundings. This definition may be applied to any individual or group within a society; it is extremely important when the individual or group happens to be in law enforcement. Police officers are under scrutiny not only at work but also when off duty” (p. 69). The International Association of Chiefs...
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