Ethics for a Criminal Justice Career

Topics: Police, Ethics, Police officer Pages: 9 (1803 words) Published: May 10, 2014

The Study of Ethics for a Law Enforcement Career
Mark Roggeman
Colorado Christian University

The Study of Ethics for a Law Enforcement Career
For someone who chooses to become a law enforcement officer he or she must understand the importance of having moral ethics standards in order to do the job effectively and professionally. Police officers are held by the public to a higher standard of morality and are expected to be above reproach. Sadly, we see in the news all to often police officers that have exhibited unethical conduct both on the job and in their private lives. When an officer commits an improper act of some type it impacts the entire law enforcement profession, in some cases it makes it hard for other officers to do their job without ridicule. Unfortunately, the public does not differentiate between officers, departments, or uniforms when a scandalous act occurs. The purpose for anyone pursuing a law enforcement career to study ethics is essential to keep the integrity and the trust of the public. A look into how and why officer should make ethical decisions, to examine the motives for the choices they make and see what is the influence that guides them to make the choices they do. The Denver Police Department for example has the recruits in the police academy recite the police code of ethics every morning along with the pledge of allegiance. This tradition has carried on because of a police scandal that took place in 1961 that involved a number of officers who were committing burglaries, 47 officers were stripped of their badges and then went to prison. That year became known as the city of Denver’s year of shame, in a reprint of the original article in the Denver Post in February of 2010, the question was asked, How did it happen? "The department made it easy for us," the leading police-burglars said. They pointed to a breakdown in departmental discipline and supervision that made it possible for them to double as safecrackers. As the year ended, steps were being taken to repair that breakdown. The International Assn. of Chiefs of Police was undertaking a departmental reorganization program, which is expected to make sweeping changes in police command policy, and, possibly, in command personnel. Some observers argue that only a thorough shakeup can restore public confidence in the scandal-ridden department. ( The answer the officers gave was insufficient because they were blaming the police department’s lack of supervision and breakdown in discipline as a reason for their crimes. Police officers need to have their own built in reasons for choosing the most ethical way, because even with increased supervision and discipline officers spend most of their shifts without supervisors around them. An officer must develop a decision making process that will be based on a standard that causes them to make the ethical decision immediately when faced with a moral dilemma. There are four major perspective theories of ethics that influence the decision making process for making choices, they are the Moral Virtue perspective, the Deontological/Formalism perspective, the Utilitarianism perspective, and the Biblical perspective. The moral virtue perspective is based largely on Plato and Aristotle theories, in (Sam Souryal’s book, Ethics in Criminal Justice, 2007) he points out that Aristotle argued, “that because no one is born ethical (or unethical), people must spend their entire lives actualizing their potential in pursuit of happiness. This lifelong endeavor should be regarded not only as a means, but also as an end, desirable in itself.”(p.14) Aristotle believed that virtue ethics are learned through habit; therefore the application of virtuous behavior is brought about only through practice. Law enforcement agencies when recruiting candidates do extensive background investigations that include going to the schools...

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[Electronic version]
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