Law Enforcement Ethics
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There are many issues facing today's police officer. Some include the police use of excessive force, deadly force, police corruption, police pursuits and other popular police related topics. While all of these have problem areas, there are two police topics that touch on all the above issues, police oath of office and the code of ethics. The public is concerned over its own ethics and morality because it has no trust in its leaders. There has never been another time when police officers and political leaders were viewed by the public with as much distrust. There has also never been a greater need for the police to understand their oath of office and to be trained in ethical decision making as well as ethical behavior. Police ethics is an issue of how to behave. The oath is a sworn commitment to act in an ethical manner. You can't have one without the other being affected. A Dutch philosopher, Benedict De Spenoza said, "Because God is infinite and the creator of all, understanding God is the most important goal in life. Those who understand God will desire good for others and behave ethically toward them"
(Spenoza, 1995). Definitions of ethical behavior vary from generation to generation and from culture to culture. Generally ethical behavior includes the following qualities; honesty, integrity, fairness, loyalty, kindness, courage, generosity, compassion, doing good, doing right, and unselfishness. When people display these qualities, they are behaving ethically. The following definitions are those most commonly used during ethics training for police officers: Ethics is a code of values that guides our choices and actions and
determines the purpose and course of our lives. Ethics is not a written code or credo, it is about what we do (Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute, 1995). Ethical behavior is a standard of conduct when dealing with others that reflects a public trust attached to a police officer (Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards,1998). Ethical concerns the study of right and wrong, duty, responsibility and personal character. Ethics is concerned with moral duty, what is morally right and wrong, etc. (Close and Meier 1995). Police officers must be held to a higher standard of moral and ethical values then is expected of the average person. Police officers need the trust and respect of the public to perform their duties and responsibilities effectively. This trust does not come without the officer knowing and understanding his sworn oath and code of ethics.
Close, D., & Meier, N. (Eds.). (1995). Morality in criminal justice, an introduction to ethics. New York: Wadsworth Publishing.
Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. (1998). Ethics in
Policing. Lansing, MI: Author.
Southwestern Law Enforcement Institute. (1995). Law enforcement ethics
train-the-trainer. Richardson, TX: University of Texas.
Spinoza, B. (1995). Belief in God motivates people to behave ethically. In D. Bender (Eds.). Ethics (pp.19-22). CA: Greenhaven Press.