Criminal granted to police officers are based on

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Justice Ethical Issue

Police officers
are entrusted and granted a great deal of discretion when answering calls for
service. Law enforcement officers may be confronted with life or death decision
making situations. However, the ethical dilemma regarding discretionary powers
granted to police officers are based on discrimination, use of force, and
culture of force. To fully comprehend the nature of police powers, its
important to understand the definition of ethics in decision making. Ethics is
defined as “the discipline of determining good and evil, and defining moral
duties” (Pollock, 2014). In addition to determining good and
evil, law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard than citizens and
must act ethically at all times. Most importantly, a police officer’s badge
represents protection and authority. Carl B Klockars (1984) described police
control as authority, power, persuasion and force.

as defined by Klockars, is the “unquestioning recognition by those who are
asked to obey; neither coercion nor persuasion is needed” (1984). In other
words, authority is when police officers tell a person to comply with their
demands, and the individual reacts without questioning. A police uniform and
badge are symbols of authority and power that gives officers the power to
deprive individuals of their freedom, conduct searches of persons, seize
property, and use force. The ethical standard that accompanies police powers
are based on the violation of rights as described in the Fourth Amendment of the
Constitution “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,
papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated” (The Constitution of the United States, 2013).

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is the authority that law enforcement officers use in order to coerce in a
nonphysical manner (Pollock, 2014). Simply put, persuasion is the tone and
wording used when requesting an individual to follow instructions. The ethical
dilemma in persuasion is the officer’s ability to demand compliance without
violating any laws or department policies. For example, when instructing an
individual to do something, police officers are not allowed deceptive practices
such as promises of leniency for cooperation, intimidation, or physical abuse.
The level of force is determined by each police officer, after accessing the situation,
an officer may use the appropriate physical force to restraint individuals
after determining probable cause for arrest.

regards to use of force, the dilemma is centered around the discretion awarded
to police officers. Pollock (2014) explains that “police officers have an
uncontested right to use force when necessary to apprehend or subdue a
suspect”. However, the question is, how much force is deemed appropriate?
Recent cases have surface in the United States which questions the officer’s
discretion to use of force. Excessive force and deadly force are the most
intrusive and divisive human rights violation, therefore are scrutinized every
time an officer’s use of force case surfaces. When determining what’s
acceptable use of force, its important to determine the suspect’s demeanor,
attitude, and actions. Excessive force is viewed as punching, chokeholds,
kicking a suspect when he/she is on the ground, and any unnecessary hitting
once the suspect is handcuffed. It is the police officer’s responsibility to
show restraint and discipline when confronting a situation that requires use of

of Ethics and Police Subculture

enforcement code of ethics is composed of four principles that police officers
must follow. The first principle is fairness, and it implies officers upholding
the laws equally regardless of the offender’s identity (Pollock, 2014). The second principle is service to the
citizen and to uphold the oath to protect and to help those in need. The third
principle is the importance of law and to defend the Constitution by safeguarding
the rights of the people. The final principle is personal conduct, police
officers should behave consistent with their public position (Pollock, 2014). Behaviors such as public drunkenness
and off duty violence are not appropriate behavior for keepers of the peace. An
officer must lead by example and set a high standard to demonstrate a crime
fighter role.

subculture is viewed as an organizational society with informal ethics and
values which is comprised of homogenous social groups, stressful work
environment, and a closed social system (Pollock, 2014). The subculture is also viewed as a
brotherhood of those who risk their lives for the public. The ethical dilemma
between the formal code of ethics and police subculture is the how at times may
be at odds with each other. For instance, the creation of the “cop code”
introduces police officers to a set of underground rules that must be followed
to be accepted by peers. These rules include; watching out for partners, don’t
give up another cop, hold up your end of the work, don’t talk too much, be
aggressive, and don’t trust new guys until they prove they can be trusted (Pollock, 2014). The “cop code” may
directly put an officer’s integrity on the line when confronted with an issue
regarding another officer. The subculture directly tests an officer’s moral
judgement by making them choose between doing what’s right versus being
accepted by peers.

Officer’s Unethical Behavior

case involving police officer misconduct was reported on July 19, 2017 in
Baltimore Maryland, when an officer was suspended and two others placed on
leave after a camera footage appeared to show them planting fake evidence at a
crime scene (Barajas & Hendry, 2017). Body cameras showed
police officers planting evidence in an attempt to create probable cause for
arrest. When the officers activated their body cameras, they failed to realize
that a feature in the camera records 30 seconds of footage before activation.
In those 30 seconds, the officers are seen placing a can full of drugs near the
suspects house to make an arrest (Barajas & Hendry, 2017). The unethical issue
was presented when officers didn’t have concrete evidence to arrest the
suspect, therefore they planted drugs to make an arrest. The police subculture
played a major role in the investigation because all three officers involved in
the incident kept it to themselves. It wasn’t until the Maryland Public
Defender’s Office got a hold of the footage and saw the incident that it was
reported. The officers involved used the “cop code” to remain silent and not
give up the other officers. If the officers had used the formal code of ethics,
the outcome would have been different. If the laws and policies of proper
surveillance would have been followed, the officers would have gathered enough
concrete evidence against the suspect and would have made a legal arrest.
However, the lack of integrity and the misused of powers led the Baltimore
officers to act unethically.


conclusion, Klockars (1984) description of police authority, power, persuasion
and force remains a key concept of determining the ethical standards that comes
with control. Every day police officers are presented with different scenarios,
and a choice to do what is right or wrong must be made. Even the smallest of
things such as gratuities can be misconstrued into something bigger. The
integrity of an officer and the police department solely lies in the hands of
each individual officer. One “bad cop” can open a chain of misconduct
allegations of a police department. To avoid unethical behavior its important
to remember the oath that was taken and to recognize what is right and what is
wrong. A decent amount of force must also be used when making an arrest, and
above all, policies must be followed. When all department policies are
followed, the chances of engaging in unethical behavior diminishes. To remain
in compliance or in good standing with a department its imperative to always
hold oneself to a high standard and do what is right even when no one is looking.

Categories: Decision Making


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