Ethics and Criminal Justice
Ethics is based on an individual’s ability to decide on what is good or bad or right or wrong. By definition, ethics refers to moral values or principles distinctive or governing a given group or culture (Souryal, 2014). It is a subdivision of philosophy that attempts to provide answers to write and wrong questions and how people should live in society, a structure of ethical principles. Generally, a person’s morality is defined by their new social behaviors. Professionals in the criminal justice system hold different positions of authority and powers over others. In some instances, as correctional officers or police, they are authorized to apply threats such as corporal strength against the people (Souryal, 2014). The field of criminal justice is vast, with various professionals in the field having different roles to perform at different levels and positions.
Nevertheless, there are standard rules which apply to all professionals in this field, one being overseeing safety. This entails the promotion of good relations in the community, enforcing regulations and laws, protection of property and people, responding to an emergency, and maintaining order. On the other hand, there are several ethical issues facing professionals in the ethical justice system, and various theories have been put forward to explain these ethical issues. The focus of this essay is to discuss the theory and ethical issues confronting professionals who work as police officers, attorneys, and correctional officers.
Ethical theory in Criminal Justice
Criminal Justice is founded on ethics. Ethics helps professionals in the criminal justice system in developing moral interpretation applied in the definition of criminal activities and what is perceived by the society as the applicable form of punishment (Banks, 2018). Ethical standards offer the guiding principles on how correctional officers, police officers, and attorneys should behave. According to Souryal (2011), the meaning of the word law would be little without ethics because its use would be untrustworthy. Ethics governs how police officers, attorneys, and correctional officers influence the decision-making process and their interaction with lawbreakers. The ethical theories applied in criminal Justice are ethical stoicism, hedonism, and egoism.
Ethical Egoism theory
Banks (2018) postulates that egoism is a self-seeking behavior that you may show towards people around you. Nearly all egoistic individuals do not show sympathy for other people’s challenges. Usually, egoists put their interests past and exceptionally ahead of every other person’s actions. Besides forming superficial behaviors, egoism has the potential to tear down a person with explicit self-interest. From the news headlines, greediness and big egos have infiltrated to areas where they should not be; the criminal justice system. Some criminal justice professionals may develop attitudes of dishonesty and self-motives. It illustrates why individuals are usually handled differently from others depicting that there are some elements of self-interest in the system. Ethical egoism refers to the impression that people can act out of personal interest. Through ethical egoism, many people can attain great heights of satisfaction. Banks (2018) defines egoism as the allegations from an ethical system that reputable results emanate from seeking selfishness. The primary foundation of egoistic thought helping other people with the hope that the individual will payback for the services.
Through the lens of egoism, a brave act of a police officer may be perceived differently. For instance, Vancouver police officers engaged in shooting in Yale town on June 10, 2014. A gunfight resulted, and the suspect made away on a bicycle. One of the detectives followed the suspect as he peddled away, and in reaction, the suspect shot at the detective but did not hit her. The detective continued the pursuit until reinforcement arrived, and the suspect was gunned down in the gunfight. Considering the above case, the majority would argue that the detective intended to apprehend the suspect and that she had no other intentions in her actions before the suspect was gunned down. In as much as this makes sense, it could also be argued that the detective’s actions were founded on self-interest as apprehending the victim would satisfy her interests, of being respected by her department and that she would receive media attention. The view of her actions from this perspective is cynical, but it is vital in understanding why some individuals behave in a manner that exposes them to danger.
However, it is important to note that egoism doesn’t hold up acts of self-centredness among social justice officers; definitely, this would not be condoned for law enforcement officers (Fobbs, 2011). The theory offers an explanation of the misbehaviors among police, attorneys, and correctional officers. Law enforcement officers who misuse the trust and authority bestowed by the people are in the egoistic state. In this sense, they act on personal interest and not the interest of the people and the agency they serve. This results in poor behaviors among law enforcement professionals as they seek to satisfy their ego. There are correctional officers, attorneys, and police officers in criminal justice professionals who are filled with self-righteousness and unethical behaviors. These law enforcement officers often aim at attaining self-satisfaction by acting out of self-regard (Fobbs, 2011). As such, ethical egoism theories majorly apply to correctional officers, attorneys, and police officers who resolve to use unethical and conceit ways in their practice. The most outstanding ethical issues that portray egoism in professionals who work as police, attorneys, and correctional officers include violating the procedures of law enforcement, entrapment, violation of the rights to privacy, and the use of excessive force.
Law enforcement professionals have the mandate to serve the community under which they work. In other words, the police, the attorney, and correctional officers all have the responsibility of ensuring that the people in the community are safeguarded and protected from violence, oppression, deception, and protection of constitutional rights and property (Banks, 2004). They should lead by example by practicing self-restraint, showing courage in times of danger, act with integrity and honesty. Also, they should remain impartial by upholding the law without malice, favor, or compromise. This would entail not involving friendship, personal aspirations, political beliefs, prejudices, and personal grudges when making crucial decisions about the law. Yet, ethical issues usually emerge in all aspects of the criminal justice system. The ethical questions are social standing, application of Justice in a desperate manner, and police cruelty based on the social standings of the convicted defendants, and corruption (Banks, 2004). When handling these ethical issues, continuing analysis and transparency must be put into consideration. Criminal justice professionals encounter many ethical challenges in their various fields of operation.
In as much as the Law Enforcement Code of ethics is clear-cut, law enforcement professionals are often required to decide on such ambiguous situations. One ethical issue which may arise in such a case is that a police officer or a correctional officer might find themselves using excessive force. In the course of their duty, a police officer may come across persons who are violent and as such, may be compelled to apply force. Nevertheless, ethics in criminal justice demand that any force used during such encounters be suitable to the situation. Also, they may employ unwarranted force on the civilian population. Such an amount of force is not condoned in law enforcement and may lead to job termination. Typically, victims of such unwarranted force may sue the correctional or police officer in a court of law, thus resulting in negative publicity of the law enforcement boy before the eyes of the public. It is a requirement that the law enforcement body should always have the trust of the people. If the public loses faith in them, then this means the agency has failed.
In some instances, a correctional officer or police officer may beat a person during the process of arrest due to racial profiling (Pollock, 2010). The officer may show hostility or hatred towards a particular group of people by considering their race. According to research, white law enforcement officers have registered a significant amount of violence against people of color. To some extent, these instances of violence have been accompanied by racial hatred. Such law enforcement officers who perceive their victims in terms of race and color have been reported to routinely abuse their culprits by using their authorities to harass, debilitate and attack the people of color (Pollock, 2010). A law enforcement officer, either an attorney or a police officer or a correctional officer, should be impartial in their actions, particularly when interacting with the public. In other words, a law enforcement officer is required to treat everybody equally regardless of their color or race. Failure to do this is a breach of the ethical code of law enforcement and may contribute to the public losing confidence in the criminal justice system and ultimate failure.
A study done in the United States indicated that out of three black men, one of them is either on probation or in prison (Pollock, 2014). Also, the study reported that there exists wealth inequality and racial inequality within the criminal justice system. That is to say, a law enforcement officer such as an attorney or a police officer would be willing to make decisions in favor of a lawbreaker if the individual would be willing to pay them off and satisfy their interests (Pollock, 2014). It is argued that law enforcement officers would be willing to treat a wealthy suspect in a better way as compared to an innocent or poor convict. Clearly, the law enforcement officers’ in such instance, would not be fighting for the rights of the offended or the general public due to conflict of interest. Therefore, if the problem of racial discrimination, favoritism, and corruption in the law enforcement system is not corrected, then it is the civilians who continue to suffer.
Another ethical issue affecting the police and correctional officers is deception and intimidation. After arresting suspects, the police must obtain and record their confessions to be able to secure a conviction. In some instances, a suspect may be reluctant to confess by not giving out the required information or simply refusing to speak. In order to obtain the report, a police officer may end up intimidating the individual through torture or threats, thus forcing them to confess. Also, a police officer may lie to the individual that if they confess, they would be set free or receive a lighter punishment when the court of law decides the actual ruling of the matter. However, the police should understand their job is to serve as exemplars in the society and that intimidation and deceptions are not allowed when seeking confession from a suspect (Scott, 2011).
On the other hand, decision-based on bias is another ethical issue that affects attorneys, correctional, and police officers. The role of these professionals is to ensure that the law is upheld. It is thus unethical for officers to allow their religious, political, or personal beliefs to manipulate how they perform their duties (Prenzeler, 2009). Police or a correctional officer may be reluctant to report or arrest another officer after disobeying the law. For example, a police officer may stop an over speeding drunk driver on the high way and charge him or her. Still, in some instances, when the officer realizes that the intoxicated over-speeding individual is a colleague or a friend, he may decide to let him go. In turn, the individual may cause an accident on the way leading to the loss of lives. If the officer arrests the individual without making biased decisions, then, the victim’s life will be saved, and most certainly, the civilians who may have been knocked dead or injured. Such ethical decisions result in the incorrect application of selective enforcement, which is not accepted by the law.
On the other hand, an attorney may rule in favor of a convicted family member or friend because they know the individual at a personal level. The decisions may be influenced by corruption, where the attorney decides to accept a bribe from the individual. In this case, the attorney shall have committed graft offense by misusing their authority and position exploit money from the suspect in exchange for their protection.
An attorney, a police officer, or a correctional officer may accept a bribe from a suspect to cover up for their offense of for personal gain. These are all corruption. Corruption among law enforcement officers has been in existence for far too long. According to a study done on police corruption in the 1970s by the Knapp Commission, it was established that two kinds of fraud exist among the law enforcement officers (Prenzeler, 2009). The first group, the first group of corrupt officers, are termed “meat-eaters.” They spend most of their working hours looking for cases that they can exploit for their gain. The kind of opportunities they seek involves cases of lucrative enterprises, narcotics, and gambling. Another group is the “grass-eaters” who are always ready to accept payoffs from suspects. They are never as aggressive as the meat-eaters, but they are ready to take appreciation gamblers, two-truck operators, and contractors (Scott, 2011). Corruption is a serious ethical issue in the law enforcement service because it gives room for more crime as lawbreakers are assured of not being captured. Also, the civilian population is subjected to dangers of insecurity, losing their properties, and lives due to negligence. Thus, in case a law enforcement officer is found guilty of engaging in corruption activities, he or she will be convicted and charged according to the law.
In conclusion, it can be challenging for law enforcement officers to make the right decision when they have a personal interest to protect, and also when they correct decision to pick on is not clear. At times, it may hurt someone if a police officer, an attorney, or a correctional officer makes an ethical decision. However, one must carefully weigh their options before acting. Most of the ethical issues arising in among various professionals in the criminal justice department are fuelled by personal interest and not genuine interest to serve. According to egoism theory, professional criminal justice officers may sometimes make decisions for explicit personal gains and self-interest. Some criminal justice professionals may develop attitudes of dishonesty and self-motives. It illustrates why individuals are usually handled differently from others depicting that there are some elements of self-interest in the system.
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