Police Ethics and Deviance

Ethics and the police is a subject that most people are interested in. When people use the words ethics and police in the same sentence, people usually think of police deviance, police corruption, misconducts such as drug and alcohol abuse, sexual violence, domestic disputes, and violence within families. Most common subjects people most associate with police ethics is police brutality, police deception, and abuse of their authority.

Police officers in the United States are given tremendous authority and wide latitude in using that authority. In addition, to the average citizen, the police are the most visible symbol of not only the United States criminal justice system but also the United States government. (Wadsworth, 2005) Ethics is defined as the practical, normative study of the rightness and wrongness of human conduct.

According to “Ethics in Crime and Justice: Dilemmas and Decisions”, by Joycelyn Pollock, some ethical standards of police are: organizational value systems or codes of ethics designed to educate and guide the behavior of those that work within the organization, an oath of office which can be considered a shorthand version of the value system or code of ethics, and The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics as publicized by the International Association Chief of Police. Wadsworth, 2005) Ethical standards in policing are the following: to serve and protect the public, keep a clear mind and not allow their personal beliefs to keep them from helping someone, to not judge by race, religion, or sexual preferences. They also have to put aside any kind of prejudices no matter what they believe to be right or wrong, but most of all they have an oath that they take to assure that all the police ethics that are in place they follow to a tee.

Some police do not have a clue what ethics mean. There are some officers that take a bribe to look the other way. There are some officers that keep drugs out on the street, or allow crime to happen because they benefit tremendously from corruption. Deviant behaviors have serious effects on a police department and the surrounding areas they serve and protect. These behaviors consist of police corruption, police misconduct, and police brutality.

Police corruption is probably the most common ethic deviance in a police department. Corruption occurs when police abuse their authority for personal gain. Often time’s officers receive payments in order to look the other way when it comes to certain crimes. These payments are not just money payments but also come as personal favors, gratuities, and bribes. Police corruption may also include framing a suspect to maybe divert attention from another suspect they are helping.

There are two different types of corruption, internal and external. Internal corruption is the illegal acts and agreements within a police department by more than one officer. External corruption is the illegal acts and agreements with the public by one or more officers in a department. There are three distinct elements of police corruption that have to occur simultaneously for a corrupt act to occur: 1) misuse of authority, 2) misuse of official capacity, and 3) misuse of personal attainment.

The external corruption generally consists of one or more of the following activities: 1) payoffs to police by essentially non-criminal elements which fail to comply with stringent statutes or city ordinances, 2) payoffs to police by individuals who continually violate the law as a method of making money and, 3) clean graft where money is paid to police for services, or where courtesy discounts are given as a matter, of course to the, police. General police deviance can include discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation, brutality, and illicit use of weapons.

However, it is not particularly obvious where brutality, discrimination, and misconduct end and corruption begins. (2002, December) Police misconduct happens as a result of police corruption. Types of misconduct include: false confessions, false arrest, falsified evidence, false imprisonment, intimidation, police brutality, police corruption, political repression, racial profiling, sexual abuse, and surveillance abuse. Police misconduct also includes accepting bribes, improper search and seizures, harassment and racism in law enforcement. Police misconduct violates the oath of peace officers and their responsibilities as public servants.

Victims of police misconduct can be wrongfully accused and convicted of crimes they did not even commit. Police misconduct also creates distrust between police and the public that they are meant to serve and protect. Police misconduct often goes uncorrected because people are not aware or understand their rights as citizens. Informed citizens can prevent police misconduct and avert violence, wrongful convictions, and abuse of authority. Police misconduct is the exception that most police officers are law abiding citizens, but when misconduct occurs, police departments seem to be oblivious and fail to address the problem appropriately. 2002, November) Police brutality is the excessive, unreasonable use of force against citizens, suspects, and offenders. A study showed that most citizens complained against police officers because of the use of profanity and abusive language towards them, the use of commands to move on or get home, stopping and questioning people on the street or searching them and their cars without probable cause, the use of threats to use force if not obeyed, prodding with a nightstick or approaching with a pistol, and actual use of physical force or violence itself for no reason at all.

Police brutality causes a lack of communication between minority groups and the police department and a lack of trust because of previous run-ins with brutality. In some cases police brutality runs over into an officer’s personal life as well. There have been several cases where an officer is arrested due to domestic violence and leads to an investigation of their work life. Most of the time there are cover ups, when domestic disputes occur so that the department does not get negative coverage if the incident was to get out. 2002, November) Ethics are considered a structure for most departments in the United States. There are several bad apples that get greedy and are cocky at times and think that they cannot be touched if they do wrong. Police departments around the U. S. have several issues with corruption, misconduct, and brutality. Most of the time these issues are covered up so that, these officers do not give the departments bad names and people do not trust them and they, are having more crime on their hands instead of defeating the crime.

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