Use the internet to locate an article where a police officer violated ethical law enforcement behaviors such as unethical practices against police procedures, use of force, or investigative protocols.
Write a 700- to 1,050-word paper in which you address the following:
- Describe the role and value of ethics in policing.
- Identify the punishment or consequences of the unethical police practices.
- What key points did you take from the Police Ethics Discussion with your collaborative group this week?
- What methods or training are in place or should be created to prevent the unethical behavior from occurring again?
Format your paper in accordance with APA guidelines.
POST DISCUSSION 1 ON INFO BELOW:
Breaking the Code of Silence
Last week, I related my story as a young deputy sheriff. I this incident was my first experience with the Code of Silence, but would not be my last. Over the next 40 years in my criminal justice career I have seen the effects of the Code, to one degree or another, in the three major law enforcement agencies I have served.
The code of silence is an unwritten pledge subscribed to by the members of a staff group, usually involving officers. Members promise one another not to report or otherwise acknowledge the line-of-duty misconduct of a peer. Essentially, it is a pact, often unspoken but clearly understood, in which an employee vows not to become an informant against a fellow worker, regardless of the severity of the suspected misconduct.
While loyalty among teammates and co-workers who spend significant amounts of time together is natural and desirable, a code of silence that turns a blind eye to serious misbehavior and targets those who try to stop it far exceeds the bounds of tolerance. In effect, a code of silence shifts loyalties from the organizational mission to the organization’s members. Such was my motivation when I lied for my partner. At the time, I thought it was more important for me to be loyal to my partner than to my oath of office.
Although a reluctance to report wrongdoing by co-workers may be found across a variety of professions, a code of silence in criminal justice agencies can be particularly destructive to the effectiveness of the agency. A rampant code of silence undermines the morale and effectiveness of officers, and public trust in the agency is eroded.
How pervasive is the code of silence in law enforcement? In perhaps the most extensive research ever conducted on the subject, between February 1999 and June 2000 the National Institute of Ethics (NIE) surveyed 3,714 peace officers and academy recruits from forty-two states. In one phase of the study, recruits were asked their views on the code of silence. A second aspect of the study focused on officers who had taken part in the code, and their perspectives on why and how it occurred.
The results of the research from twenty-five academies included these telling observations:
79% said that a law enforcement code of silence exists and is fairly common throughout the nation;
52% said the fact that a code of silence exists didn’t really bother them;
46% said that they would not tell on another officer for having sex on duty.
Among the findings from the current officers surveyed who had participated in the code of silence were these:
In response to the question “At the time the incident occurred, what did you think would happen if you revealed what had taken place?” the five reasons listed most often were: I would be ostracized (177 times); the officer who committed the misconduct would be disciplined or fired (88 times); I would be fired from my job (73 times); I would be “blackballed” (59 times); the administration would not do anything even if I reported it. (54 times).
73 percent of the individuals pressuring officers to keep quiet about the misconduct were leaders.
Eight percent (40) of the 509 officers who admitted to intentionally withholding the information about officer misconduct were upper administrators. It should be noted that the upper administrators of the average American police department comprises only five percent of the agency.
As problematic as the code of silence may be, it is but a symptom of a larger organizational issue: an unhealthy ethical culture. Every organization has an ethical culture, be it strong, weak or ambivalent. A culture marked by weak ethics will be characterized by favoritism (real or perceived), unfairness, misguided loyalty, management indifference, situational lying, abuse of power for personal gain, an atmosphere of discrimination, and even outright corruption.
By contrast, an organization which has achieved high or strong ethics will be characterized by strong and open communication, trust, effective and appropriate self and peer reporting, positive professional relationships, and honesty as a norm.
A culture that it ambivalent will find itself torn between factions – those who strive for a more ethical work environment battling with those who are comfortable with the ambiguities of uncertain principles and status quo.
Am I suggesting that by an agency improving the health of its ethical culture the code of ethics can be broken, and other symptoms of a weak ethical culture eliminated? No. As long as criminal justice organizations hire from the human race, lapses in ethical conduct will occur. There are, however, steps an organization can take that will enhance its ethical culture and significantly reduce the incidences of misconduct by officers. Here are some key areas that can reap significant ethical rewards for an agency: