Police Ethics : The Corruption Essay

It is not possible to imagine any society nowadays without legal institutions and laws, which are used for regulating of the general social order in all life spheres. All people are living in societies, they are to cooperate with each other and have some basis for solving of their problems in their relations. The system of criminal justice serves as a guarantee that all the issues are solved with mutually just outcomes. This system in its turn is operating on the basis of ethical norms, which are crucial. Thus no wonder that ethics in criminal justice and ethics for police officers has been under discussion for decades already. The profession of a policeman could be without any doubts considered one of the most challenging and demanding ones. Individuals, who are both physically and psychologically strong, have the basic knowledge of theoretical materials and are able to practically apply this knowledge, could perform the duties of a policeman successfully. But even they are to face numerous ethical dilemmas, related to various aspects of their profession, which need to be solved every day; irrespective of their skills and knowledge, they still remain usual people and thus tend to make mistakes. There are cases, when these mistakes are made with the best intentions, usually such situations are united under the definition of noble corruption. Noble corruption is one of the most versatile and controversial problems, related to the ethical aspects of work of policemen, as on the one hand it is aimed to serve for the better outcome, on the other hand in most cases it breaks the generally accepted ethical norms of behavior or even law.

Noble cause corruption should not be mixed with usual corruption, “Noble cause corruption is corruption caused by the adherence to a teleological ethical system, suggesting that persons “will utilize unethical, and sometimes illegal, means to obtain a desired result, a result which appears to benefit the greater good” (Crank, Caldero, 2010, p. 12). Traditional corruption usually takes places with the only aim of personal gain, this is not the situation with noble cause corruption, as in case with noble cause corruption a nominally wrong decision is taken for the sake of execution of righteous actions. Often the situations with noble case corruption take place, when a police officer either experiences lack of strong moral leadership, which results in weak supervision or looses faith with criminal justice system. Then responsible and devoted policemen decide to seize control over the situation and do, what they think is the best, to guarantee justice. Actions, which are usually included into noble case corruption are fabricating of evidence, telling lies, when reporting in the court, writing reports with application of wrong information and so on.

In order to better understand the reasons and driving forces of noble cause corruption, it is necessary first of all to build the portrait of a usual police worker. This type of profession certainly attracts authoritative, responsible, morally strong, decisive individuals, which are ready to risk their own well-being and sometimes even lives for the sake of other people, of order in the society, of justice. Taking into consideration all these qualities, it is evident, that such persons find moral satisfaction is their devotion and commitment to supporting the order and safety in the society and thus are sometimes ready to break ethical or legal norms for these aims, which they consider to be the most important. This is exactly the moment, where controversy starts, in other words, police officers continue to perform their duties of keeping order and peace in society, at the same time, breaking the rules, the norms themselves. In cases with usual corruption it is clear, what should await such policemen, in cases of noble case corruption, nothing is that easy and transparent.

“Officers do not normally define “a bending of the rules for a greater good” as misconduct or as corruption; rather, they rationalize that such behavior is part of the job description, in a utilitarian sense, to get the criminals off the streets, regardless of the means.” (Crank, Caldero, 2010, p. 13). It is not quite correct, as such passionate devotion is able to lead to terrible consequences, when the basic constitutional rights of individuals are violated, and policeman turns into criminal himself. A simple situation could be considered as an example here. Often teenagers like taking the cars of their parents without their permission and drive at night around or even in worse situations – they steal a car. If policemen catch such company and exactly the one, who was driving, manages to run away – is this morally correct and justified to write a report, where instead of him, one of the left guys would be reported as the driver? On the one hand the guys broke the law and they were dangerous for the society, as they had already done financial harm to the owner of the car and could do physical harm, if they injured somebody in the street. On the other hand – why should one of them be responsible for the things, which were done by his fellow? Considering this aspect, it is possible to conclude that these were policemen, who also broke the law and reported inveracious information.

One of the weak points is the usual formulation “my word against cop’s word”, because it automatically provides some portion of unlimited rights to policemen, as at any rate, even if they tell lies, this would be accepted as truth only because they are policemen. Thus irrespective of the motivation of the police officer, he should thoroughly consider his own behavior and choices not only in frames of his own opinion and judgments, but also in frames of generally accepted ethical norms and legal rules.

Another factor, which contributes to appearance of cases of noble cause corruption, is the possible tolerance of the authorities towards such choices of police officers, because they are also sure that the end result could justify the means, even if they were not ethically, morally and legally correct. Such approach is disastrous for public service philosophy and leads to corrupting of their own justice system. The situation is even worsened in case supervisors do not agree to acknowledge the cases of misconduct of their subordinates, even if they are aware that such situations really took place. They prefer to promise transparent investigation, providing of training and reforms, but these steps are claimed only for public and are not fulfilled in reality. Instead of supporting the cases of noble corruption, the authorities are to reduce such cases, providing corresponding training and education for their workers. “Noble cause corruption, when uncovered, can give rise to allegations of organizational tolerance or the civil cause of action for deliberate indifference” (Reiner, 2010, p. 128). Only discipline, experience, supervision, training could contribute to improvement of the general situation and avoidance of noble cause corruption cases and their poor consequences.

Overall, one of the most controversial ethical problems in criminal justice system is related to noble case corruption; its controversy is first of al related to dualistic interpretation of ethical norms – in favor for the opinion of one individual, who has socially derived power at the moment, and for generally accepted rules and legislation. All cases of noble cause corruption are unique and could not be treated according to one single scheme.



Crank, J., Caldero, M.(2010). Police Ethics: The Corruption of Noble Cause

Gilmartin, K., M.,  Harris, J. (1998). “Law Enforcement Ethics: The Continuum of Compromise,” The Police Chief 65, 1: 25-28

Ivkovic, S., K. (2005). “Police (Mis)Behavior: A Cross-Cultural Study of Corruption Seriousness, ” Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 28. 3: 546-566

Martinelli, T.J. (2006).  “Unconstitutional Policing: The Ethical Challenges in Dealing with Noble Cause Corruption”, The Police Chief

Reiner, R. (2010). The Politics of the Police. Oxford University Press

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: November 26, 2021]
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