Profession Of Police Officers ; Police Misconduct Essay

Profession of police officers is in a way unique, taking into consideration the combination of the responsibility, which police officers have and their freedoms. Just a couple of such examples of freedoms as the permission for high-speed driving or taking away personal property are enough to show the degree of freedom, police officers have in society. On the one hand such permissions could be easily explained by numerous necessities, in other words, there are a lot of situations, when police officers are to use such rights and freedoms to save somebody or seize the criminal. At the same time on the other hand such freedoms are perfect opportunities for using of the situation for wrong actions. These opportunities are even wider in case there is a chance of poor control.  The risks of misconduct are rather high, as public opinion is strongly influenced by presence of the situations, when police officers use their widened possibilities not for the sake of the keeping order in society, rather for their personal motives. Thus their misconduct would for sure have negative impact upon general perception of the police and police officers, lack of trust and support from civil people, which develop as results of unethical behavior of them. This is the main reason, why understanding and research of the psychological, physical and social factors, which form the basis of ethical behavior, as well as all the factors, which influence police misconduct cases could be vitally important for getting the actual information about the situation in law enforcement, better supervision of the separate workers and organizations as whole, and finally contributing to building of positive and mutually advantageous relations between police officers and representatives of society from various levels, ethnic and cultural groups, age groups and so on.

Theoretically the situations, when police officers go bad, are defined as police misconduct cases. “Police misconduct refers to inappropriate or illegal actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves discrimination or obstruction of justice.” (Josephson, 2009, p. 358). There have been a lot of methods for control of police misconduct worked out, including such technologically advanced measures as control mobile devices. On the one hand they really contribute to better control of the situation, providing all the necessary records of misconduct cases, breaking of the laws, any other circumstances, which would be necessary to find out the real situation or events’ flow. On the other hand all these technologies are not appropriate for understanding the reasons of police misconduct, as well as stimulating police officers to make the ethically correct choices initially. In order to cope with the situations of police misconduct there have been various types singled out: “false confession, false arrest, false evidence, false imprisonment, intimidation, police brutality, police corruption, racial profiling, surveillance abuse, witness tampering and off-duty misconduct” (Fitch, 2009, p. 3). Among the most sophisticated are the cases of noble corruption, selective enforcement and police perjury. Usually separate attention is paid to the cases with drugs and alcohol abuse while on duty.

Theoretically the reasons of police misconduct are not so easy to understand, as law enforcement agencies accept and train only the highly-qualified applicants, who are able to reveal the corresponding degree of moral values and ethical conduct. Afterwards, police officers are trained to act purely on the basis of ethical and criminal laws, treat all the issues ethically and constantly control their choices and behavior. Still irrespective of all these means and efforts, there are numerous examples of police misconduct. Even those police officers, who seemed to have records of their perfect service, reveal tendencies for abuse or corruption. If some rare cases could be explained by the lack of proper control of the applicants during the hiring process, which led to the fact that some percentage of them is involved into illegal or unethical activities, this is still not quite clear how other officers with good basis also turn out to be involved into misconduct.

There has been a certain cliché of ethical and caring police officers worked out and all of them are supposed to correspond to it. In reality a lot of them come to take these positions with the aim of serving their community, helping people and try to do their best to follow this cliché and correspond to the expectations of the society. They are to be physically and morally strong, be ready to risk their own well-being and even lives for the sake of other people, whom they protect. These actions are absolutely normal for this profession; this is actually exactly what is expected from a good police officer. At the same time police officers, who are able to correspond to these demands are gradually developing their sense of personal worth and self-satisfaction. Taking this fact into consideration, it is possible to explain, why such police officers make the unethical choices, because they are able to find the justification of their actions on the basis of their own understanding and interpretation of the concrete situation.

“Decades of empirical research have supported the idea that whenever a person’s behaviors are inconsistent with their attitudes or beliefs, the individual will experience a state of psychological tension—a phenomenon referred to as cognitive dissonance.” (Cooper, J.,  Mirabile, Scher, 2011, p. 89). Certainly this kind of tension is unpleasant and undesired by individuals and they will try to take some steps in order to mitigate this state. One of the ways for police officers to reach this aim is modification of their approach and way of thinking about their direction of thinking and their actions. Important is the adjustment of the actions and activities to the current values, related to the self-image of a concrete individual. Such modifications of cognition would most luckily have impact upon their attitudes and behaviors. In most cases police officers are able to modify their behavior in order to reduce their psychological tension, in such a way that their immoral behavior still remains hidden under the cover of ethical image. They consider their actions socially acceptable in this situation and continue to support their own image.

There are various tactics, which are used by police officers to justify their positions, which are generally considered ethically incorrect. Denial of victim is the tactic, when police officers assure themselves that there is no real victim and there is no real harm done to anybody. “It is probably safe to suggest that officers do not generally regard drug dealers, thieves, and sexual predators as bona fide victims, regardless of the nature of an officer’s conduct.” (Fitch, 2009, p. 5). A usual situation, when a police officer takes money from a suspected drug dealer, is interpreted in the following way – this money was earned not legally, thus it should be taken away from the criminal by the person, who is at the moment taking care of the process. Another approach is called victim of circumstance. This is one of the most widespread approaches, when an individual manages to convince himself that his actions could be justified by the lack of any other choice. In the same way police officers have the tendency to explain their unethical behavior by lack of alternatives. Another option here is an attempt to convince themselves that nobody really suffered from their actions and correspondingly they could not be considered wrong or unethical. Often this approach is used in cases with drugs or illegal cash operations. Officers explain that taking away money from drug dealer is nothing in comparison to his activity and the harm, he is able to do to other people. Advantages comparison is the way to avoid moral responsibility by comparing to other workers, who act even in the worse way by writing reports with lies for example. Higher cause is the argument for those police officers, who like to state that the ends justify the means, they are sure that their behavior was necessary and correct. This is considered to be one of the most difficult situations, when a police officer doesn’t simply break some ethical or actual laws, rather finds the explanation to his actions, stating that they were in the name of “the greater good”. Blaming the victim is the approach, which is widely used by many people, including police officers. They consider exactly the individual, who suffered, to be responsible for the actions of the criminal. “If the dealer doesn’t want to get beat up, the dealer should obey the law,” the officer might reason. “I’m not using force on law-abiding citizens, only on drug dealers; they give up their rights when they break the rules.” (Fitch, 2009, p. 5).

In order to better understand the reasons of police officers’ misconduct, it is necessary to note that usually the process is not abrupt, rather gradual, in other words police officer doesn’t tend to commit serious unethical actions at one moment of time, he starts from some minor misbehavior. Then they start to analyze their own behavior on the basis of actual victims of their actions and possible circumstances, which might follow. Often serious misconduct cases follow usual simple policy violations, for example leaving some facts unchecked. As time passes a police officer learns how to mitigate his feeling of responsibility and finds more and more facts morally acceptable for him, letting any kind of psychological discomfort in this relation fade away. “Officers can employ cognitive rationalizations prospectively (before the corrupt act) to forestall guilt and resistance, or retrospectively (after the misconduct) to erase any regrets. In either case, the more frequently an officer rationalizes deviant behavior, the easier each subsequent instance of misconduct becomes.” (Josephson, 2009, p. 265). As time passes these actions become a kind of patterns for future behavior of police officers, especially in cases, when the experience is repeated. The unethical behaviors become the part of their every day professional activity and police officers get more an more used to them, needing even not further explanations or justifications. Sometimes they turn into habitual automatic experiences. Finally the moment comes, when they stop to consider their actions immoral, rather treat them as integral parts of their usual behavior.

Taking into consideration all the above-described factors and imagining their possible outcomes in the future, a lot of countries all over the world started to consider the options of providing special ethics education for their police officers. The only fact that there is a decision to pay attention to this problem this is already a step forward. It not correct to see ethical education in the frames of discussions of moral values and examples of unethical behaviors. “Proponents of this method suggest that officers who possess the right values—and, by extension, the right character—will always do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances. Although few people would argue with the importance of good moral values and character, ethical decisions are not always simple.” (Brock, Green, 2005, p. 119). It is not possible to demand from police officers their ethical actions, until they are able to recognize the morality of the situation, make the correct decision in the concrete situation of ethical challenge, develop strong personal motivation for making the correct choice, demonstrate strong will and character in making this choice. Unfortunately often the influence of peers is underestimated. However, according to the research data, around 40% of police officers would not report about misconduct situations, even if they become direct witnesses of them, purely because they are afraid of management reprisal. Thus the main aims of ethical education should become first of all the increase of moral awareness of individuals, their ability to moral reasoning and defense of their positions, experience in navigating in the situations of moral challenges.

The methods of this ethical education are not less important, as long ethical lectures would hardly help a lot. Any kind of moral education should be built on the basis of dialogue, which would give the possibility to the police officers to come out with their assumptions and understanding of moral issues, to learn to find the correct motivation and explanation of their choices. One of the important task of the instructors is to guarantee supportive environment, making the participants of the training feel comfortable, otherwise, there will be no chance to build the discussions in open and sincere way. Another important aspect is regularity. There is no sense in conducting such education activities just once and hope that they will be effective. On the contrary there is a need to develop regular training programs, which would be subjected to the current needs and situation. Police officers are to go through regular training with firearms or tactics in seizing of criminals, in the same way it is recommended to organize their ethical trainings, as this would help police officers to get prepared for the actual moral situations, they are facing everyday fulfilling their duties. Often documentary or fictional stories are used for better stimulation of the ethical decisions activity of the students. “Regardless of the stimulus, however, the more frequently officers discuss ethics, the better able they will be to recognize a moral dilemma, make the appropriate ethical decision, and demonstrate the moral courage necessary to behave honorably.” (Brock, Green, 2005, p. 123).

Most of the law enforcement agencies have already appreciated the role of the code of ethical conduct, which should be clear and precise and be informed to all police officers, for them to be aware of the key values and norms, which are related to their professional mission. Establishment of this code of conduct is only the first step, the next step is always related to the good example. This means that all the top managers of any police departments should start to follow this code of conduct themselves, this would become a perfect motivation for the rest of the employees. Only under the condition that this code is applied in all levels of the organization, there is a chance to talk about its real efficiency. In relation to the code of ethics, there should be the mechanisms worked out, which would foresee rewards for truly ethical conduct, as well as those, which would guarantee the responsibility for unethical behaviors., There is no reason to apply the code of conduct, as it will be not efficient, unless this happens.

Overall, the role of police officers for any society could never be underestimated, however taking into consideration that police officers are usual individuals, even if they were chosen of the basis of their strong character and moral position, this doesn’t mean that this situation should remain with further control and observation. Taking into consideration the number of cases of police misconduct, it is necessary to underline the need of many-sided approach to solving of these problems in all levels, in order to guarantee positive relations between police officers and society, which is an important factor for maintaining order and justice.

 

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

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[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

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

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

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

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

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

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

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

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]
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