Term Paper: Ethics in Criminal Justice Maintaining a High

Pages: 5 (1835 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper

Ethics in Criminal Justice

Maintaining a high degree of ethical behavior within the criminal justice system is essential in promoting trust within the community. Police misconduct such as raping detainees does irreparable harm to that trust. In order to eliminate instances of police misconduct, it is imperative to institute strict procedures to address the issue. Only by addressing the issue will the protection of civilians be assured and trust be maintained.

There is perhaps nothing more damaging to the standing of the police within a community than when an atmosphere of mistrust arises due to police misconduct. When this mistrust arises as a result of an officer committing a crime against a citizen while on duty, it is even worse, particularly when that crime is a violent one, and deprives the citizen of basic civil liberties. A prime example was the recent case where a police officer was convicted of raping a detainee. This case exemplifies how police behavior can create an atmosphere of mistrust, and stresses the need to focus on characteristics/behaviors, historical trends, present day implications, future trends, societal impact, and plausible solutions to police misconduct and ethical dilemmas in criminal justice.

On October 4, 2012, Abraham Joseph, a 28-year-old ex-Houston police officer was convicted of raping a cantina waitress who was in his custody at the time of the rape (Fraser, 2012). He was found guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual assault (Fraser, 2012). Per Fraser, "The waitress, 37, testified that Joseph detained her at 3 a.m. outside the cantina where she worked, put her in his patrol car, took her to a dark park, and raped her while she was handcuffed." During the sentencing phase, three additional witnesses claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Joseph while he was on duty (Fraser, 2012). "Joseph could have received as little as five years in prison, but jurors chose the maximum sentence instead. They actually sentenced Joseph to two life sentences -- one for each forced sex act -- but the sentences will run concurrently" ( Reece, 2012).

According to Jocelyn Pollock, "Police serve as the interface between the awesome power of the state and the citizenry governed." "In some countries, police operate as a fearsome coercive force for a controlling political body" (Pollock, 2012). "In the United States, we enjoy constitutional protections against untrammeled power, and police act as the guardian of the law, not merely enforcers for those in power" (Pollock, 2012) if the sentence is any indication, the lack of trust in this particular officer was extraordinarily high. However, the stiff sentence may also indicate at least a modicum of trust in the ability of the Houston Police Department to adequately handle strong accusations made against one of their own. Without good police work, it would have been extremely difficult to obtain a guilty verdict against a person of authority, such as an HPD officer. Thus, this example offers two extremes of trust, or lack of trust, associated with one corrupt officer and the political power he represented at the time of his offense. The powers that be did not attempt to cover up his misbehavior instead they went after him with a vengeance.

In the past, it was not uncommon for the governing powers and the police force itself to cover up police misconduct. Misconduct, however, is a rather benign term for the criminal sexual assault committed by Officer Joseph. In this instance, the act of misconduct was a violent action against an innocent citizen. Further, three other women came forward and testified that he did the same thing to them. He had established a pattern of asserting his authority through forcible rape. In fact, he exhibited classic characteristics of the typical power-assertive rapist. "The power-assertive rapist uses the assault as an expression of dominance over the victim. These offenders do not doubt their sexual adequacy or masculinity and typically display a detached, macho attitude" (Below, 2004). Additionally, they do not usually exhibit a great degree of violence and may rape the victim multiple times, often leaving their victim to find their way back from the scene of the crime (Below, 2004).

Unfortunately, Officer Joseph's actions are not that rare or unusual. As recently as June, 2012, the following blog was big news: "Ok for police to have sex with detainees? New law says no" (Sanders, 2012). Incredibly, the state of California found it necessary to enact a law making it a criminal offense for a police officer to have sex with a detainee (Sanders, 2012). Prior to the enactment of this law, it was not considered to be illegal for a policeman to have sex with a detainee provided it was consensual (Sanders, 2012). How can it not be illegal to use one's position of authority to coerce sexual favors from one who is such a position as a detainee? Can this really be considered consensual under any circumstances given the policeman's position of authority? Certainly there is no ethical dilemma in this case. Morally, having any kind of sex with a detainee is reprehensible and a gross violation of authority. Clearly, the present day reality is a bleak one.

Though bleak, there are laws in effect now that address this very issue. Addressing Sexual Offenses and Misconduct by Law Enforcement: Executive Guide, states that:

According to 18 U.S.C. § 241, it is unlawful for two or more persons to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate another person in the free exercise of any right or privilege provided to another by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Similarly,

18 U.S.C. § 242 makes it a crime for a person who is acting under the color of law to willfully deprive another person of any right or privilege provided to another by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Under §242, acts performed under the "color of law" include those conducted by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials within their lawful authority and any act conducted while the official is pretending to act in accordance with his or her official duties. The types of misconduct covered by these laws include: excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrest, and the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in a loss of liberty to another. Enforcement of these provisions does not require that any racial, religious, or other discriminatory motive exists (Abner et al., 2011).

Obviously, merely making the act illegal does not solve the problem. It is alarming that a manual such as this is even necessary and its existence accentuates the need for future action.

Left unchecked, the present situation regarding sexual misconduct by officers will only increase. The very nature of the officer's responsibilities places them in positions which can lead to this type of misconduct. According to Abner et al.:

Within the policing profession some conditions of the job may inadvertently create opportunities for sexual misconduct. Law enforcement officers (1) have power and authority over others; (2) work independently; (3) sometimes function without direct supervision; (4) often work late into the night when their conduct is less in the public eye;

and, (5) engage with vulnerable populations who lack power and are often perceived as less credible (e.g., juveniles, crime victims, undocumented people, and those with addictions and mental illness). Furthermore, some people are so impressed by and attracted to the authority the uniform and badge represent that they will seek to engage officers in sexual relations in order to have a vicarious connection to the power of the profession (Abner et al., 2011).

Because the nature of law enforcement is not likely to change dramatically in the near future, it is probable that the occurrences of sexual misconduct will only increase if it is not addressed now.

Further, such actions have a significant impact on the societies in which they occur. Imagine an environment where it is considered normal to experience sexual assault by an officer of the law. In such a culture, one would obviously not feel as though the officer is there to serve and protect. In fact, most would hesitate in enlisting the aid of law enforcement for any reason. Additionally, that mistrust would expand to include all levels of law enforcement, as well as local, state, and federal forms of government because they are failing to protect the citizenry from the very forces hired to protect and serve them.

To prohibit such an environment from becoming common place, there are many steps which need to be taken. First, the highest levels of authority must make it very clear that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated in any form or fashion and will be prosecuted to its fullest extent. According to the Chief Russ Martin of the Delaware, OH Police Department, in Addressing Sexual Offenses, "it is the agency executive's responsibility to foster an environment in which ethical behavior is expected and each member of the department is held accountable for meeting those standards." In addition, to the above, there are several other measures… [END OF PREVIEW]

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