Research Paper: Ethics in Justice Administration Introductory

Pages: 10 (3477 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Not only do the officers have to accomplish their duties professionally, but the job requires each scenario handled ethically and morally. Although ethics and morals are two different subject matters, they have a correlation and supplement each other interchangeably. An individual's morals concentrate on the actual behavior while ethics is a study of those morals. Ethics refers to the system of moral values based on the principle of right and wrong. Police officers play an important role in the administration of justice; therefore, they should view themselves as retrospective and abide by the law.

The term ethics has many definitions, but a review reveals that most of the definitions apply the same concept. For instance, ethics are "principles of accepted rules of conduct for a particular individual or group as mandated by law, policy, or procedure." The uniqueness of law enforcement occupations causes some challenges in abiding completely by the rules and procedures (DeWitt, 2007). In addition, there is no single police officer capable of policing by the set rules, and they violate rules included in their code of ethics (Pogrebin, 2003). Such jobs that aim to deliver efficient administration of justice to people entail a great deal of discretion and decision making that come with no warning or instruction. The concern is that morality in the globe is corrupted, and ethical considerations involve discretion, force and processes that entail enlightened moral judgments.

1. The Code of Silence

Police officers have nicknames for officers who violate the code of silence. Some of the nicknames are bad names such as "rat," "narc," or "fink." Being accepted by a subculture can put a strain on a police officer who tries to practice ethics. This code of silence is informal but known by all officers. In addition, the code has a strong influence on the behavior of officers (Hess and Wrobleski, 2006). In addition, ethics is complicated and presents adverse challenges to officers seeking to behave ethically (John and Carlson, 2004). However, when confronted with an ethical concern that may endanger a colleague officer, some officers may opt doing the right thing, but the same time they desire to maintain their loyalty toward their colleagues. For instance, when an officer makes a decision to act rightfully, consequences vary from shunned by colleagues to threats of destruction of property.

Ethical Dilemmas

Case study 1: Choosing the Code of Silence

Three officers received a call reporting a burglary. As the three arrived on the scene, they could see boys stripping parts from a car. One boy ran and one of the officers shot the boy, the two officers were not on the vicinity; therefore, they responded on hearing the shot. In the process, one officer kicked a gate that struck the other officer in the head. They gathered and discussed what to report or rather describe the scene of the crime. Later on, a sergeant arrived, and the officers opted to use the incident where the officer was hit on the head as the reason for firing. Their claim was, the officer got hit and yelled (Progrebin, 2003). Therefore, the officers opened fire on the escaping boy. The shot boy was not found, so they assumed he was not hit with the bullets.

This case is an example of how police cover for their colleagues as a reflection of loyalty for each other. In this case, it is clear that the officers neglected their code of ethics. In addition, they opted to honor their subculture and the code of silence. Ethical behavior within a police department is the responsibility of every officer within the department. The case involving three officers elaborates where the police officers discussed a report before the arrival of the sergeant showing that each had a choice, either to say what was right or wrong. However, they decided to construct a report basing their story in favor to protect their colleague against disciplinary action and justifying the shooting on self-defense.

Case study 2: Choosing the Code of Ethics

A female correctional officer working on a night shift continued to find a few of her colleagues asleep on the job. She felt threatened when the guards fell asleep during their shift; therefore, she approached the guards and requested them to stay awake for safety reasons. The officer warned them if they continued sleeping on the job she would report them to higher authorities. However, on another shift, the officer still found her colleagues sleeping on the job and she decided to report the incidence to her supervisor (Jones and Carlson, 2004). In response, the female officer faced harassment that included threatening phone calls and destruction of her car. The officer had an option either live according to the code of ethics, or choose the way provided in the code of silence. This case makes it clear that ethics is a choice, not a fancy, but the officer lived up to the code of ethics.

The officer could have chosen letting the other officers sleep, but the consequences were fatal; such as prisoners escaping then all the guards fall at risk. Choices made by officers in ethical dilemmas may result negatively no matter the decisions they make. The case studies provided reveal that a police officer's worldview is pertinent in case of ethical dilemmas. In other cases, some officers may depend on their colleagues to disobey or obey instead of taking a stand. Taking a stand can also cause rise to adverse consequences. Such complicated dilemmas require officers asking for God's guidance to make ethical decisions (Jones and Carlson, 2004).

Approaching Ethical Dilemmas

Ethical dilemmas become difficult because of the spontaneous manner in which they occur. This makes justice administrators make improper decisions. However, for law enforcers who play a role in justice administration, there are exercises they should undertake to prepare for any unethical dilemma that might arise in their line of duty (Tillman, 1998). In the justice administration realm, professionals should take part in sessions, seminars, practicing and planning on how to approach various dilemmas that may arise. This section provides some dilemma exercises that can help officers prepare ahead of time for a given dilemma.

The bell, the book and the candle

These three tools have a design to retell law enforcers facing an ethical dilemma that they are not proposing to do is not morally and socially acceptable. "The bell" represents the conscience that should sound when an officer is on the edge of making a decision. In addition, it acts as a warning that the decision made comes with adverse results and calls for keen consideration before making the final decision (Kopko, 2011). "The book" represents to the principles and laws previously taught. In the police academies, recruits go over laws and regulations, and each individual law enforcer should know the standards set by the justice administration in collaboration with the police department. This book acts as a reference for the officer and abides to the code of ethics provided. "The candle" symbolizes the decision made through the public; therefore, an officer should consider the implication of his or her decision on the eyes of the public (Jones and Carlson, 2004).

Grey lines

It is difficult for police officers to establish where the ethical line lies. Police officers should recognize that when dealing with ethics in justice administration, several gray areas will arise. Ethical issues are relative meaning that the issue has multitude sides that vary. Depending on an officer, some situations may appear as relative or gray issues to that officer. When an element of power exists it is highly probable that one may take advantage of the power. For a police officer, he or she should have an additional factor when dealing with an ethical dilemma appearing as a grey area. The factor is the ability to define whether the area is a sin and act accordingly (Hess and Wrobleski, 2006).


Due to the fact that the justice administration system is not always clear on every scenario, but deals with dilemmas of grey areas, ethical dilemmas have a lot of complexities. In addition, officers often are under pressure to abide to commands and standards set for them. For instance, the Ten Commandments are straightforward. However, at some point the law enforcers may become deceitful for the greater good. For instance, when an enforcer interacts with members of the public, the department allows them to use deceit if it is necessary (Progrebin, 2003). Discretion of the officer is vital in situations where deceit is the only way out and when it is not acceptable, excusable, or justifiable. Justice administrators place value on honesty; however, in court there is no justification or excuse for truth fabrication. Therefore, for effective administration of justice in a court scenario, the law enforcer's word should have reliability because to effectively administer fairness in justice.

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