Research Paper: Police Deviance and Integrity

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Police Deviance and Integrity

In law enforcement, officers play an important role in determining how they are perceived by the public. This can have an impact on their ability to enforce different regulations and work with the community in reducing criminal activity. However, their overall amounts of authority and power can create situations where possible abuses will occur. This is problematic, as these practices will have a negative impact on the relationship that the police department will have with citizens. As they will lose faith in the ability of officers to objectively deal with issues and enforce the law. (Martin, 2013)

Evidence of this can be seen with observations from Martin (2013) who said, "Over the past few decades, great strides have occurred in the law enforcement profession. To begin with, many police agencies have avoided hiring candidates who have low ethical standards and have identified those onboard employees early in their careers who might compromise the department's integrity. In addition, research has discovered new methods of testing candidates for their psychological propensity to act ethically. However, unethical conduct by the nation's police officers continues to occur in departments large and small. Research into police corruption offers some understanding of the phenomenon in the hope of rooting out this behavior that serves to undermine the overall legitimacy of law enforcement." (Martin, 2013)

This is illustrating the challenges that all police departments are facing when it comes to deviance and integrity. To fully understand what is taking place requires conducting an in depth review of the problem and introducing possible solutions. Together, these elements will highlight the scope of the challenges and how to address them over the long-term.

An In Depth Review of the Problem

The issue of police misconduct is a major problem that will impact the ability to law enforcement to address a host of difficulties. According to a study conducted by Injustice Everywhere, they determined that 1 out of every 116 officers is involved with some type of on the job transgressions. Out of this number, they divided these violations into a variety of categories. The below table is illustrating the percentages of unethical and illegal activities that are occurring by police officers. ("National Police Misconduct Statistics," 2009)

Frequency of Misconduct by Law Enforcement

Category

Percentage

Brutality

21.3%

Sexual Misconduct

13.0%

Fraud / Theft

9.8%

Shootings

5.8%

Assaults

5.6%

4.1%

Illegal Raids

3.5%

Drugs

3.2%

Wrongful Arrests

3.1%

Perjury

2.6%

Civil Rights

2.1%

("National Police Misconduct Statistics," 2009)

These figures are showing how there is a host of unethical activities taking place among police officers. This is troubling, as the kinds of incidents will have a negative impact on the way they interact with the general public and their ability to build trust within the community. ("National Police Misconduct Statistics," 2009)

Moreover, Orwell (n.d.) determined that law enforcement has a unique role they are playing in enforcing the law and building confidence among the general public. A good example of this can be seen with him saying, "Police are only gatekeepers to the vast apparatus which is the criminal justice system, but they are, for many people, the sole, full-time representative or symbol of the law's purpose in society (which is justice). They are the preeminent symbol of 'the establishment,' or 'the man.' They are expected to remain insulated or isolated from politics and fashion, yet still display the commonsense reasonableness of the common man. Nobody's perfect, but the police are held to a higher standard of competence. They not only have to be efficient but effective also. They must reinforce legality as well as legitimacy. This means that they must not only uphold resilient standards (like probable cause, due process, and good faith) but additionally do their duty to exercise good judgment (show fairness and equity in particular cases when the circumstances demand it). Police accountability is all about this duty being conditional, i.e., always on loan. Police are judged on the basis of this kind of justice, not the kind which simply measures how many arrests are made and/or if the crime rate drops. Their ethics must reflect social justice more than criminal justice." (Orwell, n.d.)

This is illustrating how law enforcement has to maintain a delicate balance in enforcing the law and protecting the interests of the community. At the heart of the issue, is the integrity of the officers and their ability to avoid becoming involved in various deviances. When this happens, they are more responsive to public emergencies. It is at this point that there will be greater amounts of trust and support for the actions taken by law enforcement officials. (Orwell, n.d.)

Furthermore, many of the practices used by law enforcement are criticized. This is because they utilize tools such as racial profiling to determine if someone is involved in criminal activities. In general, this has proven to be a controversial tactic. For instance, the Long (2009) concluded that, "Police in major U.S. cities stop and question more than a million people each year -- a sharply higher number than just a few years ago. Most are black and Hispanic men. Many are frisked, and (nearly all are innocent of any crime, emphasis mine), according to figures gathered by The Associated Press. Civil liberties groups say the practice is racist and fails to deter crime. Police departments maintain it is a necessary tool that turns up illegal weapons and drugs and prevents more serious crime. Police records indicate that officers are drawn to suspicious behavior: furtive movements, actions that indicate someone may be serving as a lookout, anything that suggests a drug deal, or a person carrying burglary tools such as a slim-jim or pry bar." (Long, 2009)

This is illustrating that the tactics used by law enforcement can outrage select segments of the population (i.e. minorities). Yet, at the same time, watching the actions and individual mannerism will help officials to decide if someone is acting suspicious (i.e. profiling). This has created controversy about these practices and the way they are applied in the real world. Over the course of time, the use of these techniques and potential abuses are making the situation worse. When this happens, the public will begin to question the actions taken by law enforcement and the tools they are using to protect the public. (Long, 2009)

Possible Solutions for a Resolution

Some possible solutions for dealing with these challenges includes: establishing a code of ethics for everyone to follow inside the police department. This involves creating practices that are embracing the values which are most important to communities and within society. These standards will establish procedures and customs that are focused on protecting the relationship with the public. ("Police Officer Code of Ethics," 2004) (Berg, 1999)

Moreover, these guidelines can be used to inform the community about the most acceptable procedures and tactics for enforcing the law. In the event there is any kind of abuses, is when the public can use the information from the code of ethics to determine if an officer is following these regulations. This helps to improve oversight and transparency. ("Police Officer Code of Ethics," 2004) (Berg, 1999)

To enforce these provisions, an Internal Affairs unit could be established. They have the responsibility of investigating any kind of police misconduct. These individuals will be accountable to an oversight committee. They will monitor the activities of officers and have the power to sanction, suspend or recommend criminal charges being filed against individuals who violate the code of ethics. ("Police Officer Code of Ethics," 2004) (Berg, 1999)

To keep the process fair, the committee will consist of members of the community, law enforcement and local officials. Their basic objectives are to use this as a measure to enforce new guidelines which are designed to curb police deviance. If this can occur, these… [END OF PREVIEW]

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