Capstone Project: Police Ethics

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[. . .] Statement of the Problem

The problem of this research is the issue of police ethics and how to better guarantee its enforcement. There are many models in place today in law enforcement agencies that have developed with this problem in mind -- but no single model has yet proven to be 100% effective. It is the hypothesis of this paper that a combination of models, while not expected to guarantee completely a perfect enforcement of police ethics, can effectively create an atmosphere in which police ethics are more likely to be fostered and followed.

2: Methodology

The nature of this study is qualitative in terms of assessing how police ethics are currently assessed in the world of law enforcement and how they might be better enforced. It takes a case study approach combined with a literature review assessment in order to provide a realistic perspective of the situation, to promote discussion/analysis of possible remedies, and to give a deeper understanding of the problematic nature of the issue.

The study was conducted by employing the interview process. This interview took place September 26 in an office of the country sheriff's department. The person being interviewed was hired by the sheriff to reinstate the internal affairs unit, a unit that had previously existed but was cancelled twelve years earlier by the previous sheriff. There are numerous ethical considerations when it comes to a sheriff's office and accountability -- and transparency -- because when a member of the community has a complaint against an officer that was not properly investigated, or officers lack training in interacting with the public which results in accusations of police misconduct, the community is not being well served. This interview delved into questions of ethics and law enforcement, and what components of law enforcement should be ethically appropriate.

The organization was chosen for reasons of proximity, time and relevance. First, the study did not permit a wide canvassing of police departments for reasons of time and scope. A longer and more extensive study would be required in order to gather more interviews from across the country. Funds would also need to be made available for traveling. Face-to-face interviews would be preferable to ones conducted via virtual format, such as Skype, for they could provide a phenomenological base that would greatly enhance the impressions that the researcher could use in the final analysis. This would give the report a subjective approach that could deepen the way researchers perceive how law enforcement agents see themselves. This study uses a single interview as the basis for its conclusions, which greatly limits the conclusions applications to the general field of police ethics. However, the findings may be compared to those of other studies and measured accordingly for terms of commonality and/or discrepancy. Further analysis as to why or how these findings are similar/different from other findings would provide another option of later study.

This study should be important to several different stakeholders. First, it deals with the issue of police ethics, which is a specific moral and social issue and which, for that reason, affects society in general. Because the nature of modern society is democratic, it is expected that a democratic public should take an interest in how its public officers are enforcing a system of ethics among themselves -- especially as it is these same officers who will be enforcing the same system of ethics amongst the public. Stakeholders in this study should include public citizens who have a sense of public duty. Second, the study deals with corrections and therefore considers all members of law enforcement to be part of its audience. Understanding how and why police ethics are implemented is a procedure that affects them more directly than it affects the public; thus, it is natural and expedient that they assume a stake in the findings of this study.

A series of seven questions was asked the interviewee for the purpose of this study. Those questions, their answers, and a discussion of them follow in the next section.

3: Results

ONE: Describe the definition and understanding of police ethics: The interviewee stated that an ethical law enforcement agency is one that is well managed by ethical leaders, which means there is high respect for all people no matter their socioeconomic situation or their ethnicity.

Assessment: Police ethics should revolve around morality and social values that everyone believes in. Police do not have one set of ethics and all other organizations have another; ethical behavior in law enforcement means being honest with citizens and other officers, it means being a role model for young people.

TWO: Are ethics specifically part of education in police training? The interviewee stated that the head of the internal affairs unit in the county sheriff's office has taken on the responsibility of training officers in all things that are ethical and also those behaviors that are unethical.

Assessment: Reform is a top priority -- at least public perception of reform is a priority. Even the officer admits that police ethics is still a problem, as training courses are evidently "not enough" in his eyes to guarantee ethical behavior amongst officers.

THREE: Are ethics part of the testing that is administered for potential police officers? The interviewee stated that, yes, this county has a very thorough policy when it comes to hiring new deputies. There is a thorough background check, there is a psychological test, and there are ethical questions that are part of the testing process.

Assessment: The officer said that since the new sheriff won his election two years ago, there have been a number of applicants that were disqualified because they had no idea at all about ethical standards.

FOUR: Are ethics stressed by the law enforcement agency with whom you are employed? Yes, in fact the sheriff believes that ethics training brings to the table the expectations that the department has for all employees. The new sheriff has re-instituted internal affairs, which gives training to existing deputies and to administrative staff.

Assessment: There are three important components associated with the ethics training in this department: a) inspiration (leadership by example); b) education (in addition to the in-house training, all staff and all deputies must agree to take one class per year, either online or in the evening); and c) collaboration (an ethical culture can only be created and maintained when staff at all levels cooperate and work together for the betterment of the department).

FIVE: Are ethical violations punished -- and what is the punishment? Yes, violations of ethical standards within the department are punished; first, by meeting; second, by one-day furlough without pay; third, by suspension.

Assessment: A corrective procedure is in place. A discussion of alternative measures follows in the next section.

SIX: Do deputies always behave in ethical ways? The interviewee stated that there can't be an accurate answer because the department does not know what deputies do on their time off. As long as what they do on their weekends or on their days off does not come back to embarrass the department, the department assumes that they are behaving according to the law and according to what the sheriff expects.

Assessment: Public scrutiny is still an undesired and unwanted action.

SEVEN: Does the county sheriff have a culture of ethics or is it lip service? This new sheriff most certainly has instituted a culture of ethics, and lip service is not part of his agenda. He is absolutely committed to have transparency and honesty in his department.

Assessment: The experienced officer that has been hired to re-institute the internal affairs unit, the man I interviewed, is being counted on by the sheriff to conduct frequent and meaningful training sessions, sometimes bringing one deputy in at a time for a one-on-one tutorial on ethics.

Confirming the Hypothesis

The results of the interview confirmed the hypothesis of this study that an implementation of ethical standards and practices within the law enforcement agency is necessary for guaranteeing effective police ethics procedures. The officer interviewed stated that ethics is of primary concern to the sheriff and that many applicants have been turned away because of a failure to have formed an adequate ethical foundation in their own lives and minds. This shows that the reform of police ethics, beginning with the hiring process, is still in play today and that a continual policy of educating officers is also still practiced -- as the officer stated that policemen are consistently undergoing educational classes.

However, the idea that what is acceptable is that which does not cause embarrassment to the department was also illustrated by the officer. This shall be discussed in the next section.

4: Analysis

The interviewee's answers bear out this argument and illustrate a substantial strain on police ethics acceptance: a main motive of "being" ethical is fear -- avoidance of investigation.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Capstone Project:

APA Format

Police Ethics.  (2013, October 23).  Retrieved June 19, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Police Ethics."  23 October 2013.  Web.  19 June 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Police Ethics."  October 23, 2013.  Accessed June 19, 2019.