Ethical Issues in Police Departments

by Elizabeth Hall 
A silhouette showing a police officer striking...
A silhouette showing a police officer striking a person, symbolising police brutality. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
     In today’s age of information in the media, and individual rights, ethical issues in police departments are noted more than ever.  The three most prevalent issues reported about police misconduct on one website are police brutality at 17.7 %, sexual misconduct at 14.2 %, and fraud or theft at 9.3 %.  (Injustice Everywhere, 2009)
    The FBI is the leading federal agency for the investigation of police misconduct offenses, called color of law offenses.  In the fiscal year of 2005, there were over 1100 offenses of this nature investigated.  These were mostly comprised into five primary areas: excessive force, sexual assaults, false arrest, and fabrication of evidence, and failure to keep from harm (Federal Bureau of Investigation, (n.d.)).
     Ethics are very important in the field of police work.  The public looks for trust in issues involving police.  If an investigator or officer is not ethical in the way he handles himself on and off duty, it undermines this trust, and people are less inclined to cooperate 
MacCon covers-up for Calgary police misconduct
MacCon covers-up for Calgary police misconduct (Photo credit: thivierr)
with police officers.  This can lead to less information gained in an investigation, because witnesses and family do not want to talk to police officers.  Reports of police misconduct showing the three most prevalent issues being brutality, sexual misconduct, and fraud or theft, show that even though only a handful of officers commit these ethical violations, these are serious violations that reflect badly on the public’s view of police everywhere.  (Injustice Everywhere. 2009)
          If ethics are ignored in police investigation, on any level, the evidence and or testimony involved may not be admissible in court, and the criminal will go free simply because the integrity of the investigation and investigators was compromised.  The number of cases investigated in a year and the number of cases widespread in the media certainly indicate that this is a serious problem for police nationally since the public trust is shaken every time this subject is a topic of the nightly news broadcasts.
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 15:  Protestors prepare to m...
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 15: Protestors prepare to march in a rally against police brutality May 15, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. This was the second day of protests in what is expected to be a full week of demonstrations as the city prepares to host the NATO Summit May 20-21. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)


Federal Bureau of Investigation.  (n.d.)  Color of Law.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web October 27, 2009.  http://www.fbi.gov/hq/civilrights/color.htm
Injustice Everywhere.  (2009) National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project.  Retrieved From the World Wide Web October 27, 2009.
O’Connor T. (2006).  Topics in Police Ethics.  Megalinks in Criminal JusticeRetrieved from the World Wide Web October 27, 2009.  http://www.apsu.edu/oconnort/3300/3300lect04.htm.

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