Good Example Of Factors That Cause Moral Or Ethical Dilemmas For The Police Research Paper

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Crime, Police, Ethics, Law, Social Issues, Criminal Justice, Officer, Corruption

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/20


The aim of the paper is to explain the factors that cause ethical dilemmas for the police. The paper also intends to propose the ways of solving the ethical dilemmas for the police. As the paper’s findings show, the police face moral dilemmas when their fellow police officers and bosses are involved in illegal and unethical practices. The officers do not report such occurrences because they fear. Also, the officers face situations where the law contradicts ethical practices. Certain situations are emergent and the police may have to violate the law so that they prevent crime. However, there are no clear frameworks for fighting corruption in the CJS. The CJS should change its definition of corruption to include process corruption apart from financial corruption. Ethical training is necessary for the police officers so that they can understand ethics properly. The police should also change their attitude of protecting the fellow police who commit crimes and unethical practices like alcoholism.
Ethical dilemmas in law enforcement are situations where there is a contradiction between ethics (morality or good) and the law. In many cases, the law enforcement officers face circumstances under which the law prevents them from doing what is ethically correct. An example is when an officer sees a person who is suspiciously a criminal. However, the law lays the requirement for following the due diligence, meaning that before the officer arrests the criminal, he would have to obtain an arrest warrant. Then, the question that arises is: What should an officer do when the law contradicts ethics or when the law raises ethical bars that may hinder the effective enforcement of the law? There is also the argument about the ethics behind the use of discretion by the law enforcers. Discretion is a situation where the police officer decides to make an arrest despite not meeting the legal requirements of the arrest. It is within the personal judgment of the officer that the best thing he should do is to arrest the criminal even if he has no warrant to do so.
The issue of ethical dilemma for the police officers is one that has attracted a lot of interest from researchers. Dees is a retired police officer and a Professor of Criminal Justice at Walden University. According Dees (2013), one of the ethical dilemmas he faced as a police officer was when he became aware of illegal and unethical deals within his department. He explains that it is difficult for police officers to fight crime, for example reporting corruption, when the fellow policemen and women are involved in the criminal activities. A police officer may get the knowledge about his boss and junior officers within the department but he fails to report the crime for fear of reprisal from the other officers. Dees narrates the story of a fellow officer who he met while the officer was off duty. He was intoxicated (drunk) and was going to drive his car. If this officer was any other member of the public, the best thing for Dees was to arrest him because it is illegal to drink and drive. Corruption is also a matter that Dees reports to have taken place, ranging from receiving bribes to squandering the money for police-programs. Although he understood that these crimes occurred within the department, Dees could not report the cases so he was not seen as a conspirator who betrayed his fellow officers and bosses.
In addition, the police face circumstances that may force them to apply deadly force. Ethically, it is not right for the police officers to use deadly force because the law requires them to safeguard life and property in their service. However, the officers face difficult situations that place a lot of risk on their lives. Dealing with armed thugs is an example of a situation that may force the officers to use deadly force. It would be argued that it is not ethically right for officers to use such force. However, when their lives are at risk, the police may respond unethically for the reason of self defense (The Importance of Ethics in Criminal Justice, n.d). The problem of racial profiling causes ethical dilemmas for police. The 1990 case of Adolph Archie and African American who was brutally beaten by police for allegedly shooting and injuring a white officer shows how racism creates ethical dilemmas. In most crimes that involve the Black Americans as the alleged criminals, the police have always been accused of acting unethically. It is wrong for officers to treat the suspects of crime racially. The recent case in Ferguson, where a police officer shot a Black American who was not armed shows that racism is an ethical challenge for the police. As it is evident from such cases, police officers require rigorous training that can help them understand ethics properly. Such training can help towards ending the racial treatment that appears to be directed towards the Black American community by the white police officers (The Importance of Ethics in Criminal Justice, n.d).
Another factor that creates the ethical dilemma is failure by the police officers to deal with the dilemmas immediately they experience them. Many officers do not treat ethical dilemmas seriously may be because the dilemmas do not affect them at a personal level as they tend to imagine. Schafer, an FBI at Lancaster, explains that the police treat crime that their fellow officers commit in a soft manner. Schafer (2013) explains a scenario where a rookie officer caused an accident that injured his fellow officers. Before they began their night patrol, a fellow officer had detected that the rookie officer was drunk. However, the police officer took no action after the rookie policeman convinced him that he could drive safely. Under such circumstances, Schafer (2013) explains that the officer who detected that the driving cop was drunk could have prevented the accident is he disallowed the drunk officer from driving. Officers can stop such ethical dilemmas by treating rookie officers like criminals. They should avoid accepting crime in the police force as such crimes can turn deadly and claim their lives or the lives of the citizens.
Kopko (2011) looks at ethics in the Criminal Justice System from a Christian’s perspective. According to Kopko (2011), officers in the CJS can act morally and ethically if they seek the spiritual guidance from God. Kopko (2011) explains that God is the highest point of morality, and God’s law can effectively guide the officers to overcome the ethical dilemmas. Many officers, though, do not seek the guidance of the Supernatural. Kopko, for example, explains that the Christianity principles do not allow an officer or any other Christian to murder, tell lies against one another, and take bribes, etc. such principles, according Kopko, have not been referred to by many officers, and the author explains that the way for officers overcoming their ethical dilemmas is by referring to the law of God. Before responding to crime or taking bribes, among other unethical practices, Kopko (2011) advises that the police officers should question if such practices are good and acceptable before God.
Newburn (1999) discusses how the police can prevent corruption, which is one of the leading ethical dilemmas in the police service and the Criminal Justice System as a whole. Newburn finds that the manner in which corruption is defined only focuses on financial corruption. Process corruption is something that the definition ignores. Consequently, the police do not see process corruption, e.g. nepotism and racism as matters that really matter in their service. Newburn (1999) explains that the Criminal Justices System should broaden its conceptualization of corruption to give process corruption the same attention as financial corruption. In addition, the author suggests that the CJS should define the boundary between the corrupt and non-corrupt activities in the law enforcement department. The officers should understand clearly the immoral activities that they should avoid and the moral activities that they should encourage. Finally, Newburn explains the need for reforms in the CJS. The CJS should change the attitude that fighting corruption and other ethical dilemmas is a daunting task. Such attitude change is necessary if the police must reform and act ethically.
In summary, ethical dilemmas are common among the law enforcers, and they range from treating the suspects racially, conducting illegal arrests and searches, accepting bribes, nepotism, and failing to report unethical and illegal practices. The police fear reporting criminal activities that involve their bosses and fellow policemen for fear of reprisal. However, the police need to change their attitude of protecting the unethical acts of fellow officers by considering the effects of such actions on them and other people. CJS must install programs for training police on ethics. Racial killings show that the police are unable to distinguish moral from immoral activities. There is need for urgent reforms in the police to bring back public trust as far as ethical dilemmas are involved.


Dees, T. (September 4, 2013). What are Some Ethical Dilemmas that the Police Face? Retrieved
on April 4, 2015 from
Kopko, J. (2011). Ethics in Criminal Justice through a Christian Worldview. Retrieved on April
14, 2015 from
Newburn, T. (1999). Understanding and Preventing Corruption: Lessons from the Literature.
Retrieved on April 14, 2015 from
Schafer, J.R. (2013). Making Ethical Decisions: A Practical Review. Retrieved on April 14, 2015
The Importance of Ethics in Criminal Justice System, (N.d). Retrieved on April 14, 2015 from

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