Ethical Issues for Police Officers & Criminal Investigators Law enforcement responders working in the field are routinely confronted by ethical challenges that are very different from those experienced by their commanders, or by those working in an administrative capacity. Physically and philosophically separated from the operational decisions faced by administrators, those on patrol or conducting investigations work directly with the public.
Duty of Care A responding law enforcement agency has a duty of care. This refers to the professional and legal obligation to be competent custodians of any victims that are encountered any criminal investigations that are initiated; and any evidence that supports of refutes allegations of criminal activity against accused suspects.
Duty of Care The primary responsibilities of law enforcement, when responding to a criminal complaint, include the below list of tactical issues that also reflect an ethical responsibility. 1.Protect themselves; call for back-up when needed 2.Establish who is involved 3.Ensure that everyone involved is safe 4.Get medical assistance for those that need it 5.Determine what happened
Duty of Care 6.Establish who made the complaint and what it is about 7.Identify any witnesses 8.Seek out, identify, collect, and protect any physical evidence 9.Ensure the objective forensic examination of all relevant evidence 10.Determine whether or not a crime has taken place 11.Identify any criminal suspects 12.Establish whether probable cause exists for an arrest 13.Arrest any criminal perpetrators
Breaking the Law to Uphold It In order to do their work, it is understood that law enforcement need to violate some of the rules and laws that the rest of us must abide. Examples include: traffic ordinances, privacy, firearms possession/use, property seizure, and the use of coercive and lethal force. Proper discretion is key to maintaining public confident in law enforcement integrity.
Noble Cause Corruption Noble cause corruption refers to corrupt or illegal acts committed by law enforcement in order to secure or maintain an arrest or conviction, or some other worthy end. Law enforcement must select between competing ethics.
Police Responder Ethos Unethical responders: Have a particular mindset when answering a call. They are thinking about what’s in it for them. Every call is viewed as an opportunity to act in self-interest, and those that cannot be exploited in some way are treated without enthusiasm, as an annoyance. Ethical responders: Do not usually spend time thinking about ethics. For them, ethics are a straightforward proposition; they understand that there are black and white rules of conduct with no shades of gray. They know their duty, they carry it out, and they do their best to ignore temptation by identifying and refusing inducements to misconduct.
Patrol Officers Patrol officers are those uniformed police assigned to move in a pattern within designated areas of a community (aka “beats”) by foot, horse, bicycle, motorcycle, or more commonly a marked patrol car. They serve the following functions: Police visibility is intended to be a crime deterrent; Police presence is essential for maintaining public order and related public perceptions of response availability; Patrol officers are best situated to identify unreported crime, accidents, hazardous situations, and lack of compliance with local statutes;
Patrol Officers Continued: Patrol officers often serve as ad hoc investigators of criminal complaints, specifically those that will not be assigned to a detective; Patrol officers provide security for crime scenes, and assist with the arrest and transport criminal suspects from those scenes when necessary; and Patrol officers are the eyes and ears of effective investigative units.
Patrol Officers While executing these duties, patrol officers encounter many situations that are rife with ethical strain. Examples include the following: Improper use of databases Police discretion & selective enforcement High speed chases, aka “Hot Pursuit” Bribes, inducements, and entitlement Conduct unbecoming Carrying and responding off Duty
Criminal Investigators In response to a criminal complaint, law enforcement agencies have a legal obligation to investigate, establish the facts, and determine whether a crime has actually been committed. Common ethical issues faced by criminal investigators include the following: The use of confidential informants Problems with search and seizure Concerns over entrapment The use of deception The possibility of inducing a false confession The temptation to falsify evidence