Police ethics just like any other applied ethics should espouse beneficence where the interest of the client comes first, respect for persons where the dignity of individuals has to be respected, and justice. Police ethics is underdeveloped because of the paramilitary philosophy of policing as compared to business and medical ethics. Integrity features prominently in police ethics because it is through it that values and morals of standard policing can be integrated into the entire police force. These values and morals help in rooting out corruption that plagues many police departments in the United States. There are cadres of police officers who do not have integrity. This group of police officers tends to abet and perpetuate the course of corruption (Pagon, 2003).
History and prevalence of police corruption in the United States
Police corruption is not unique to a particular state but a widespread problem in the United States. The vice dates back to times when the first organized police forces were first instituted in the United States. Police corruption is witnessed in myriad forms and continues to run down many police departments. Forms of police corruption keep changing over time but American history cannot be mentioned without referring to police corruption. The 19th-century American police are characterized by widespread corruption that plagued many police departments in major cities. Issues related to police corruption are not a preserve of the late 20th century.
In fact, a study of the history of police has to integrate the devious nature of the police, their love for corruption, as well as misconduct. Because the conduct of the police is fundamental in the criminal justice system, police corruption has majorly contributed to aborted justice. Remedial measures like improved recruitment, enhanced training, improved remuneration, and bettering the police working conditions that were meant to professionalize the body have weeded out some officers leaving fewer corrupt police officers. Some corrupt officers engage in serious criminal activities. Unfortunately, passive forms of corruption have been substituted by aggressive forms of corruption like aiding drug trafficking and condoning or actively participating in organized crime and felonies. In New York City, the Knapp Commission on Police Corruption of 1970 found those police officers engaged in both low-level forms of corruption and large-scale corruption.
After two decades, a Commission chaired by Mollen adduced that police officers in New York participate in outright theft in the streets, or through conducting searches without court warrants, or through raids that are legitimized. The commission also reported that the police officers also steal at the car stops and drug couriers. Off-duty officers also engage in criminal activities. Mollen Commission found that police officers assist in the trafficking of narcotics other than them using illicit drugs. Police officers were found to perjure their testimony in law courts to either aid suspects release or incriminate suspects. Drug-related police corruption scandals are not peculiar to New York alone but a vice that takes place in virtually all major cities across the United States. Other cities visited by the Mollen commission had their fair share of police corruption cases like in Miami had drug-related police corruption problems. In fact, the Miami River Corps reputation was soiled by a decision by its officers to steal millions of dollars from the drug dealers. The officers decided to sell the drugs that they netted and caused three deaths. Punitive measures were taken against more than 100 errant police officers. In New Orleans, police officers protected a drug trafficking cartel for nearly six months in 1994. Ten officers were finally indicted by the federal agents for receiving 100, 000 dollars in exchange for protection of this warehouse where cocaine was kept. However, investigations aborted when an officer eliminated a potential witness. In Philadelphia, law enforcement officers were arrested after they planted drugs on suspects.
The officers also orchestrated serial home breaking to steal cash and drugs. They also received thousands of dollars from drug peddlers in return for protection, found the Mollen Commission. The Mollen Commission reported that 27 Los Angeles County Sherriff’s deputies and officers in 1994 while working as antinarcotics skimmed millions of money from drugs that resulted in their conviction. They enriched themselves with a total of 60 million dollars they had netted in police swoops within a time frame of two years. The commission reported that nine officers from Detroit aided the distribution of cocaine in 1991. They also attempted to launder money. The officers were charged with aiding drug traffic.
Prevention of police corruption
Money researches that have been conducted on how police corruption can be prevented only allude to the eradication of the vice. Ethical standards have to become up with to eliminate this vice. During the recruitment process, unethical individuals should not be allowed to join the police service or force. Candidates must be adequately screened and caution has to be taken so that only conscientious people are employed. Such people have a higher degree of integrity. This can be assessed through one conduct as an individual devoid of corruption is truthful in his words and deeds. Recruits should be trained to always create an atmosphere of ethics and integrity. Their leaders can help in a creation of such an environment. Ethics and integrity are integral components of law enforcement. Committing resources towards training instructors of ethics and teaching ethics to recruits are not enough. Training hours of the recruits should be increased. More resources should also be invested in the training of recruits on ethics. It’s pertinent that the officers realize during their training process that they have control over their integrity and professionalism as opposed to their police roles (Arrigo and Claussen, 2003).
How police corruption is unethical
Integrity is an important component when issues relating to police ethics are to be ventilated as it sums all virtues that are very integral in protecting and giving services to the general public by the police. A corrupt police officer is unethical because he is imprudent as he cannot draw a clear line of distinction between conflicting virtues. This makes him indecisive. Corrupt police officers are also untrustworthy. Police officers tend to exploit authority for their selfish gains and go against the grain of integrity. The criminal justice system cannot competently operate without the active participation of graft free police officers. However, justice is time and again aborted because police officers have taken to violate police ethics (Arrigo and Claussen, 2003). Police officer who practices integrity should be responsible for their actions. However, officers undertake to engage in vices like corruption in full knowledge of the consequences.
Arrigo, N. and Claussen, N. (2003). Police Corruption and Psychological Testing: A Strategy for Preemployment Screening. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 47, 272-290.
Pagon, M. (2003). Police ethics and integrity. Slovenia: University of Maribor Press.