During the exercise of duty, law enforcers are tasked with the responsibility of acting both professionally and ethically. This requirement helps them to increase performance and also help them to relate with their colleagues and also relate well with the public (Bushway & Forst, nd). It is important for law enforcers to be in good relation with the community since it helps to combat any form of a rise in crime within a particular setting. Whenever law enforcers act ethically, they are likely to interact better with the public and as a result can be able to extract information that can be helpful in the process of reducing crime within the society. However, sometimes it is difficult to understand how ethics relates to profession. Sometimes assumptions are made that the two words, ethics, and professionalism, can be used interchangeably.
As a result of the recent preceding in the society, this study aims at discussing that the ethics and professionalism are important in the development of competency in the criminal justice system (Peny, 2012). Instead, this paper aims to outline the relationship between ethics and professional behavior in the administration of criminal justice. This paper outlines the importance of understanding the relationship between the key terms and why law enforcers should be ethical. The paper will additionally use critical thinking to clarify the relationship and henceforth come up with a proposal for effective ethics training. The paper will outline five key areas that need to focus on during the training.
According to Socrates, a philosopher and critical thinker, ethics are considered to be a set of values (Fowler, 2008). Therefore, people will make a certain decision such acting immorally not because it is their choice but because the human nature is to err. This perspective, therefore, creates an awareness that there is need to establish the reason for the committing of a particular offense by a person. In this regard, critical thinking helps the law enforcer to judgmentally analyze through the use of the dialectical Socratic method of questioning in trying to come up with answers to solve a certain puzzle (Peny, 2012). This is the process of analyzing a situation in a detailed manner before rushing into a decision of convicting a criminal who might have committed a certain offense not by intention but because it was a human error. Subsequently, in the process of working in the line of duty, that is, acting professionally, a law enforcer should be aware of the fact that there is always need to examine a particular situation to differentiate between erroneously committed offenses and those that are committed intentionally. The recognition of this fact is where ethics, professional behavior, and critical thinking interact. Therefore in the criminal justice system, despite the knowledge and skills of the officers involved in the management of criminal behavior, ethical consideration is important in ensuring that the objectives and goals of the various departments are met.
On the other hand, Aristotle, another critical thinker and an equally great philosopher had a different understanding. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle outlines that moral virtuousness is dependent on extreme excesses and deficiencies (Fowler, 2008). If controlled by moral principle, no human appetite can be considered to be bad. The Nicomachean ethics also argue that a moral virtue can only be obtained by a mix of education, habituation, and self-discipline. Critical thinking, therefore, is a necessity in determining how and why an offense has been committed (Peny, 2012). It can be either due to lack of education, bad habits that have been adopted for many years, or lack of self-discipline. In his principles, Aristotle indicated that virtuous acts require an informed choice and moral motivation. These critical thinking aspects are the ones that help inform the ethics and professionalism of law enforcers.
Having established a relationship between ethics and professional behavior that is linked through critical thinking; it is of high priority to training the members of the law enforcement unit to have an understanding on ethics (Guthirie, 2008). This understanding can be enhanced through training that will help the law enforcers to have a broad and clear understanding of the key areas of the ethical conduct. A training seminar ought to be undertaken to create awareness in five areas that include trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, justice and civic virtues.
Trustworthiness is an essential attribute of ethical conduct for the law enforcers. This is because trustworthiness brings about honesty among collogues, law enforcers with their superiors and most importantly with the public. Building trust with the public will help obtain information on cases that would otherwise be difficult (Guthirie, 2008). Trustworthiness is built based on honesty. If law enforcers learn to be honest and sometimes vulnerable to victims, then victims are likely to open up. In addition to being honest, for law enforcers to be trusted they need to inculcate a promise-keeping culture (Peny, 2012). Although trust can be established through honesty and promise keeping, it is difficult to sustain it without integrity and loyalty. These two will assist law enforcement officers to adhere to the chain of command and sometimes help partners in the law enforcement unit be able to protect each other well. Training on the importance of trustworthiness amongst the community can help prosecute law breaks and hence reduce crime.
Another key area of ethical conduct is respect (Peny, 2012). Through training law enforcement officers on the importance of being respectful within their work units and also with the community is important in promoting public relations. Being courteous can be considered to be one of the first steps that will guide into being respectful. Also, independence and diversity create an environment that favors respect. Further, an understanding of the Golden Rule is also important (Tancredi, 2013). The Golden rule, also considered to be the ethic of reciprocity, is the understanding that people have that people should aim to treat others the same way they would expect to be treated.
The other area of ethics to be focused on during the training is responsibility (Tancredi, 2013). This is important because it helps law enforcers get to perform their duties as required. By understanding the ethic of responsibility, law enforcers can be able to be held accountable for the activities they undertake (Peny, 2012). Responsibility helps in improving the level of professionalism among the law enforcers while performing their work or even when they are not on duty. Also, they get to pursue excellence since they can set appropriate and challenging targets to foster growth amongst them.
Training on justice and fairness principles is very important for the law enforcers because it helps the officers to relate to the community in a good manner. The community will also have an understanding of how their rights (Bushway & Forst, n.d.). .Being fair and just will reduce hostility from the public which sometimes feels like they are not granted justice. To achieve justice, law enforcement officers can be trained to be open. This will entail sharing crucial information with the community and also within their organizations or teams. Also, if law enforcers are too fair, they have to be taught on how to be consistent and impartial.
Lastly, a key area that law enforcers should be trained on civic citizenship. This ethical conduct that goes hand in hand with the other four is one of the key reasons as to why the law exists (Guthrie, 2008). Making the law enforcers understand that the law is meant to serve the public right will help them be objective in their job. Also, training on civic citizenship enlightens law enforcers that the law exists to serve the common good and to create a better environment for the community (Tancredi, 2013). Training the community also helps them to be cooperative with law enforcers.
In conclusion, the effectiveness of the criminal justice system is embedded in the ethical conduct and professional behavior of the officers involved in law enforcement and correction of civilians in the system. Therefore the inclusion of ethics and professional conduct in the education and training of the officers will result in an improvement in the criminal justice system because the officers will attain the ethical standards and professional behavior necessary for meeting the objectives and goals of the institution.
- Bushway, S., & Forst, B. Discretion in the Criminal Justice System. Oxford Bibliographies Online Datasets. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0083
- Fowler, M. (2008). The ethical practice of critical thinking. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.
- Guthrie, S. (2008). Police Ethics – Part I. In.gov. http://www.in.gov/ilea/files/Police_Ethics_I.pdf
- Peny, J. (2012). Technology Ethics for Law Enforcement. American International Journal Of Contemporary Research, 2(2).
- Tancredi, N. (2013). Ethics in Criminal Justice with an Emphasis in Policing and Corrections. International Foundation for Protection Officers