Examining And Identifying Female Sex Offenders Criminology Essay

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This paper briefly reexamines the literature regarding the theories of prevalence and the problem of categorizing and identifying female sex offenders. Based on the typical profile of the female sex offender and the motivations that cause females to sexually abuse children and other helpless individuals in their care, several propositions for treatment are suggested. There is still no consensus as to what the proper treatment for female sex offenders is but it is now known that treatment for male sex offenders may be inappropriate. A review of case studies and the literature suggest that most female sexual offenders abuse children who are in their care. Treatment should focus on correcting the conditions both physical and psychological that generate the frustrations that lead to female sexual abuse.

The Relativist Ethical Orientation of Most Police Officers

When one compares the definitions of "relative ethics" as opposed to "absolutist ethics" and then considers the worldview of the average police patrol officer, most casual observers would assume that police officers are ethical absolutists in their ethical perspective. After all, a police officer actively responding to a violent criminal does not have time to ponder courses of action. However, it is counter -intuitive, but not all laws that must be enforced by the police are upheld consistently. A review of the literature belies the fact that law enforcement officials are absolutist in their ethical perspective, quite the contrary, police officers engage in ethical relativism because police apply a great deal of discretion when dealing with citizens and law enforcement. Catlin and Maupin (2004) observed, "It is wrongly assumed by many that the enforcement of the law is done in relationship to the absolute nature of the law" (p. 9). This paper will attempt to demonstrate that the average police officer has a worldview of the street based in the philosophy of ethical relativism. Nelligan and Taylor (1994) noted:

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Police officers have to make more decisions, many with significant ethical implications, in a more politically and socially complex environment…In addition to the ethical implications of reduced political and social isolation for police departments, lower levels of control and more autonomy for individual officers will raise ethical issues. (p. 64)

That is, the police officer on the street is not directly supervised by his or her superiors and thus has much discretionary latitude in how to handle each case as he or she sees fit, based on the unique circumstances of each interaction with citizens.

First, it is necessary to define ethical absolutism. Harris (1997) noted that in ethical absolutism there is an "objective standard or moral truth that exists independently of us" (as cited in Catlin & Maupin, 2004, p. 290). Holmes (1998) suggested that there "Exists an eternal and unchanging moral truth code that transcends the physical world and is the same for all people at all times and all places" (as cited in Catlin & Maupin, 2004, p. 290). One may believe that the codes, ordinances and statutes of the laws that police officers uphold transcend individual interpretation, but anyone who has read the "pro and con" arguments in Supreme Court cases, for example, knows that case law is very much open to interpretation and reapplication to new and unique circumstances. Police interpret the law to some extent, but where police officers really have the greatest impact is in their discretionary application of the law in their dealings with the citizens whom they encounter in the line of duty. Lipsky (1980) wrote that police officers who the public interact with "have wide discretion over the dispensation of benefits or the allocation of public sanctions" (p. xi). That is, usually it is how a given police officer perceives the violator of a law or ordinance will directly relate to the outcome of that police officer's interaction with a citizen, and the consequences for the citizen so involved. This paper will show that police officers use an enormous amount of discretion in how they chose to deal with citizens who violate ordinances and laws.

In direct contrast to ethical absolutism is ethical relativism. Catlin and Maupin (2004) observed that ethical relativism claims that "there is no such thing as universal ethical truths and the ethical dimensions of right and wrong vary from person to person and culture to culture" (p. 290). Catlin and Maupin (2004) observed that ethical "relativism belongs in the philosophical school of skepticism" (p. 291). According to Solomon (1992), a skeptic believes that "there is no morality as such, only differing practices in different cultures" (as cited Catlin & Maupin, 2004, p. 291). A police officer, having seen the complexity and variety of the human experience, in both its positive and negative aspects, will tend to shy away from attempting to apply universal rules of conduct, and instead will judge every interaction each citizen encountered, and every case, on its own merits. Indeed, police officers adhere to the concept of treating each case as unique and tend to keep an open mind, which is contrary to an absolutist perspective. Indeed, a competent police officer will continually assess and judge the level of cooperation and remorse in each person he cites for breaking the law. Lipsky (1980) claimed,

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Police not only guard against threats but they also characteristically conduct themselves so as to determine whether threatening situations are likely to exist. They tend to be lenient with offenders whose attitude and demeanor denote penitence but harsh and punitive to those offenders who show signs of disrespect. Indeed, policemen often appear to test the extent to which an offender respects police authority in order to determine whether he or she is likely to have an improper attitude and therefore be more likely to resist authority. (p. 31)

The police officer in misdemeanor cases will exercise a great deal of discretion as to how to proceed and employ some degree of ethical idealism in the police officer's hope that letting the offender off with a warning may ultimately have the consequence of preventing such acts in the future. A regard for the consequences of each action taken is an ethical relativist orientation. Idealism is inherent in letting a person off with a warning as opposed to simply writing a citation. Lipsky (1980) described how police officers "work in situations that often require responses to the human dimensions of situations. They have discretion because the accepted definitions of their tasks call for sensitive observation and judgment, which are not reducible to programmed formats" (p. 15). An ethical absolutist might find it easier to reduce the laws of human interaction to such simple, programmable formats, because in ethical absolutism, laws are immutable.

Ethical Relativism, as practiced by police officers, is often referred to as Situationalist Ethics. According to Forsyth (1980), Situationists and subjectivists are high on the relativist ethical scale (p. 176). Forsyth (1980) posited that police officers "reject the possibility of formulating or relying on universal moral rules when drawing conclusions about moral questions" (p. 175). Police officers are wary of applying universal rules to the complexities of maintaining a balance of citizen cooperation with the authorities by not being too harsh and maintaining social control by keeping the peace and preventing crime. Forsyth (1980) maintained that the average police officer, having a situationalist ethical standpoint "distrusts absolute moral principles and argues that each situation must be examined individually. Ethical ideals, however, are applied in judging each situation" (p. 176). Catlin and Maupin (2004), when referring to idealism in ethical judgment wrote, "Ethical idealists assume that "right" action will result in desirable consequences" (p. 290). Forsyth (1980) asserted, "Those who are less idealistic believe that "right" action does not always result in desirable consequences" (as cited in Catlin & Maupin, 2004, p. 290). Forsyth contends that the absolutist ethical worldview can be understood as Non-Consequentalism. That is, strict adherence to unchanging and immutable laws will thus make enforcing such laws ethical, regardless of the consequences. This non-consideration of ultimate consequences is often referred to as deontological ethics. Catlin and Maupin (2004) noted, "Ethical absolutism is associated with a deontological system of ethics" (p. 292). Deontological ethics are only concerned whether or not the act was "right." If the act is right, it is ethical regardless of the ultimate consequences of the act. Holmes (1998) and Polloch (1998) both observed, "Therefore, whether the outcome is good or bad is non-consequential" (as cited in Catlin & Maupin, 2004, p. 292). Whether or not a street patrol police officer maintains an ethical relativist (Consequential) or an ethical absolutist (Non-Consequential) ethical system has a great impact on how laws are enforced, and thus affects the general functioning of the criminal justice system. Crank and Caldero (2000) argued that since both the crime control model and the due process models are "consistent with the traditional way various ethical systems are categorized" (as cited in Catlin & Maupin, 2004, p. 298). Police officers should not arrest citizens without regard for due process. Peak (2010) refers to the conflict between the crime control model and the due process model (p. 13). Peak (2010) stated that because the United States' foundational philosophy is on the rights of the individual, the concept that "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" is enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights (p. 364). Indeed, our Constitution and Bill of Rights ensure that all people under are entitled to "due process." The exercise of due process is firmly in the deontological, that is, absolutist ethical realm. Catlin and Maupin (2004) noted that due process "is essentially "Non-Consequential in nature… "due process" is not ultimately concerned with the desirability of an outcome in an individual case, but rather in the "rightness" of the process" (p. 292). Police officers find that their everyday work is in a teleological ethical stance, as many police officers find the exercise of due process to be burdensome and frustrating. For example, the "knock and announce" rule in which police must identify themselves before breaking down a criminal suspect's door is based on strict adherence to due process. The knock and announce rule, police officers grumble, allows the criminals to get rid of evidence or prepare themselves to assault the police upon entry (Hudson v. Michigan, 2006).

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Police street patrol officers are also continually frustrated by the impartiality of due process, because known felons are too often released back onto the street because evidence was seized during a drug bust, for example, with improper chain of custody documentation. The fact that many criminals, known to be guilty, often caught red-handed, ultimately "beat the rap" because of sloppy police work, demoralizes police and alienates them from the spirit of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and Fifth Amendment to the Bill of Rights. A policeman who is an ethical absolutist, with a strict adherence to a deontological view of the world might see protecting individual rights and due process as his duty regardless of the consequences of seeing a guilty person set free, but in reality, this does not seem to be the norm. Rather, police officers often deny criminal suspects due process and rationalize that "cutting corners" and conducting unethical acts, such as, for example, planting evidence on a notorious criminal in order to get him off the street, or shaking down a known drug dealer without a warrant and with no "probable cause." The average street cop might argue that the mere fact of being a known drug dealer with a long "rap sheet" is probable cause in itself, and thus, being an ethical relativist, will rationalize and justify the act of violating a citizen's rights by the yardstick as to whether or not society as a consequence and in aggregate, was protected as opposed to specificity in the letter of the law itself being upheld. This is an excellent example of Utilitarianism, which is a philosophy based on the moral theory of Consequentialism and is teleological in outlook. The Utilitarian theory defines morality in terms of the maximization of a positive outcome for all parties affected by a decision or action (Burtt, 1967; Mill, 1968).

Most police officers, operating from a relativist ethical standpoint, exercise a great deal of discretion when assessing a situation. Most of the time police officers are not unethical; they just "chose which battles to fight." Lipsky (1980) observed, "Police behavior is so specified by statutes and regulations that policemen are expected to invoke the law selectively. They could not possibly make arrests for all the infractions they observe during the working day" (p. 14). If a police officer were an ethical absolutist, he or she would be bound to arrest, or write a citation, for every single illegal act, which he witnessed on his beat. For example, such petty offenses such as spitting on the sidewalk; jaywalking on a deserted street; putting one's feet up on a public park bench; or drinking a can of soda on a public bus that clearly has a sign posted "no food or drink" would all merit an immediate fine citation for violating an ordinance. For a police officer, in maintaining such an absolutist ethical orientation and charging every single violation of ordinances and laws would be counterproductive on many levels. Such a draconian approach would quickly cause the public to see the enforcement of ordinances and laws as being merciless in application, and thus a form of citizen harassment. This, in turn, would develop an adversarial relationship between law enforcement personnel and the public. The police need some cooperation from citizens in order to properly track offenders and keep the peace. The magistrate court would become clogged with a great many "nuisance cases," wherein people who had felt harassed by being cited for a minor infraction of an ordinance would appear in court to contest the citations issued in the spirit of obeying the absolute letter of the law. Lipsky (1980) argued that while the imposition of uniform sentencing may reduce the inequalities in the criminal justice system, "we also want the law to be responsive to the unique circumstances of individual transgressions…to a degree the society seeks not only impartiality from its public agencies, but also compassion for special circumstances and flexibility in dealing with them" (p. 15). Catlin and Maupin (2004) observed that most police officers come into the police culture, that there is a great amount of ambiguity in the exercise of police power. In the above mentioned examples of the minor violations, such as spitting in a public place, jaywalking, putting one's feet on a public park bench, or disobeying clearly marked sign prohibiting the consumption of food and beverages on a city bus; most police officers, if they chose to do anything at all about such petty offenses, will merely sternly counsel the offender that what he or she did is socially unacceptable and to "cease and desist" from such behavior in the future and then to "let them off with a warning." A police officer who chooses not to write up a formal citation is exercising his or her discretionary power. Lipsky (1980) argues that "unlike lower level workers in most organizations, (police officers) have considerable discretion in determining the nature, amount, and quality of sanctions…Policemen decide who to arrest and whose behavior to overlook" (p. 13).

It can be argued that police officers had much more discretionary power in previous generations. Dunnigan (1999) noted,

In 1900, it was rare for someone to get arrested. Police would administer on-the-spot warnings, or even beatings, to malefactors. This power was something was sometimes abused, but as long as the peace was kept, no one got too upset about wise guys or an occasional innocent getting hit upside the head with a nightstick. (p. 33)

For example, an unruly teenager found loitering in the middle of the night near a bar or billiards hall, who was known to the patrol officer to be a troublemaker on the path to delinquency, might be walloped by the police officer if he demonstrated by word and deed that he was disobedient to the patrol officer. In this example, the police officer handled the teenager's anti-social attitude and behavior on the spot, which would often would serve as a "wakeup call" for the teenager that such behavior is socially unacceptable. In the spirit of his discretionary exercise of power, the police officer more often than not would choose not to formally issue a citation, and thus keep the interaction entirely at the local, street level, without involving the court system, and so keep the youthful offender's record clean. However, such police discretion has increasingly come under fire by the public when they see that discretion as being an inconsistent, arbitrary exercise of authoritarian power.

Catlin and Maupin (2002) suggest, "Police are in a very precarious position when the formal rules of conduct are in conflict with what a public in general sees as valuable outcomes of police action" (p. 493) Many police feel that the citizenry are unreliable and fickle, that the tax-paying public demand that police "get tough on crime" and "take crime off the streets", and yet, given the overwhelming nature of this open-ended mission, police simply do not have the resources to be everywhere all times. When police do go and actually administer "street-level justice" many of those same tax-payers who had loudly complained about the streets being unsafe for decent citizens, suddenly reverse their stance and become "bleeding hearts" about criminals having their "due process rights" violated by the police, that is, by so-called "entrapment" and by excessive force used in wresting control of city streets away from law breakers. Lipsky (1980) states that police officers

often work in situations too complicated to reduce to programmatic formats. Policemen cannot carry around instructions on how to intervene with citizens, particularly in potentially hostile encounters. Indeed, they probably would not go out on the street if such instructions were promulgated, or they would refuse to intervene in potentially dangerous situations." (p.15)

It should be noted that U.S. soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan suffer a great deal of frustration due to the overly restrictive Rules of Engagement wherein they must positively identify a target, even when they are being attacked, before they can fire back. This is to reduce the possibility of innocent civilians being harmed. The troops feel that this restrictive Rule of Engagement exposes them to too much risk, and their frustration consequently rises while their morale falls, and they are now reluctant to conduct combat patrols in certain areas (Peters (2009; Tiron (2010).

Catlin and Maupin, (2004) stated that many law enforcement officers join the police force with a clear "black and white" ethical absolutist world view, however such a absolutist view is difficult to maintain amidst the moral conflicts and enormous amount of discretion that a police officer must exercise throughout his or her duty day (p. 297). They observed that most police officers gradually change from an absolutist orientation to a subjectivist orientation due to "training and acculturation factors" (Catlin & Maupin, 2004, p. 297). Catlin and Maupin (2004) suggested that many police officers come to the academy with a strong absolutist ethical stance, and then as they are trained and become immersed in the police culture come to change their worldview and noted, "From the first day at the academy, there is a significant emphasis on protecting oneself physically and emotionally. Firearms, training, defensive tactics as well as arrest tactics focus on self protection" (p. 297).

Lipsky (1980) explained,

People often enter public employment…with at least some commitment to service. Teachers, social workers, public interest lawyers and police officers in part seek out these occupations because of their potential as socially useful roles. Yet the very nature of the work prevents them from coming even close to the ideal conception of their jobs. (p. xii)

This is an example of how police officers enter the law enforcement profession with a deontological orientation and change to teleological ethical stance.

Police officers experience a combination of danger and authority, which results in an unpredictable, dangerous atmosphere. The existence of such atmospheres may play a role in the existence of the "code of silence." Police officers often face unique situations, which over time lead to the development of values that conflict with the values of society as a whole. The insular sub-culture of law enforcement officers, combined with the occasional dangers and daily stresses faced on the job, result in exceptionally close relationships between fellow officers who depend upon each other on a day-to-day basis, and especially in life or death situations. Lipsky (1980) stated,

One way in which the interests of (police officers) depart from those of managers is their need to process workloads expeditiously, free from real and psychological threats. The fact that (police officers) must exercise discretion in processing large amounts of work with inadequate resources means that they must develop shortcuts and simplifications to cope with the press of responsibilities…(which are) coping mechanisms not sanctioned by the management of their agencies. (p. 18)

The "Blue Wall of Silence" or "code of silence" is an institutional response that has both positive and negative aspects. Klening (2000) asserted, "At its best, the feelings of loyalty and brotherhood sustaining the 'Code of Silence' may facilitate policing and protect police against genuine threats to safety and well-being (as cited in Skolnick, 2002, p. 7). Skolnick (2002) observes that the negative side of the "Blue Wall of Silence" may "sustain an oppositional criminal subculture protecting the interests of police who violate the criminal law" (p. 7). An absolutist ethical standpoint would maintain that a police officer who is engaged in unethical and/or criminal activity should face legal sanctions, for all laws must be enforced. Police patrol officers, when dealing with street crime, learn that to "rat out" one's comrade is one of the non-negotiable aspects of police work. Cancino and Enriquez (2004) found that police officers who cooperate with internal affairs investigations, for example, are often shunned and ostracized.

In reference to the "blue wall of silence," Catlin and Maupin (2004) also refer to the strong bonds that street level police officers develop among themselves. Cancino and Enriquez (2004) referred to the police occupation as a "unique culture characterized by the features of solidarity and secrecy" (p. 321). Police officers "cover down for" and protect one another. Reporting peer professional failings or crimes to higher authorities is completely counterproductive in the street level operational environment. Catlin and Maupin (2004) suggested, "police subculture is rife with the themes of protecting oneself from the scrutiny of the public, administration and management or "the brass" and from other officers" (p. 297).

Those "rookie" police officers who have a strong absolutist ethical stance and who fail to adapt to the ethically relativist and ambiguous "real world of the street" by lowering their idealistic expectations of what they can accomplish personally and professionally, usually become discouraged and quit. Catlin and Maupin (2004) found that 39% of police officers attrited, and left the police force during their first year (p. 297). Catlin and Maupin (2004) further observed that a number of those who attrited self-selected out of the profession and noted,

It is possible that those who came as moral absolutists found their personal ethical orientation in conflict with the ambiguity inherent in the police role and thus choose to leave the profession…In reality, there is a wide range of discretion and frequently conflicting goals that must be mediated by the officer on the street. (p. 297)

Lipsky (1980) stated that many police officers (as well as other public servants) will "drop out or burn out relatively early in their careers. Those that stay on…(will)adjust their work habits and attitudes to reflect lower expectations for themselves, their clients and the potential of public policy" (Lipsky, 1980, p. xii).

Lipsky (1980) wrote that police officers work in an environment of constant physical and psychological threat. He found that

In the critical case of policemen, whose behavior often can be explained by their felt need to avoid danger. They constantly work under the threat of violence that may come from any direction at any time. Because the threat is unpredictable, it exists constantly, although the actual likelihood of threats materializing is quite low" (Lipsky, 1980, p. 31).

Lipsky (1980) also found that "there is also the degree of stress in the limited extent to which (police officers) feel themselves under scrutiny by authorities or others whose negative evaluations might be harmful" (p. 32). He further found that "Psychological strain results from physical threat. In 1976, 1500 of New York City's 25,240 member police force were officially examined for psychological reasons, including alcoholism" (p.32)

George Kirkham talked about the stress the discretionary application of the law creates in police officers when he wrote:

As a police officer….I found myself forced to make the most critical choices in a time-frame of seconds, rather than days: to shoot or not to shoot, to arrest or not to arrest, to give chase or to let go --- always with a nagging certainly that others, those with great amounts of time to analyze and think, stood ready to judge and condemn me for whatever action I might take or fail to take. (as cited in Lipsky, 1980, p. 32)

When a police officer exercises his discretion in split-second judgments as to how to deal with a potentially harmful or deadly situation, it is very stressful to have that those discretionary judgments second-guessed by supervisors or outside authorities. Malcolm Gladwell (2005), in his excellent article "Seven Seconds in the Bronx" discussed the danger of split-second judgment and discretionary use of force. The article is an analysis of how four undercover New York City police officers shot, Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, 41 times. The media had a field day claiming that these four officers were out of control, irresponsible and even racist. However, a grand jury acquitted the four officers by concluding that these officers had, in their exercise of discretionary power, simply misread the situation. Diallo, who lived in a very tough neighborhood, had merely stepped downstairs and stood on the front steps of his house, taking in a breath of fresh night air, but the four police officers made the assessment that Diallo was behaving suspiciously, such as a drug dealer or potential home invader would behaved. When they jumped out of their unmarked car Diallo turned and attempted to open the door to his apartment building, the police officers thought that Diallo was reaching in his pocket for a gun and so opened fire. Diallo had pulled out his wallet not a gun. One of the four police officers, Detective Carroll, was closest to Diallo and fired when he thought Diallo had pulled a gun, and then stumbled down the steps and fell onto his back, and the other three officers, assuming that Carroll had been shot, opened fire with a fusillade of shots. During the cross examination the jury believed the four officers had exercised bad judgment, but had not committed a crime, and that the incident was unfortunate but understandable in the split second discretionary use of deadly force. It is no wonder that police officers distrust outsiders who have an absolutist ethical attitude about the use of deadly force when they are potential danger at all times while on the street. Ethical Absolutism in the Diallo case would have dictated "at all times thoroughly identify your target and only fire when the target's intention is known to you," this rule states that it is ethically proper to correctly identify the threat before using deadly force, in all cases, regardless of the consequences, a Non-Consequentialist standpoint, even if that consequence is that a police officer may be hurt or killed. The Ethical Relativist stance is, if the police officer senses that there is a potential for harm or death from a suspect, to act accordingly, as the consequence of a police officer being shot is unacceptable, which is a Consequentalist standpoint.

This paper has endeavored to demonstrate that the street patrol officer lives in a complex world in which he or she is continually facing threats, the threat of bodily harm or death from criminals engaging criminals, and the threat of legal sanctions from the police administration , the public and the media. The police officer is unable to use the statutes and legal codes as a guideline, as an ethical absolutist would be inclined to do, when deciding how to deal with each case. Instead, the average police patrol officer exercises an enormous amount of discretion when deciding which offenses to issue citations for, and which people to let go with a warning. The police officer is an ethical relativist, and always weighs the consequences when deciding whether it is worth pursuing a citation. The average police officer has low expectations of the power of police authority to truly change the nature of society, and generally adopts a defensive stance to protect himself or herself from bodily harm; and endeavors to exercise autonomy while on the street in order to prevent his career being compromised, and attempts to avoid burn-out and stress by electing not to engage every criminal violation that he observes in the course of his or her duty shift. Thus the average police officer is an ethical relativist.