In every area of society, ethics play a major role in decision making. Personal integrity and ethical choices can influence a successful life and career. Many societal views correlate ethics with integrity. Integrity is the single most important attribute a person can have; a trait that can be a powerful weapon. Compromising personal principles in any way impacts your ability to conduct life in a moral fashion. A person’s core values reflect honesty and truth and focuses on the ability to make the right and just decision. This paper will discuss the origin of ethical principles, personal and professional morals, and ethics in relation to policing.
Ethics is the study and examination of what constitutes good or bad conduct. Ethics is the classification of specific behaviors as right or wrong within a person’s personal or profession life (Pollock, 2010). Ethical behavior provides the guidelines which are the foundation for success or failure in each person’s life.
Events that arise from ethical issues can build or destroy a person’s reputation or career. Ethical behavior builds respect, strengthens integrity, and allows others to view you as an honest and trustworthy person. Values, beliefs, education, and experiences provide an ethical foundation in your life. Most societal values center on ethical behaviors in people and because of this; we look at others unfavorably when unethical behaviors are exhibited (Rice, 2006). Ethics provides the basis for moral and truthful actions which is vital to individual well-being.
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Personal Ethical Code
Many people in society have an individual code of ethics based on values, beliefs, experience, culture, and education. In all cases, this drives our sense of what is right and wrong. Some situations may feel wrong even if society deems them right. This would be your ethical code. An ethical code is a source of values and characteristics that allows you to make a moral decision. For instance, one choice may be preferable over another and your ethical code leads you to that conclusion. Everyone has a different set of ethical codes and a variety of opinions about how certain issues should be addressed. Ethical codes are the foundation of ethical behavior and decision-making (Reay, 2009). Without a strong set of values in the ethical code the morals of individuals could easily be compromised.
There is evidence that teaching children at an early age is the most effective time to reinforce ethics. The issue is that the teaching of ethics must be learned by the child and reinforced by the parents. The parents and role models need to teach by example through direction and offering children choices. Taking a proactive part in moral guidelines will shape and lead the person into adulthood and their life as a productive member of society (Miller, Hess, & Orthmann, 2010).
The core values we learn start early in life. Parents need to establish good solid values and make sure children adhere to certain rules, morals, and conduct. If a parent has impractical expectations or no rules, they will fail at producing a child who will be trustworthy, honest, and moral.
Within the ideal of ethics there are distinctive traits and morals one must possess in their professional life. Integrity is the excellent qualities of character that are integral to an individual’s entire life, public and private. People of integrity do the right thing even when they think that no one is looking. Honesty is being able to be creditable and trustworthy as an officer. Honest officers are essential and their worth is beyond measure. Values are a measure of a person’s standards or qualities. Values can be described as Personal values, Organizational values, and Social values. Standards are set guidelines to establish a baseline as to what the officer should or should not do. Courage is overcoming a person’s fear to do the right thing, even if it is not the most accepted thing. Civility is being respectful and polite to all citizens encountered by law enforcement (Miller, Hess, & Orthmann, 2010). A devotion to these building blocks provides a solid foundation towards a moral and ethical path in ones professional career
Comparison of Ethics
The comparison between both personal and professional ethics correlates to the same values and beliefs in both instances. These two areas build a foundation and if there is corruption in either area it will adversely influence the other. Therefore, we must all maintain a solid personal and professional ethical basis if we are to promote the ideal of ethics and morals in our personal and professional lives.
Ethical Decision Making
An ethical decision brings up the issue of how this result will affect others. These choices can be broken down in several distinct areas. The choice made will affect others in some way. Because of this, you need to think about what is the consequence. The second part deals directly with the decision you make and if it could end up hurting others. Life decisions have both good and bad outcomes. As a result, decisions need to be made with all the facts and determine what the best conclusion would be under the circumstances. The third process takes into consideration the adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, which applies for the purpose of ethics in society today. We need to think about the options and base judgment on the outcome. The last part of making an ethical decision relates to how others are going to respond to the resolution (Pollock, 2010). Any ethical decision has ramifications and people will have varying opinions on your actions and decisions.
Ethics and Policing
Members of the criminal justice system have a common expectation from the public. This expectation is a level of integrity, ethics, and conduct that is required of them given their positions. People empower members of the criminal justice system because they do not want the responsibility.
The public expects all members of the criminal justice system to effectively and efficiently implement our laws and procedures. This is just a part of the commonality we as criminal justice professionals are expected to do. The criminal justice system as a whole is expected to create an environment where we can all life safely.
Speaking as a current law enforcement officer, I am expected to carry myself off duty as respectful as when I am on duty. I have an image to up hold and if that image is dishonored in any way the trust and respect for the entire department is flawed. Officers are the members in a community many outsiders have first contact with. Because of this, our demeanor and attitude is the deciding factor, in which others focus their beliefs about all police and the criminal justice professionals.
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Ethics Training for Law Enforcement
Departments need to conduct ethics training as part of a basic requirement for all new or existing employees on a regular basis. Whether the training is conducted in the Police Academy or at in-service training, police need to be constantly reminded of their ethical behavior. Some officers believe they are doing nothing wrong. Some officers need education to gain insight about their actions. No amount of training can provide the basic principles for individual ethics. Ethics are learned over time and reinforced by decision making and obtaining feedback either positively or negatively regarding your actions.
Officers need to realize when the decisions they make are unethical. Officers need to be aware of repercussions for making unethical decisions and creditability issues associated with bad moral character. Everyone in life makes mistakes however, we are judged on our decisions and ethical principles.
The discussion of ethics provides an understanding of human behavior and decision making. The examination of ethics in this paper reveals the crucial component moral principles play in society. Each and every person has to be aware how our actions affect people directly or indirectly. Personal and professional ethics influence each other and provide an indication of individual character.
Our actions and decisions in any situation define how society views us. We must be mindful about how others view us, our decisions, and our actions. Negative ethical decisions are noticed more frequently and provide a basis for judgment rather than positive ethical decisions. Each individual has a distinct responsibility to make the right and moral choice each time an ethical situation arises.
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