In every area of society, ethics comes into play. The time spent by individuals on ethics, is the key in having a successful life and career. Many societal views correlate ethics with integrity. Integrity is the single most important value/trait a person can have, it is your most powerful weapon. If your integrity is compromised in any way then so is your ability as an officer/person to conduct life. This paper will discuss the origin of ethical principles, personal and professional morals and ethics in relation to policing. The core values of a person gives them the ability to make the right and just decision.
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Events that arise from ethical issues can build or destroy a person’s reputation. 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 of society does not want to be around unethical people and because of this; we look at others unfavorably when unethical behaviors are exhibited (Rice, 2006). Therefore, this is why you must be ethical.
What is Ethics?
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 profession (Pollock, 2010). Because of the importance of ethics these guidelines are the foundation for success or failure in ones personal or private life.
Personal Ethical Code
Most people have an individual code of ethics based on values, beliefs, experience, culture, and education. Most people have a 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. In some cases, 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 many individuals will be easily 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 and by directing children with 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.
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, (both 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 trust worthy as an officer. Honest officers are essential and their worth is beyond measure. Values are a measure of a person’s standards or qualities. These 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’s not the most accepted thing. Civility is being respectful and polite to all citizens encountered by law enforcement. A devotion to these building blocks provides a solid foundation towards a moral and ethical path in ones professional career.
Personal and Professional Ethics
The comparison between both personal and professional ethics correlates to the same values and beliefs in both instances. These two areas build on one another and if there is corruption in either area it will adversely effect 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 purposes of ethics in society today. Think about the options and base your 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 shamed in any way the trust and respect for my department is flawed. We are the ones in the community many outsiders have first contact with. Because of this, our demeanor and attitude is the deciding factor, which many focus their beliefs about all police and the criminal justice professionals.
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. Those officers sometimes need the training to shed some light on their actions. No amount of training will give you ethics. I feel ethics is something I feel you either have or do not have.
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Officers need to realize when the decisions they make are unethical. Officers need to realize there are repercussions for making unethical decisions and creditability issues associated with bad moral character. I think it boils down to your character as an officer. I feel you either have it or you don’t it is not something that is learned or taught it is something you must already have inside you.
The lesson learned is ethics are a crucial part of society and we have to be aware how our actions affect people directly or indirectly. Our actions and decisions in any situation define how society views us. I do have a solid opinion on ethical decision making and I believe it has more to do with a person’s moral fiber, common sense, doing what is right, and looking outside the box.
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