This paper will focus on studying the activities of the police chief that may be litigated as police corruption, i.e. misusing authority for personal gain. It will center on attempts to understand the nature of civil liability associated with policing. The paper will pay special attention to the issue of taking free meals at the local restaurant as gifts from the citizens, and try to hypothesize on the ethical side of the situation. The emphasis will be made on the acceptability of taking a free meal at the local restaurant, the potential consequences of the situation, and the ways to reduce civil liability.
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I am a new police chief of a large city. Every day, I have my lunch at a local restaurant and spend around $10 for my meals. One of the officers told me that I do not need to pay for my food at this restaurant because the owners give it free to the police officers. Nevertheless, I decided that I do not want to have free lunches because I remember from college lectures that it is wrong. However, my colleague’s comment made me think about the ethical issues arising from this situation.
In this case, agreeing to free meals can be thought of as accepting gifts because I receive them for less than market value (Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, 2016). I believe that I should pay for my lunch because it is unallowable to take gifts from citizens whether I am on or off duty. The background for the gift should be personal, not because other officers accept them (Departmental Ethics Office, n.d.). So, I should explain to the owners of the restaurant that I do not want to violate the departmental policies (Peak, 2013). That means that accepting a free meal is unethical for the police officer. Enjoying a free lunch has some pros. For me, it would mean that I save money and will not be a black sheep because other officers do not pay for their food. The cons are that I infringe the governmental ethical politics, not to mention the fact that I leave the restaurant owners without revenue. The benefits and losses from not accepting a free meal are converses.
Living in society, police officers should be held to a “higher standard” than people in other professions. The reason for treating them otherwise is evident – they took an oath when they dedicated their lives to policing based on professionalism, responsibility, integrity, and keeping to ethical norms on and off duty (Cox, McCamey, & Scaramella, 2013). Accepting free lunch, I think, does not fall within these principles. Moreover, it may lead to suing an officer or the whole police department for breaking the code of ethics. It can be done whether by the restaurant owners or by the strangers who find out that the officers do not pay for their meals. Even though it might be complicated to charge the police department for free meals, it can be achieved if proved that it was the demonstration of the official misconduct. Among other common reasons for suing, there are discrimination, harassment, false arrests, and excessive or unreasonable force (Building a case to sue police: Difficult but not impossible, n.d.).
Police officers can even be charged in a federal court because if they are suspected of breaking their oath, it means that they violate federal law. So, such cases fall under the jurisdiction of the federal courts. Similar situations are harmful to the police departments because they are costly to deal with, not only from the financial standpoint but also from the ethical and societal one, as people become disillusioned with the professionalism of police. Usually, court rulings demand training efforts for those who were accused. Such recruit trainings can be beneficial to all employees because they might help reduce civil liability by helping officers understand the risks of incurring liability and, in general, become more educated (Peak, 2012). So, accepting free meals can have a bitter aftertaste.
Building a case to sue police: Difficult but not impossible. (n.d.). Web.
Cox, S. M., McCamey, W. P., & Scaramella, G. L. (2013). Introducing to policing (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Departmental Ethics Office. (n.d.). Gifts.
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. (2016). Web.
Peak, K. J. (2012). Policing America: Challenges and best practices (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Peak, K. J. (2013). Encyclopedia of community policing and problem solving. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.