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Ethics and Professional Behavior in Criminal Justice Essay

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Updated: Jun 18th, 2020

Introduction

One of the most important components of the criminal justice system is a code of ethics, which governs the behavior and conduct of professionals working within the system. Without a strong code of ethics, the criminal justice system would be ineffective because implementation of laws and policies would be impossible (Banks, 2009). Officers who work in the system interact with different kinds of people. Therefore, it is necessary to have a code of ethics that governs those interactions. Professionals who work in the criminal justice system include defense attorneys, police officers, judges, prosecuting attorneys, and corrections officers (Banks, 2009). Ethics ensure that individuals are treated fairly and with integrity. There is a direct relationship between ethics and behavior in the criminal justice system because of the need for a moral compass to guide personal and communal decisions as well as conduct. A code of ethics prevents internal and external forces from influencing justice and helps officers create an ethical and just society (Cronkhite, 2007). Critical thinking is also important because it improves the effectiveness of decisions made by law enforcement officers.

Relationship between professional behavior and ethics

Ethics play an important role in criminal justice administration because the decisions made by various officers have far-reaching consequences on people and society (Cronkhite, 2007). Therefore, ethics enable officers to make decisions that promote justice and create a just and ethical society. All members of the Academy of Criminal Justice are bound under the institution’s code of ethics to uphold ethics and desist from all forms of unprofessionalism at work (Grant, 2002). Unprofessionalism hurts the criminal justice system and erodes its reputation (Banks, 2009). Therefore, in order to avoid such adverse consequences, it is vital to have a code of ethics for officers to follow. In past years, numerous cases of imprisonment based on race and religion have been reported. Such incidences take place because of failure by police officers to act ethically.

Ethics is important in the criminal justice system because it facilitates the creation of a just, corruption-free, and ethical society that treats all members equally and with integrity (Grant, 2002). Failure by officers to uphold ethics at work results in proliferation of corruption, injustice, and violation of human rights. The only way to avoid these vices is for officers to work guided by ethics. Officers working in the criminal justice system deal with people of different races, cultures, races, and sexual affiliation (Pollock, 2002). In addition, they face tough challenges that need to be dealt with from a professional perspective rather than from a personal perspective. In order to foster justice, it is necessary for officers to adhere to their profession’s code of ethics. Ethics ensure that the actions of all officers are harmonious and aimed at attaining the same goal (Banks, 2009). It is easy to act unethically due to personal bias, prejudices, and preconceived stereotypes regarding certain races, religions, or cultures. Such challenges are addressed by adherence to a clear and a stringent code of ethics that promotes equality in society, regardless of political, religious, or sexual affiliation (Pollock, 2002). One of the most common crimes committed by law enforcement officers is the violation of human rights.

Human rights issues are very volatile and critical to the image of the criminal justice system. To overcome the challenge of volatility, the criminal justice system officers follow a specific code of ethics that addresses all issues related to the handling and treatment of offenders in various situations. For example, the police code of ethics prohibits the use of physical force during arrest, torturing of crime victims, illegal imprisonment, and mistreatment of prisoners (Cronkhite, 2007). Professionals working in the criminal justice system avoid making unethical decisions and acting unprofessionally by ensuring that their behavior and conduct is founded on their profession’s code of ethics. Ethics ensure that the criminal justice system does not get its image and credibility tainted by the decisions of officers (Grant, 2002).

Role of critical thinking

Officers in the criminal justice system face tough challenges that are ambiguous with regard to their relationship to a specific code of ethics. Critical thinking skills are important because they enable officers to think through all emerging issues and facts related to the different situations that they face (Pollock, 2002). In addition, it enables them to maintain an open mind that is free from prejudice and bias. Critical thinking plays a crucial role in the analysis, evaluation, and creation of relationships between facts and information related to situations under investigation (Cronkhite, 2007). It is important for officers to listen to all perspectives of a given issue and use their thinking skills to establish the truth. Experts argue that critical thinking skills help officers to be more accurate in avoiding bias when making important decisions (Pollock, 2002). In addition, thinking skills are used in brainstorming during the problem-solving process. Certain situations require brainstorming in order to find effective solutions that do not go against the officer’s code of ethics (Grant, 2002). For that reason, critical thinking aids, in determining the advantages and disadvantages of possible solutions to different situations and challenges.

Proposal for an ethics seminar for law enforcement officers

In order to foster ethics and justice in the criminal justice system, it is important to train law enforcement officers on important aspects of maintaining integrity and promoting justice at work. Lack of proper ethics training is a major cause of misconduct among law enforcement officers (Pollock, 2002). For instance, poor training results in cases of misconduct among officers such as sexual harassment, physical harassment, racial discrimination, violation of the human rights of offenders, and wrong imprisonment of suspects. Officer misconduct erodes the reputation and image of the criminal justice system and erodes the level of trust that people have in the ability of the system to promote justice and protect citizens (Pollock, 2002).

A typical ethics seminar would focus on five main areas that are critical to the success of the criminal justice system. They include the arrest of crime suspects, sentencing of offenders, crime investigation, handling of offenders and suspects, and the safety of officers (Pollock, 2002). The aforementioned areas form the foundation of the criminal justice system. In addition, many cases of unethical conduct have been reported in those areas. Arrest of suspects and criminals is one of the areas in which officers are likely to act unethically. For instance, it is wrong to use physical force when arresting criminals. In addition, it is unethical to incarcerate innocent individuals as a result of poor and incomplete investigations. After the arrest of offenders, it is against the law to torture or subject them to inhuman living conditions. In past years, cases of mistreatment of terrorism suspects have been reported thus tarnishing the reputation of the criminal justice system. Finally, the safety of officers is important because of the propensity of criminals to act violently or resist arrest.

The seminar would involve teaching officers about proper ways of handling offenders, methods of dealing with violent suspects in order to ensure personal safety, and different ways of conducting proper investigations. The crime investigation training would include analysis of information, problem solving, and the proper use of information to find the truth. The training would also include training of officers on ways of ensuring just sentencing of criminals and issuance of appropriate sentences. Expected benefits of training on the aforementioned areas include improved image of the justice system, ethical execution of law, as well as maintenance of human rights during arrest of criminals and improved safety for both officers and communities. Incarceration of violent individuals using appropriate methods would ensure the safety of officers and improve citizen security.

Conclusion

The success and effectiveness of the criminal justice is based on a code of ethics that is observed by all law enforcement officers in the line of duty. Ethics govern the conduct and behavior of all professionals and thus contribute towards the creation of a just and ethical society. A code of ethics is important in the criminal justice system because it prevents misconduct by officers, promotes the maintenance of human rights, and improves the reputation of the justice system. Moreover, it fosters accountability and responsibility by officers. A seminar on ethics would involve an emphasis on five major areas that are critical to the criminal justice system, namely arrest of crime suspects, sentencing of offenders, crime investigation, handling of offenders and suspects, and the safety of officers. Training in these areas would foster officer safety, justice, and improve the reputation of the criminal justice system.

References

Banks, C. (2009). Criminal Justice Ethics. New York: SAGE Publishers.

Cronkhite, C. (2007). Criminal Justice Administration: Strategies for the 21st Century. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Grant, J. Kevin (2002). Ethics and Law Enforcement. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 71 (12): 11–14.

Pollock, J. (2002). Ethics in Crime and Justice: Dilemmas and Decisions. Wadsworth Publishers.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Ethics and Professional Behavior in Criminal Justice." June 18, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethics-and-professional-behavior-in-criminal-justice/.

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