Ethical Issues and Policing
Ethical Issues and Policing
Policing is essential in all societies for maintaining law and order and maintaining individual liberties. But in this digital age, policing has grown to become more complex and dynamic changing in nature from time to time. Crime too has become more pervasive, as such, there has come a need for elaborate reforms in policing that protect and uphold individual liberties, as well as, provide a platform for criminal and social justice to be achieved. Intelligence-led policing is one solution that has become increasingly implemented across the US, and the world at large. Intelligence-led policing is a form of policing that aims to put crime fighters ahead of criminals, in order to achieve, a sense of holistic understanding of the problem by establishing the patterns that are related to the crime and criminal behaviour within the community. But with growth in technology, as well as the sophistication of crime, and the development of new laws aimed at tending to protect civil liberties, there are more and more complexities associated with policing.
The transformation of policing has come at a cost of increased exposure to ethical dilemmas that could critically affect how policing is perpetuated, and paint a bad image on police, in relation to the social contract that exists between them and the society at large. By reviewing some major ethical dilemmas, the essay creates an understanding of strategic intelligence-led policing. This brief report highlights how police brutality and excessive use of force, especially in black and brown communities, actively play a role in perpetuating division and creating opposition to police work. This works to further alienate the rest of the society and police force. Generally, the evolution of policing across the US has seen police service officers gain autonomous authority, wide-ranging powers, and greater discretion in their line of duty. Summarily, a need for a greater understanding of the social contract that exists between the public and the police needs to be emphasized to ensure that police uphold civil liberties as compelled by the strategic intelligence principles.
As a human institution sanctioned by religion and man, there is a greater need for policing to be fair and just for all. To define the role of policing in the US accurately, there is a need to identify the nature of policing in the US now. Policing is one of the most dynamic fields of work within the criminal justice system. The role of the police has spanned a variety of key areas and functions across various generations. Key factors that have played in their continued specialization in the community include; income/ economic inequality within America and in countries surrounding America, the state and federal government laws, and the increasing need for security that comes with increased global insecurity, which in turn affects security within the US. 9/11, for example, was a key event that saw the role of the police in America greatly shift from the role of a public servant (social worker) to that of a crime fighter (Pollock, 2014). There are a variety of events, including 9/11, that have critically worked to differentiate policing from the federal down to the local levels as well as transforming the nature of policing from provision public service in favour of the additional crime-fighting elements, all of which have depended on intelligence-led policing that in turn gave police officers unprecedented powers.
Categorically, the police’s role in the community continues to be shaped and reshaped across generations and space by events both within the community and the police service itself. In the United States, particularly, issues such as race relations, income inequality, cultural and political relations between different groups within society have continued to construct the police department’s role within the community. Nonetheless, delivery of service within the community is a crucial area that defines policing within the United States as well as sanction the institution of the police. As the scripture specifies “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, ESV). On average, there are millions of encounters between police and civilians every year (Wilson et al, 2019). The already preexisting social value systems define each of these encounters that most of the police department and community members already harbour. At the same time, these unique encounters serve as important measures in how the policing role affects society. Based on these measures’ outcomes, people from a specific community create meaning and evaluate the importance of the police service within their immediate society and the nation as a whole.
Police Violence (Civil Liberty Abuse) And Effects on Police-Community Relations
The foundation and idea of America, have been linked with the ideals of freedom, opportunity, justice, and equality; the ideals do not always reflect the reality on the ground. On May 10th, 2021, a coalition made up of families of victims of police brutality, and non-governmental civil society groups made an inquiry into the UN seeking to establish an investigation into police violence within America. Their case was the culmination of increased police harassment that are often racially charged and target minority communities within America. Their submission outlined evidence and reports on police violence and blatant disregard of the due process of law, outlining that police in the US killed 1000 people, every year. Linking police action to feature gross unethical conduct.
The report urged the US specifically and global community, in general, to adopt a national plan of action aimed at tackling systemic racism, and racial discrimination within the police force. (Bachelet, 2021). Actions by police outline a blatant disregard of due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment in the US constitution, and also a crucial constituent in the formulation of the Bill of Rights. The families of the victims of police violence sought the UN’s Human Rights Council to promote and protect human rights and fundamental access to freedom against police injustice not only for people of colour but for the nation as a whole. It decried against systemic racism, that created avenues for due process to be disregarded, encouraging excessive use of force as well as violation of human rights by law enforcement.
Ostensibly, the standard of due process was enacted to apply not only to civil cases but criminal law as well. It has as such grown to become an essential tool in civil, and administrative proceedings across the US. The due process remains to be one of the most important principles that work to balance the power bestowed upon the criminal justice system against the over-exploitation of the common man (Ginsberg et al, 2018). It is applied to intentionally direct the laws and legal actions of agents in the criminal justice system, which includes the police from intimidating private citizens and consequently provide the courts and its agents (judge, jury, and the litigators) a perspective that allows them to create adequate context into a conflict or crime in order for justice to prevail.
As a member of the three arms of government and the criminal justice system, the role of the judiciary is to interpret the laws dictated by congress and implemented by private citizens, corporations, and law enforcement agencies. Through structured procedural actions, an individual/entity are designated innocent or guilty within any spotlighted controversies. In American society, justice remains to be the key concept of maintaining law and order and due process comes with it as a way of ensuring accountability is achieved (Bruinsma, 2016). Justice is defined as an ethical, moral, political, and moral action under a social contract between citizens and the people who serve them. Justice categorically provides an elaborate process to guide the criminal justice actors in their efforts towards achieving fair treatment of citizens in the process of defining lawful and unlawful actions.
Under the fifth and sixth amendment, the United States constitution propagates a principle of respect for individual privacy and freedoms within the court of law. The law dictates that an elaborate process should be in place to guide its justice system actors towards achieving fair treatment of all and also compels for an expedited process (Ginsberg et al, 2018). Cumulatively, these actions combined define due process. They become necessary under the law to protect the offender’s rights against unjust or rushed state action by rogue actors and offer the victim an open and just process in any controversial action.
Additionally, the constitution guarantees individual rights to seclusion and freedom from unreasonable searches by law enforcement without the establishment of probable cause. In most cases, the first amendment rights, which include the rights to freedom of speech and religion, may clash with individual rights to be left alone. In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the courts defined that a right to privacy is found in the penumbras. The penumbras are enclaves within the amendment made to the constitution and created specifically to create and guarantee the bill of rights (Neubauer, & Fradella 2018). They also include the fourth and the fifth amendment. The sixth amendment offers the greatest protection to private citizens in all justice proceedings. Under the sixth amendment, an individual is guaranteed due process before the law. The sixth amendment defines that under all criminal proceedings before the court of law, the defendant/ accused should be considered innocent until it is proven through well-defined court processes that they are guilty. The accused has rights, a factor that should be considered in criminal justice procedures.
The law additionally requires that the court provide the defendant with the right to know the person that accused them of the said crime and, as such, is informed of all the natures of crime and charger that have been placed against him. Speaking to a need for fairness and justice for all (Psalms 82:3-4, ESV). This amendment also compels the court to provide the defendant and his team with the evidence that will be utilized to support the said charges. Summarily, the law implores transparency in the process and compels the criminal justice system actors to work responsibly since their actions will overall define whether the said charges will stick. In the case of the inquiry made to the UN none of these was afforded to victims of police brutality justifying their need to seek the UN’s Human Rights Watch intervention while also proposing a failure in an ethical mandate by the American policing system.
The phenomenon of police violence across the US is defined to have reached epidemic proportions directly and disproportionately targeting people of colour. Bachelet (2021) outlined that people of color had the highest rates of fatal police shootings, as statistics show, African Americans were three times more likely than white people to face incarceration. The report showed similar links across the board showing that black women, men and children in rich and poor neighbourhoods alike were likely to be killed by police officers.
A key theme in the submitted cases outlines a lack of procedurally defined actions in police investigations, apprehension, detention and charging of the victims. Often the victims were killed before being arrested, unlawfully targeted, detained and harassed or simply disproportionately assigned jail sentences that differed from their white counterparts with similar offences. Contrary to the scripture that compels subjectivity to laws of man and God (1 Peter 2:13-17, ESV). Here the criminal justice failed to offer its victims due process a critical tool in ensuring justice and equality prevails. The report largely outlines race to play a role in perpetuating lack of due process in poor, and minority neighbourhoods.
Police Discretion and Consequences
As the police’s role has turned from that of a civil servant into that of a crime fighter. Emphasis on crime-fighting justifiably has brought about considerable changes in the police service, including militarization. Police have become focused on acting rather than listening to community stakeholders. This has increased ethical issues considerably as it is seen that actions of police brutality have continued to be condoned by the police department chiefs and Union heads. Rarely are police actors found in a controversial situation punished or reprimanded for their actions. Pollock (2014) identifies that with the dawn of the 21st century and specifically the 9/11 attack, legislative action saw police gain more discretion in their role and increased decision-making stances. Pollock (2014) argues that officers in the U.S. have the power to make decisions that are not standard in all circumstances, but pegged on the immediacy in their position in the field, they have the power to deprive citizens of their property, liberty and in most instances among black and brown people, their lives. Pollock (2014) also emphasizes the issue of lack of ethics within the police department showing that ethics can be empathetic to human beings. In their immediate capacity, police have continually promoted systemic racism, creating policies that continually disproportionately target minorities.
Recommendation and Conclusion
A social contract exists between the community and the police department that allows the police officers to pursue their mandate in maintaining social order. Parent, Parent, and McCartney (2018) specify that the Social Contract Theory assumes humanity as a force of organization without rules, but people intentionally create and enforce rules to allow for social development. This is based on the assumption made by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1689) that a society without rules and regulations will be a very dreadful place for all people to live in.
As such, police departments are empowered by the community to take over the role of peacekeeper and maintain law and order. This could be achieved through following the law and becoming accountable, even as their capacity to fight crime is increasing through the use of technology. Failure to follow the law when fighting crime only works to sustain civil unrest and distrust of the police force. This is why it becomes critically sensational when the police’s role goes beyond maintaining civil order and security. Issues such as excessive use of force, discrimination within and without the police department, corruption, and various unethical practices have been highlighted to play a greater role in how policing is perceived in the community they dispense their services, more than their capacity to also fight crime.
Bachelet, M. (2021). Coalition Calls for United Nations Inquiry into US Police Violence. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/05/10/coalition-calls-united-nations-inquiry-us-police-violence.
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Ginsberg, B., Lowi, T., Weir, M., Tolbert, C., & Campbell, A. (2018). We the people.
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Neubauer, D. W., & Fradella, H. F. (2018). America’s courts and the criminal justice system. Cengage Learning
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Pollock, Joycelyn M. (2014) Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions In Criminal Justice. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Print.
Wilson, F. T., Schaefer, B., Blackburn, A. G., & Henderson, H. (2019). Cultivating police use of force perceptions through cinema: Maintaining the racial divide? Criminology, Criminal Justice, Law & Society, 20(3), 1-22. Retrieved from https://search-proquest com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/docview/2332351549?accountid=8289