Ethics and Law Enforcement
The main task of law enforcement agencies is to ensure fulfilment of important constitutional duties such as preservation and protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, elements of which are the protection of public order, prevention of crime and antisocial behavior. The activities of these institutions have specific features associated with distinct moral situations. The main directions, goals and objectives of the rights and responsibilities of law enforcement bodies are stated in the legal acts of the United States. The moral foundations of these agencies’ activities are enshrined in federal law and in the codes of professional ethics and professional honor. The latter is an incentive to perform public acts. Professional codes of honor exist since the creation of the Hippocratic Oath. In the course of historical development, representatives of various professions have certain social responsibilities. The rules of professional ethics are governing proper behavior of certain groups, and are capable of maintaining the moral prestige of the latter in the society. Ethics in law enforcement is aimed at the establishment of society’s trust and positive attitude towards the policemen, due to the special nature of their functions and responsibilities (Goodman, 2012).
In the process of analyzing the ethical standards developed by the moral experience of different professional groups, one can see that a lot of various professional codes have much in common. In particular, the basic content of ethical codes of professional groups includes humanism, loyalty to the duty and social ideals, serving people, the norms of relationship in a team (decency, mutual help, the ability to compromise), careful and serious approach to the honor and dignity of the profession.
In general terms, there are three groups of moral relations contained in the codes of professional ethics of law enforcement agencies:
1. The moral attitude of law enforcement officers to their activities;
2. The ethical relationship within the law enforcement body (rules of conduct in a team);
3. The moral attitude of law enforcement officials towards the citizens and households while being off duty (Goodman, 2012).
Morals, Ethics, Values, Standards, and Ethical Dilemmas
Morality is a way to control the behavior of people in society. It is a system of principles and norms governing relations between individuals in accordance with the concepts of good and evil, just and unjust, worthy and unworthy. Compliance with the requirements of morality is provided with the spiritual influence, public opinion, inner conviction and a person’s conscience. In the modern sense, ethics is a philosophical science that studies morality as one of the most important aspects of human’s life and society. If morality is a specific phenomenon of social life, then ethics studies this aspect, its essence, nature and patterns of its occurrence and development in the system of other social relations, and theoretically justifies the moral system. The moral values, on the one hand, are accumulated in the course of a person’s life based on his/her experience and social impact. The ethical standards, on the other hand, are established during the course of society’s development and are equally applicable to everyone. The ethical dilemma is a situation of moral choice, when the realization of one moral value destroys another one (Pollock, 2013).
Moral/Immoral and Lawful/Unlawful Behavior
Moral behavior means that a person is acting in accordance with standards and values of ethics and morality established in the society. It is a relative concept which can be variable and depends on the presented situation. Immoral behavior, in its turn, represents a denial of moral principles and generally accepted norms of conduct in society. It is a nihilistic attitude to all sorts of moral norms and principles. Such behavior, both moral and immoral, does not necessarily leads to consequences which may occur as a result of lawful and unlawful behavior. Lawful conduct is determined with legal regulations established in accordance with the interests of citizens, agencies, organizations and the whole society. Consequently, unlawful behavior violates legal standards. Lawful and unlawful conducts often exist inextricably and manifest themselves in the behavior of the same person. The subject may violate one law, but, at the same time, respect another one. Consequently, moral/immoral behavior is shaped with society’s ethical standards, when lawful/unlawful conduct is determined with law (Pollock, 2013).
Steps of Analyzing an Ethical Dilemma
The first step of analyzing an ethical dilemma is to gather all information concerning the subject in order to be able to study it from different perspectives. The second phase is to incorporate ethical norms which relate to the given situation. At this stage, it is important to be able to properly apply ethics and morality to the nature of the presented dilemma. The third step includes the process of excluding unacceptable solutions to the problem which usually leaves two variants: the desired solution and the least acceptable one. The last stage requires making the final decision that can satisfy all sides of the occurred incident, or only one of them which sometimes can be an outcome (Pollock, 2013).