There are very few careers with as high demands for an ethical standard as law enforcement. Although there are many careers, which require a dedication to doing the right thing, it is undeniable that there is a tremendous degree of responsibility and expectations placed on the police officer. While most professions allow for careful thought and planning, a police officer is often thrust into a situation with little advanced intelligence about what is occurring. Often an officer is involved in a situation which has the potential to turn violent. Relying on training allows the officer to successfully navigate a variety of situations.
After a few years on the job, even the rookie police officer is aware that they live and work in a “fishbowl”. There is remarkably little the officer can be involved in which does not have the potential to be displayed in the media. Quite often media exposure does not account for the few seconds the officer had to determine how to handle the situation. The police officer is under constant scrutiny, more so then any other profession. This could be due to the cynicism of the public as they hope to catch the officer “screwing up” or looking for a strong example and a good leader. A police officer needs to be above reproach both on and off duty.
Unfortunately, a small percentage of officers draw a large amount of negative attention to the profession. These “bad apples” bring a negative light to entire police departments and cause long term damage to public trust. A vast majority of police officers make strong ethical decisions every day and are hardworking dedicated professionals who strive to serve the public.
Research / Analysis
Americans throughout history have been sensitive to the power of government. Authority and power are basic concepts of political order, and the police use force as a way to control forms of behavior which are detrimental to society (Elliott & Pollock, 2013). The application of force is often considered ethically neutral it can, under a variety of circumstances, constitute an abuse of authority. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) defines the use of force as “that amount of effort required by police to compel compliance from an unwilling subject” (Police Use of Force in America 2001, n.d, p. 1). The IACP defines the use of excessive force as “the application of an amount and/or frequency of force greater than that required to compel compliance from a willing or unwilling subject” (Police Use of Force in America 2001, n.d, p. 1).
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (n.d.), in 2005 19% of U.S. residents 16 and over had contact with a police officer. Of these contacts, 9 in 10 felt the police acted properly. During these contacts with approximately 43.5 million persons, an estimated 1.6% had force used against them or threatened to be used (Bureau of Justice Statistics, n.d.). A study by the International Association...