Reasons Police Officers Engage in Misconduct – Discussion

What are some of the fundamental reasons we see police officers engage in misconduct? Why are these ethical violations so serious and how do they impact their relationship with the community? Fully explain and support your answer.

Fundamental reasons why Police Officers Engage in Misconduct – Sample Paper 1

With deference to the rare occasions where an individual deliberately goes into law enforcement as a mole on behalf of an criminal enterprise, as popularized by such popular media as the film The Departed (2007), few if any young police officers graduating from their respective academies say “Wow, I can’t wait to use by authority for personal gain and to hurt others!” Police misconduct does occur however; misuse of physical force, taking bribes from criminals, theft, even drug dealing have been documented repeatedly and all of these personally observed or vicariously dealt with by this student. All of these acts contribute to a public perception of police that can have a debilitating effect on trust upon which police work is ultimately based on. If no one trusts the police, the police will become ineffective and unable to conduct their activities in support of the public good.

Police psychologist Kevin Gilmartin (2001, 445) believes that repeated exposure to physiologically elevated states combined with “a bombardment of violence, unappreciativeness, and negativity…” create a condition of continued stress that promotes negative behavior including a propensity toward unethical behavior. He believes that the conditioning of the physical reactive systems centered in the hypothalamus helps to create a “pathological interpersonal and impersonal mode of interacting…” (Gilmartin, 2001, 446). This biological contributor to behavior in the student’s opinion is probably not the one and only factor that leads any individual’s drift into aberrant behavior but Gilmartin believes it plays a significant role in the dysfunction he has witnessed and treated as a psychologist specializing almost exclusively on police officers and the police culture since 1976, including police official misconduct.

This additional dimension offered by Gilmartin runs counter to the traditional view of police administrators that corruption was “…a reflection of the moral defects of individual police officer” (Klockars, Kutnjak, Harver, and Haberfeld, 2000, 1). Gilmartin rejects the traditional “bad apple” view and offers an alternative view that focuses on the stresses of the police experience that is a variable that contributes to the outcome of police misbehavior. The views of Gilmartin are more in line with and perhaps supportive of what Klockars et, al (2000, 2) refer to as contemporary approaches that attempt to use the context of four organizational and occupational dimensions which can be over-simplified to include the organizational culture and peer pressures inherent in the police experience. The dimensions are: organizational rules, prevention and control mechanisms, the code (reference to the lack of enthusiasm officers have for reporting fellow officer misconduct), and public expectations.

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This broader approach to understanding is more dimensional and frankly requires more thought and work by police administrators to incorporate into the management and administrative efforts of their agencies. It removes the simple excuse of blaming the misconduct on the moral lapse of an individual and requires the organization look into itself to ascertain how organizational influences or the environment, played a role in either permitting encouraging, or even hiding misconduct. Klockars et. al. (2000, 10) attempt to survey the “ characteristics of a police agency’s culture…” offers a more concrete insight into the organization and how an administrator can address the underlying issues that promote or encourage misbehavior.

Reasons why Police Officers Engage in Misconduct – Sample Answer 2

Police misconduct is that of any action, on duty or off, by a person entrusted with police powers, which would violate such trust to an extreme that would cause those who entrusted the officer with said powers to reasonably question whether continuing that trust would expose the public safety to risk. (Packman, 2009)
With that being said most law enforcement professionals are good, ethical, and caring people who want to help the community. Regardless of the overused cliché, many officers do in fact enter law enforcement because they want to make a positive difference in their communities and help people and make a difference.
Most police have strong, positive moral values and work diligently every day, in many cases at great personal risk to bring dangerous criminals to justice. Doing this provides most officers with a sense of personal satisfaction and self-worth. Most officers do not and in most cases cannot engage in unethical conduct unless they can somehow justify to themselves the morality of their actions, which is almost impossible to a legitimate police officer.

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Some of the reasons police officers may engage in unethical behavior or justify what they have done, say in a use of force instance, would be to blame the victim, the denial of victim and dehumanization. They are dirt bags and deserved what they got therefore no guilt in the use of force that was used on the people involved. Police who use these tactics can argue or justify these thoughts of the criminals dealt with because they rationalize they are not a victim and no real harm has been done.
We all know that no one really thinks of a drug dealer, prostitute, thief, or a sexual predator as a real victim, right? These people prey on victims constantly and who would ever think they could be a real victim themselves as they probably brought it upon themselves and deserved it, i.e. Karma. This also reduces their personal responsibility for behaving in ways that they know are wrong. (Fitch, 2014)Law enforcement professionals understand their work environment may be less than ideal at best and life threatening at worst. Within seconds officers must solve problems that have taken days, months, or sometimes years to develop. Within this kind of environment excellence is a need. A single bad incident in the law enforcement community can have lasting effects, which are felt throughout the nation.
I feel some of the cause in the lack of integrity in American police officers is the lack of holding them to a higher standard. Leadership that allows for mediocre officers to exist and stay in the department rather than demanding the highest level of conduct or letting them go will give way for misconduct to occur. Keeping the leaders accountable for their actions and the actions of those around them will prevent them from compromising their integrity. It is as simple as just doing the right thing and acting ethically. This solidifies the officers standing in the community and it allows them to occupy the moral high ground and to always exercise moral leadership in the community, which helps the officer stay in good standing legally and professionally.

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