Gratuities And The Slippery Slope – Criminal Justice

Gratuities for public officers usually lead to a slide down the slippery slope for the individual, department or society as espoused by the rotten apple, affiliation and society-at-large hypotheses. Gratuity refers to a benefit or discount that one receives because of their profession and is considered unethical and is a violation of most law enforcement and political party policies (Normoreand Fitch, 2011). This is so as to safeguard against corruption among public officers. In consequentialism, slippery slope avers that a fairly insignificant first step primes a sequence of linked events that culminate to significant effect. One may engage in a seemingly innocuous act such as accepting a gratuity from a grateful client but the act leads to a habit that eventually snowballs to be harmful to the individual, organization and the society. For example, a police officer may start by accepting a coffee from a grateful café that gradually leads to them expecting a free or discounted dinner from the institution every day. In turn, this may lead to the officer looking the other way when the owner of the café who offers the gratuity parks wrongly or speeds.

However, in actual practice, it is advisable to use personal judgment on whether to accept a gratuity as it may cement the relationship between the law enforcer and the public they serve. Indeed, in some instances refusing gratuity may seem impolite and lead to tense relationships (Petrocelli, 2006). For example, an officer may be offered coffee after defrosting an elderly woman’s car in which instance refusing the coffee may seem rude and may lead to hurt feelings. On the other hand, it may lead to the officer expecting coffee every time they do their duty and giving preferential treatment to people offering gratuities.

Hence the slippery slope argument underscores a no-gratuity policy so as to curb a slide towards corruption noting that accepting a coffee and accepting $1000 are both wrong, with the difference being the degree of wrongness. And if the officer develops the habit of receiving gratuities, they will find it easy to accept big bribes. On the slippery slope, acceptance of coffee as gratuity may seem insignificant but the constant acceptance of coffees will push the officer towards unethical behavior.  Starting on the slippery slope means one insignificant step leads to more significant steps that have an accumulated negative effect and that are unstoppable(McCartney and Parent, 2015).

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