Police Ethics and Misconduct

The Code of Ethics, How to Measure Police Ethical Standards, and the Meaning of Police Ethics to Me

The code of ethics is released by the college of policing. This institution is responsible for defining the ethical behavior that is expected of members of the police profession. According to Dempsey and Forst ( 2010), police officers are the symbol of the US government to the average citizen. Thus, it is only fair for them to conduct themselves with decorum in the eyes of the citizens. The term ethics refers to what is understood as either good or bad. It may sometimes be used interchangeably with morals. Applied ethics for its part refers to the accepted code of conduct in a particular field or profession. On the other hand, basic ethics are the commonly accepted moral principles that govern human behavior. Therefore, police are required to not only practice applied ethics specific to the profession but also hold themselves high morally because they serve the people and that the people must judge them based on their moral conduct.

In measuring ethics, it is crucial to understand what should constitute virtues. Aristotle advocated for a balance between effective and defective responses (Dempsy & Forst, 2010). This delicate balance is significant in the police force. Police officers are expected to be courageous, trustworthy, gentle, and modest. Clearly, all these traits are important depending on the particular situation. For instance, a police officer without courage may not be much helpful in a situation that requires ‘guts.’ Conversely, an officer who is too courageous to the point of shooting an unarmed citizen without fear of the underlying consequences would not be a useful member of the police profession. Therefore, in my opinion, police ethics refers to the set of principles that guide the officers in the operations to help strike a balance between the interests of the public and their interests.

Police Corruption, Examples, Reasons, Types and Forms, and the Effects of Corruption

According to Dempsy and Forst (2010), police corruption refers to acts that involve misuse of authority, for instance, commitment to the personal gain of the officer involved. Such acts may involve one officer or even a group of them perpetuating a common goal. Police corruption has been termed as a major drawback to law enforcement in the US. It leads to the breach of public trust and human rights. For the police force to operate effectively, coordination with the public is crucial. Police corruption occurs in many different forms. Common forms include seeking and accepting bribes and flouting the code of ethics. Police officers may sometimes ask or receive bribes to avoid reporting or prosecuting crimes such as prostitution and organized crimes among other illegal activities. These cases are highly prevalent in many police departments. They may sometimes involve an entire police post. Sympathizers of corrupt officers argue that the police receive or solicit bribes because they are underpaid.

Corruption may also take the form of flouting the code that guides police behavior. For instance, the police may engage in illegal means to obtain evidence as a way of securing a conviction. Illegally obtained evidence includes substantiation that is obtained in contravention of the suspect’s human rights. It may include aspects such as torture. In the United States, illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible. This move may be seen as deterrence against police officers using excessive or cunning ways to obtain evidence. In some instances, police officers flout the code of ethics by engaging in organized crime themselves. Such cases involve the officers as the ringleaders or others who commit the vices secretly within the police department.

Other Forms of Police Misconduct

Racial profiling has been identified as a major police transgression. It has raised a wide uproar in recent times. The common instances involve white officers shooting unarmed black males. Chicago has been cited as the state that is leading in unjustified police shootings against black males. People feel that the extrajudicial killings by police point to an inherent flaw in the police system. It is common knowledge that tasing a suspect near the heart can lead to a heart attack and subsequently death. Nevertheless, police officers go ahead and tase suspects severally on the chest. Dalian Atkinson, a blackman, is only one of the numerous victims of police tasing. Tasers are designed to protect the police and the public from an impending attack. However, some courts have declared their use unconstitutional due to the incidence of police misuse of these weapons.

Biased-based Policing and Police Brutality

Bias-based policing happens where police officers take actions based on their personal or societal prejudice as opposed to being objective. Police officers are required to approach situations based on the available facts and evidence. However, sometimes police officers engage in biased behaviors, hence overlooking the overwhelming evidence. For instance, bias may lead an officer to believe that an individual is about to commit an offense while in reality the individual is simply going about his or her ordinary business. Bias may be motivated by aspects such as race, age, sex, or even the mode of dressing. For instance, when George Zimmerman shot dead Trayvon Martin, he defended himself by arguing that the hoodie that the teenager was wearing had made him believe he was about to commit an offense.

Despite the common belief, profiling is legal. In fact, the technique is taught to the police to help them narrow the field of suspects. However, bias-based profiling is unlawful. Such policing involves acting without adequate facts, unlike criminal profiling where the officers conduct a thorough background check before carrying out an act. Therefore, taking into account the race, economic status, and the gender of a suspect when preparing a criminal profile is not particularly against the law. However, allowing biasness to take over may lead to police misconduct.

Police brutality encompasses acts such as false arrest, racial profiling, intimidation, and sexual abuse. The traditional form of police brutality involved the police beating civilians. While an instance of police torture has reduced greatly in number, some officers still torture suspects. This situation may be orchestrated with protection from the seniors. In the US, police brutality has become synonymous to racial profiling. Most of the recent instances of police brutality involve victims from the minority communities, particularly of black descent.

The Role of the Police, the Public, and Administrators in addressing Corruption

Often when offices face a corruption scandal, they are forced to go on leave awaiting investigation. Sadly, such officers always get back their badge and continue to perpetrate corruption with impunity. For instance, few of the officers accused of unlawful shootings are ever dismissed permanently and charged with murder. Therefore, the first step to addressing corruption in the police force is to prosecute the perpetrators. Stringent laws should be put in place to counter police misconduct. Some people will argue that stringent measures will discourage police officers from carrying out their duties effectively. However, as Dempsey and Forst (2010)observe, the majority of the police officers are diligent and law-abiding citizens. It is only fair for the few crooked officers to be held accountable for their misconduct. This move will protect the reputation of the police force from being tarnished further.


Dempsey, J. S., & Forst, L. S. (2010). An Introduction to Policing. Boston, MA: Delmar Cengage Learning.

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LawBirdie. 2023. "Police Ethics and Misconduct." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/police-ethics-and-misconduct/.

1. LawBirdie. "Police Ethics and Misconduct." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/police-ethics-and-misconduct/.


LawBirdie. "Police Ethics and Misconduct." March 23, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/police-ethics-and-misconduct/.