Ethics in Criminal Justice
Cynthia Raymer

Ethics in Criminal Justice
The definition of ethics is simple; ethics is a moral duty in making decisions of
individuals in professional, unprofessional employment as well as any human thought that
questions what is right and what is wrong. Professional ethics is also easy to define as it is
adapting to a work environment and the rules and standards set forth within the profession. This
paper will discuss the relationship of ethics, professional behavior in criminal justice
administration and explain the role of critical thinking with regard to the relationship of ethics,
and professional behavior along with a proposal for a seminar in ethics training.
Good character, courage, integrity, responsibility, and honesty are words used to describe
a person with ethics. Criminal justice employees should represent the highest level of ethical
conduct on or off duty. According to Smith B.B., (2013), “The foundation to real world ethics
has to come from management. If they really want an ethical organization, police managers have
to take a long look in the mirror and decide to hold themselves to an even higher standard than
they do their personnel”.
Several changes are occurring in police education and training in some places. Broader
education experience that improves the ability to think critically, some maintain, improves the
capacity of police officers to make sound discretionary judgments. Some departments accept
liberal arts courses, and even degrees, as satisfying both entry and advancement criteria.
Instructors in law enforcement courses have adopted problem solving approaches, the case
method, and discussion in order to enhance prospective officers’ abilities to make judgments.
Sometimes, experienced officer’s act as guest lecturers, attending these classes and interacting
with students not interested in law enforcement. The interaction can prove enriching to students,
instructors, and officers.

Adequate training and intelligent recruits do not by themselves produce “good” police

officers and effective policing. Police departments perform best when they secure strong public

support. Competent personal who reflect the cultural diversity and gender division of the

community as a whole assure public support. “Calls for closer connections between the police

and the community, the law requiring affirmative action and equal employment opportunity, and

the values of an open and diverse society all encourage hiring and advancing women and

minorities in policing”. (Critical Issues in Policing, 311)

It is important to understand that ethics and law are distinct categories. By law, it
generally means legislation, statutes, and regulations made by states and by the federal
government on a host of subjects for the public good and public welfare. Laws do not, and are
not intended to, incorporate ethical principles or values, but sometimes ethical standards will be
reflected in laws. It is possible to argue, therefore, that codes of conduct regulating legal practice
have the force of law. . However, on a whole range of subjects from business practice to driving
a vehicle, laws do not set ethical standards.
Within the criminal justice system, ethics is germane to most management and
policy decisions relating to punishment and is the rationale used in making these decisions, such
as whether to rehabilitate, deter, or impose just deserts. Examples of such management and
policy issues include whether it is ethical to force someone to attend a treatment program against
his or her will, and, given that the system of punishment is based on rehabilitation, whether it is
ethical to send an offender to jail and not offer treatment programs to help him or her change
behavior in order to regain freedom (Felkenes 1987).
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy concerned with
the study of questions of right and wrong and how we ought to live. . Ethics involves making

moral judgments about what is right or wrong, good or bad. Right and wrong are qualities or
moral judgments we assign to actions and conduct. Within the study of ethics, there are three
branches: met ethics, concerned with methods, language, logical structure, and the reasoning
used in the interpretation of ethical terms. (Felkenes 1987).
Moral decisions made by criminal justice officers in the past have shown there to be a
need for a seminar in ethics training. An ethics training seminar will be required for all criminal
justice administrators and staff. This program will be available all month, please attend when
convenient to all personal.
The purpose of the training for this seminar:
(1) Readily recognize an ethical problem or dilemma: Increasing awareness of potentially ethical
(2) Providing a vocabulary and thought or decision-making process for addressing the issues
(3) Take prompt action based upon that choice: Instilling a commitment and courage to act
(4) Accept responsibility for the outcome: Creating a nonnegotiable expectation of full
accountability for the consequences of any action taken
The outcome of the Training:
Ethics training should add value to the police organization and to the community. Acting
ethically is fundamental to acting fairly. Acting fairly equates with acting consistently with the
social contract, the implicit agreement between the government (the police as part of the
executive branch) and the people, addressing mutual rights, responsibilities, and expectations.
The police derive their duty to uphold the public trust from the social contract. The social
contract means that the people have entrusted some freedoms to the government, including the

police, in exchange for the government’s safeguarding it. Police professionals are expected to be
stewards of this public trust and to act in a way that respects the government’s founding
principles. For U.S. police departments, these founding principles are described in the founding
documents of the United States, which should be a cornerstone of ethics training for U.S. police
Law Enforcement Code of Ethics
As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard
lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or
intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional
rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.
I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in
the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the
welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be
exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department. Whatever I see
or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever
secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.
I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities, or
friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless
prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or
favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting
I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a public
trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will constantly strive to

achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen
enforcement. (Adopted, 1956).

For purposes of this training, objectivity involves the expression or use of facts without
distortion by personal feelings or prejudices. In achieving objectivity, it is essential that you not
only gather all of the available relevant information on a topic, but that you also strive to
establish the validity of the information. Ethical men and women are made, not born, and peer
pressures can work for or against ethical behavior. Ethical problems such as corruption and
official dishonesty must be acknowledged and discussed if solutions are to be found. Every
profession must have the ability and the willingness to police itself.
Sometimes your short-term goals (such as getting promoted), or those of the agency (such
as getting a new computer or obtaining approval of a budget), seem to be the most important.
When this is allowed to happen, the long-term goals established for the organization, such as
crime prevention, justice for all, and protection of the rights of the individual and society, tend to
become obscured or displaced by the short – term goals. To prevent this from happening,
remember: that the prime beneficiary of the criminal justice system is the public served.


Dunham, R., & Alpert, G. (2010). Critical Issues in Policing. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Ethics Training. (2009). Retrieved from
Felkenes, G. (1987). Ethics in the Graduate Criminal Justice Curriculum. Teaching Philosophy,
10(1), 23-26.
Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. (2014). Retrieved from
Smith, S. S. (2013). Criminal Justice Ethics for Everyone. Retrieved from

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