The criminal justice system is one of the areas of administration that requires a code of ethics. In past years, several research studies have been conducted to study the relationship between ethics and professional behavior in the criminal justice system. Ethics is vital in the criminal justice because law enforcement officers face challenges that require a moral compass to aid in decision-making (Banks, 2009). Moreover, officers are always under scrutiny for their actions. A relationship exists between ethics and professional behavior. Unethical behavior results from personal decision to abuse authority and power. To counter internal and external forces that help justify unethical and unprofessional behavior, a code of ethics is necessary. Critical thinking plays a pivotal role with regards to the relationship between ethics and professional behavior. In order for law enforcement officers to make ethical and moral decisions, critical thinking is important (Banks, 2009). Unprofessional behavior arises from choices that officers make. Therefore, critical thinking serves as a tool that enables officers make professional and ethical decisions.
Relationship between ethics and professional behavior in the administration of criminal justice
It is necessary for professionals working in the criminal justice system to study ethics. This is mainly because the choices and decisions they make have far-reaching consequences that affect them and the people they serve (Cronkhite, 2007). The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences requires its members to uphold its code of ethics and avoid unethical and unprofessional behaviors (Banks, 2009). In the criminal justice system, ethics is a tool that ensures that law enforcement officers maintain professionalism in their line of duty. Unprofessional behavior by officers can cost them their jobs or infringe on the freedom and rights of victims (Cronkhite, 2007). For example, many victims of crime have been imprisoned though innocent because police officers took bribes from second and third parties. Ethics serve to eradicate such unethical behaviors that are very costly and immoral.
Unprofessionalism in the criminal justice system causes harm to the society by encouraging proliferation of corruption, injustice, and unethical behaviors (Pollock, 2002). However, ethics serves as a foundation for professionalism. These vices are eradicated by upholding professionalism. For the justice system to work properly towards advancing justice in the society, a code of ethics is necessary. It should be clear and comprehensible by all professionals working in the system. As such, a code of ethics acts as a guide because law enforcement officers encounter problems and challenges that require to be dealt with in the most open and transparent manner (Cronkhite, 2007). Ethics ensure that professionals do not deviate from professionalism.
Human rights violations are common issues that the criminal justice system deals with on daily basis. Since these are difficult and volatile, it is necessary to have guiding principles that serve as reference points. As such, a code of ethics provides a reference point for resolution of human rights issues (Pollock, 2002). For example, the police code of ethics illegalizes the use of unnecessary force on individuals. However, it is up to police officers to practice professionalism when arresting or apprehending criminals or suspects.
A code of ethics is important because problems arise despite the fact that certain decisions are made with good intentions. Criminal justice professionals make mistakes that can be easily avoided by adhering to their code of ethics. For example, a professional might share crucial information with other law enforcement agencies thus giving rise to more complications. This goes against the privacy and security principles that professionals are supposed to obey. Ethics ensure that criminal justice professionals do not make mistakes because their decisions are critical and can affect the stability of the society (Pollock, 2002).
The role of critical thinking with regard to the relationship of ethics and professional behavior
One of the most important aspects of giving justice to people is making right decisions. This usually involves critical thinking and extensive analysis of facts and information given. Professionalism that is not guided by ethics is detrimental to provision of justice to the society (Pollock, 2002). Many professionals make decisions based on personal feelings and superficial information collected or given by witnesses. Critical thinking is important in the process of passing judgment. It involves evaluation of information in a reflective manner. Through critical thinking, a criminal justice professional is able to discern right from wrong.
The criminal justice system involves decisions that are made by professionals such as judges, police officers, legislators, prosecutors, and corrections officers. They make decisions that are analyzed and judged to determine whether they are ethical or unethical. Critical thinking is vital because these professionals exercise discretion in their decisions (Cronkhite, 2007). It is only through critical thinking that legislators determine whether certain behaviors are legal or illegal. On the other hand, it is through critical thinking that corrections officers determine conditions that warrant release of reformed criminals (Cronkhite, 2007). There is exercise of discretion on each stage and level of the criminal justice system. Therefore, it is important for professionals at each level to try to link the requirements of the code of ethics to professionalism. They need to consider ethics and inculcate them into their behaviors in order to promote justice. However, this is only possible through critical thinking. Certain situations warrant extensive thinking because they are ambiguous. For example, it is against the police code of ethics for an officer to release information that is considered perilous to national security. However, releasing such information could avert certain threats such as a terrorist attack. In such a situation, critical thinking is necessary to determine the best decision to make. Critical thinking helps professionals develop full understanding of ethics and its implications on their career (Cronkhite, 2007).
A proposal for a seminar in ethics training for law enforcement officers
One of the sources of conflicts and scandals in the criminal justice system is lack of ethics training (Matthew, 2007). Lack of ethics training leads to misconduct, violation of human rights, and corruption. This results in severe consequences such as civil litigation of agencies. Common cases of civil litigation include racial discrimination, excessive use of force by officers, sexual harassment, and violation of human rights (Matthew, 2007). These cases affect organizations’ financial resources and public reputation.
Five areas to focus on during training would include arrest of criminals, investigations, sentencing, handling of criminals and suspects, and safety (Matthew, 2007). These are important because they are the most common areas in which injustice is propagated in the law enforcement system. For example, arrest of criminals involves use of excessive force, and consequent sentencing and imprisonment of innocent individuals. This occurs due to poor investigations by officers. Another area of concern is handling of criminals and suspects. There have been reports of mistreatment of criminals and suspects. Finally, it matters how officers respond to unfavorable situations such as attacks by the public, criminals who resist arrest, and violent suspects.
The training would involve training officers on ways to inculcate the principles of the code of ethics into their professional practice. The seminar would serve to encourage integrity of officers, reduce risk and liability, encourage excellent performance, and train officers on ways to exercise discretion effectively. In addition, it would emphasize on the importance of using critical thinking before making any decision. The training would help foster provision of justice to the community and help win their trust in the criminal justice system. On the other hand, it would reduce risk and liability of the system, improve its integrity, and make its professionals ethical and more effective. Training methods would include role-play, a standardized lesson plan, computers, and videos. An inquiry test would also be included to evaluate change in attitude and knowledge of officers after training.
Ethics is an important aspect of the criminal justice system. A code of ethics aids professionals in the criminal justice system to make ethical decisions. Professionals are faced with problems and challenges that require attention. A code of ethics serves a point of reference that determines good and bad conduct. It fosters accountability, reduces risk and liability, and improves the integrity of both officials and the criminal justice system. A typical training seminar for law enforcement offices would include lessons on ways to improve integrity, make decisions, and uphold principles of the code of ethic. In addition, it would involve lessons on ways to inculcate the code of ethics in their daily practice.
Banks, C. (2009). Criminal Justice Ethics. New York: SAGE Publishers.
Cronkhite, C. (2007). Criminal Justice Administration: Strategies for the 21st Century. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Matthew, J. (2007). Police Ethics Training: Preferred Modes of Teaching in Higher Law Enforcement. New York: ProQuest.
Pollock, J. (2002). Ethics in Crime and Justice: Dilemmas and Decisions. Wadsworth Publishers.