The Ethical Role of Police Subculture
The police force is one of the institutions that act as a crucial link between the government and its citizens. It preserves the rule of law and defends against anarchy, thus maintaining the viability and health of the social fabric in a society. Police work involves dealing with the most difficult sector of the human society. Lawbreakers have the capability of undermining all the other institutions of the society. Unfortunately, most suspects and existing law breakers do not come branded in the face. Trying to determine the wicked from the good is not an easy task for the police. To compound the problem, criminals are ordinary people with families and friends who often feel that the wicked is innocent. This leaves the police segregated from the society creating a negative attitude towards them. This creates a police subculture, which is different from the rest of the society (Pollock, 2011).
Ethics is an integral part in all public service. It is an essential requirement in policing due to the close contact between the police and the people. On the outset, the police officers must not be found wanting in the various integrity tests. An exemplary police officer must be careful, possess the ability to build trust in relationships through truthfulness. He should be deprived of the preference of using specialist entrusted on him for personal good, but must be courageous without being foolhardy. It is useful in case he is knowledgeable and honesty, and should be a person who takes responsibility for his or her mistakes (Malmin, 2012).
Recruits to the police force are required to swear an oath of office called the Police code of Ethics. This code of conduct has three parts. The first part is on equal protection, which forbids the administrator to discriminate on any reason including race, sex, class or identity of the offender. The second part dictates that the officer should follow the law. The third part is on the fact that the officer is held to a higher moral standard compared to the other members of the public (O`Connor, 2011).
Subculture is a term used to refer to groupings of individuals who share traditions, beliefs, way of life, and attitudes. Subculture can refer to an entire institution or to a group within the institution. Such groups of people occur in all organizations including the law enforcement institutions. These subcultures have their uses and advantages, but like with everything in life, they are not deprived of faults. The most essential function of a subculture is fostering cohesiveness within its members. A case in point being the elite hostage rescue units in crime prevention. Lack of direct interaction and cohesiveness would negatively affect the magnitude of communication. Such lack of cohesiveness would endanger both the lives of the individuals in the group as well as the lives of the hostages (Pollock, 2011).
Some time the subcultures mutate and become a group with totally different rules of engagement and association, which are contrary to the ones of the central organization or community. In some Police subculture, Police officers end up going contrary laid down procedures of the police code of ethics. In most of those cases, the loyalty of the police officers is to one another, rather than to the service of the public good (Malmin, 2012).
Police subculture allows the police to act with impunity. For instance, it becomes acceptable for officers to over speed, but not the rest of the citizenry. We end up operating fewer than two different sets of rules viz.: One set of rules for the police officers and the other set for the rest of society.
Police subcultures may also promote corruption. Promotion and appropriate assignments are usually doled out to those officers who meet the requirements. If the members of a particular subculture are engaging in corrupt practices, whistle blowing cannot possibly be high on the conformity scale. Such unethical practices will go on undetected. This is mainly because remarkably few officers will willingly risk having their careers destroyed for betraying their fellow officers. They protect one another and may even unintentionally end up covering up for fellow officers` fraudulent or illegal activities (O`Connor, 201).
Discretion in the police force is one of the weakest links in the ethical battle. Discretion involves careful study of available options of responses to a situation to arrive at the appropriate cause of action. It is difficult to prosecute all breaches of the law within a society. The police have the unenviable task of deciding the most troublesome forms of law breaking. For instance, they decide on the person who qualifies for a warning and the one who should face the law for over speeding. Without proper oversight, some police engage in corrupt practices that not acceptable in the society. The police subculture determines the informal rules for discretion by the police officers. This allows some dishonest people who offer freebies to the police to escape prosecution easily, or to get off with lower fines compared to the rest of the group with similar offenses (Pollock, 2011).
Research on corruption indicates that a higher percentage of new police officers interviewed answered in the affirmative on the issue of having witnessed police officers engaging in unlawful activities, compared to those who had been in the police force longer. This shows that the longer one stays in power the more one identifies with the rest of the fellow police line, and the less likely he or she will reveal fellow police officers (O`Connor, 2011).
One of the most obvious solutions to social issues in police subcultures is moral leadership. In any agency or organization, leaders are responsible for the success of the agency or organization. Ethical leadership at all levels of law enforcement will create a culture of ethical direction into which new recruits will become oriented, and continue propagating. On the other hand, corrupt government will only generate more crime. Leaders might not be able to push integrity on every person in an organization they should be the responsible for the maintenance of standards in the society. The function of the leader should be to model the high ethical standards needed in the organization (Chan, 2011).
High ethical standards in hiring and recruiting are mandatory. These high ethical standards should be consciously developed and maintained. The police officers should undergo thoroughly vetting on issues such as honesty, their ability to follow directives, their mental strength, and their evil record. This would ensure that the police force has as many reputable officers as possible. This would contribute to the maintenance of an ethical standard in law enforcement (O`Connor, 2011).
Constant Training of police officers on ethical conduct should go a long way in solving the various reputable shortcomings that arise from ignorance. Most departments of the law enforcement take it for granted that the police officers internalize the various rules stipulated in the oath of office. They argue that there is no need for additional training on ethical behaviour. Training in Ethical conduct is as crucial as refresher causes in every other aspect of the police force. This is mainly because ethics is the main currency for virtual interrelationship between a public officer and the citizenry (Chan, 2011).
Another primary concern should be on the improvement of the work environment. In most cases, police work is measured in terms of quantity rather than quality. The public judges the effectiveness of the police in terms of the number of suspects arrested or the number of weapons recovered. Most senior officers are under pressure to cater to the community`s standards that they will happily ignore the process that produces results. The involved police officers will explain this as a license to achieve results at all costs, which will undoubtedly encourage corrupt practices. This work environment needs a rethink to ensure that there is a difference between the results and the strength of those results (Malmin, 2012).
In conclusion, ethics in the police subculture are valuable because effective policing depends largely on the favourable cooperation between the police officer and the members of the public, especially for tip-offs. Favourable partnership will only occur when there is trust between those involved. To create trust with the members of the public, the police need to act as ethically as is humanly possible.
Chan, J. (2011). Racial Profiling and Police Subculture. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/canadian_journal_of_criminology_and_criminal_justice/summary/v053/53.1.chan.html
Lawrence, N. (n.d). Police Subcultures Vs. Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/about_6320027_police-law-enforcement-code-ethics.html
Malmin, M. (2012). Changing Police Subculture. Retrieved from
O`Connor, T. (2011). “Police Ethics,” MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://www.drtomoconnor.com/3300/3300lect04.htm
Pollock, J. (2011). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice. New York, NY: Cengage Learning
Ethnic and Area Studies
The Ethical Role of Police Subculture
The Ethical Role of Police Subculture