My interviewee was Commander Hamry, of the Milton police department in Washington. When interviewing Commander Hamry, I found the following to be his impressions of the police force in general:
Why are ethics and character so important in the field of law enforcement?
Because we represent everything we believe in, not only in local and state law, but the Constitution of the United States. We are part law enforcement, lawyer, priest, counselor, mother/father figure etc…at any given moment. We have a nano-second to decide whether or not to shoot whereas everyone else has months/years to decide if that action was proper or not. Due to an elevated level of training and discipline, we are held to a higher standard. This includes: morals, ethics, actions/decisions which the public has entrusted it’s care to us which go back to the issues when the tea was first thrown into the harbor.
Do the interviewees feel that police are more ethical today, or were they more ethical ten years ago?
Due to immediate access of public information and technology, the magnification of the microscope has been increased. However, that is something that evolves with public perception, the legal system, etc… where something that was common place and ethical 100 years ago would not be considered today. People are basically good and the basic Judeo/Christian principle upon which our system is founded has remained, for the most part, unchanged.
Why do police officers become involved in misconduct?
To over simplify the answer, because they are human. They make mistakes like anyone else or experience temptations in which they cannot or choose not to handle. No different than the clerk who pockets a dollar when no one is looking.
Do the interviewees feel that there is enough training offered in ethics at the police academy level? If not, why is that?
Ethics are like character building and/or common sense. It evolves with experience and upbringing. How would you teach common sense or character? However, a strong emphasis IS placed on ethics in the law enforcement academies, but the basic concept and belief in such values has to be present to start with. Those that don’t develop the concept strong enough should be weeded out during the background phase of the hiring process. People can change and develop a stronger sense of ethics (I believe) as to the examples set by those they are influenced by or choose to be influenced by.
Should ethics training be offered as an ongoing process for law enforcement officers?
Yes, and I believe it will remain an integral part of the basic academy program.
Do the interviewees feel that education and/or training in ethics would reduce incidents of police corruption?
Yes and No. The elevated awareness may make them think about it more. But it is also a lifestyle and belief in the basic system that we work within. This is no different than being asked to go out and enforce laws that we do not either believe in, or question. We don’t make the laws, we merely enforce those that the people have asked to be on the books and thus should act the same.
Being within law enforcement is like living in a fish bowl. You are always under the scrutiny of the public perception on and off duty. You are judged by how your kids act in school, to how you look or what you do when you go to town.
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Topic: Applied Criminal Justice Ethics
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