Ethics and professional behavior are important components of criminal justice. The importance of these two aspects has particularly risen in the last few years due increasing incidences of unethical behavior as well as unprofessionalism in the criminal justice field. Before delving into the relationship between these two aspects in the criminal justice field, it would perhaps be wise to get an idea on what ethics means.
In simple terms ethics involves defining and achieving what is right or wrong, what is good or bad in relation to moral obligation and duty (Kleinig, 2008). Ethics also include a requirement or need for particular individual or groups of individual to act in accordance’s the established principles of wrong or right and that govern conduct. For instance, members of the criminal justice field are required to acts according to established moral principles that guide their conduct in the course of administering justice (Kleinig, 2008).
Being a very dynamic field, members of the criminal justice field often find themselves in tricky situations whereby they have to make decisions on ambiguous issues. In such situation, they are required to make morally ethical judgments. These judgments must be made in a professional manner, and in many instances, critical thinking plays a huge part (Pollock, 1998). When ethics are utilized when making judgments, they contribute or lead to professional behavior.
Therefore, ethics and professional behavior are linked very closely and this link is further accentuated by the fact the criminal justice administration process usually involves humans (Kleinig, 2008). One thing that should however be noted is that unlike legal obligations that are usually written down or documented, ethics are unwritten. Many legal professions have written rules of conduct, but in addition to those, professionals are often reminded of in-built practices that are supposed to guide their conduct in addition to the written rules of conduct. These are the ethics and in the criminal justice field, ethics enables the stakeholders to do what is right and moral in accordance to professional ethical standards (Souryal, 2010). This once gains exhibits the relationship between ethics and professional behavior. In simple terms, without ethics, there can be no professional behavior.
Professional behavior does not simply entail abiding by legal obligations. It also entails abiding to unwritten ethical obligations that are part of human nature. If an individual fails to incorporate ethics in his professional practice, then that individual cannot be considered to be exhibiting professional behavior. Lack of ethics and consequently professional behavior in the criminal justice field can have massive ramifications and this is why the stakeholders in this field are often trained and encourage to incorporate ethical conduct in all their actions and activities (Kleinig, 2008).
One of these ramifications is the loss of faith in the system by the society. If the criminal justice field is consistently deficient of ethical conduct and if members exhibit extremely low levels of professional behavior, there is a high likelihood that the community will lose faith in the system. However, as observed, the key aspect here is ethics. It forms the framework for an effective and a trustworthy criminal justice field.
Ethics paves way for professional behavior and the combination of the two is essentially what strengthens the criminal justice field and enables the society to have faith in it (Souryal, 2010). On the other hand, if ethics are not incorporated into the field, it means that the stakeholders of the field do not exhibit professional behavior. The criminal justice field becomes weakened, and it is, therefore, not surprising that the society would lose faith in such a system (Kleinig, 2008).
It is important to acknowledge the huge role that critical thinking plays when to ethics and criminal conduct. As it was explained earlier, ethics are simply moral judgments and values that individual’s make when determining what is good or bad or what right and wrong. In addition, it was also noted that ethics are unwritten rules. In such a situation, critical thinking is paramount.
For one to make truly ethical decisions and judgments one must have a properly functioning or sound mind. One must be able to think critically, weigh on certain issues and situation and make a decision based on what perceives or conceives to be right or wrong. An ethical individual be having motivation to do what is right but in order for this to be done, the individual must at least know this right and once again, this is where critical thinking once again becomes crucial.
A sound mind enables one to ponder critically and make an accurate decision on an ethical course of action. Comprehensive critical thinking encompasses self-critique and self-examination in the absence of bias. Once an effective decision has been after a critical thinking process, this decision is then applied. It is important to note that a moral or an ethical principle can only have a meaning if it in demonstrated in actual behavior. In criminal justice, this is what entails professional behavior. Based on this analysis, it is accurate to state that critical thinking is one of the most important tools when it comes to incorporating ethics and professional behavior in the criminal justice field and without it, the maintenance of these two virtues might not be possible (Callahan, 1982).
There are several areas of ethical conduct that should be stressed in such a seminar. One of these areas regards service to mankind. In the seminar, the officers should be made aware that they are meant to serve mankind and in doing so, they should make decisions that are only in the best interest of mankind. This might seem to be a very broad scope but in reality, an officer who is guided by the realization that he is essentially serving mankind will always make judgments and decisions that are ethically guided (Pollock, 1998).
The second area of ethical conduct that should be emphasized on .at the seminar regards the protection of the weak and the oppressed in the society (Callahan, 1982). As law enforcement officers, the seminar should stress that oppression essentially constitutes unethical conduct and as law enforcement officers they are charged with the duty of rectifying this by acting ethically themselves (Pollock, 1998). Ethical conducts on their parts entail realizing that oppression is wrong and taking actions to stop it.
Ethical conduct should be directed ate protecting people and their property, and this is another area of ethical conduct that should be stressed upon at the seminar. Officers should be made aware they have been put in a position to protect people and their property as well (Callahan, 1982). Therefore, at the seminar, it would be key to stress in serving this duty, officers should be guided by ethics.
Honesty is another key aspect that should be taught to law enforcement officers as it entails a key component of ethical conduct. In all their actions and activities, officers should display honesty and should not lie for personal reasons as this would entail unethical conduct which might in the long run negatively affect the entire law enforcement field (Pollock, 1998).
Obeying the laws and rules of the land as well as the regulations of the criminal justice department is the other element of ethical conduct that should be stressed upon in the seminar. Ethical conduct entails applying rules fairly without compromise, favor, or bias and officers should be made fully aware of this at the seminar (Callahan, 1982).
Therefore, a seminar focusing on training officers on the matters of ethical conduct will play a huge part in ensuring that ethics becomes part and parcel of the entire law enforcement and indeed the criminal justice field. The seminar will avail benefits both for the officers and the community. For the officers, they will essentially become better equipped at carrying out their responsibilities as well as identifying ethical problems and using ethical reasoning to come with effective decisions. For the community, it will benefit from the presence of more responsible officers who are ethical in conducting their duties and most likely, the community is likely to see improvements in area such as arrests and prosecutions which are bound to be conducted fairly and without any form of bias. It will also improve overall security as ethical officers do not compromise when it comes to arresting criminals who terrorize the society.
Callahan, D. (1982). Foreword: Applied ethics in criminal justice. Criminal Justice Ethics, 2-64.
Kleinig, J. (2008). Ethics and criminal justice. An Introduction, 20, 80.
Pollock, J. M. (1998). Ethics in crime and justice: Dilemmas and decisions (p. 101). New York: West/Wadsworth.
Souryal, S. S. (2010). Ethics in criminal justice: In search of the truth. Elsevier.