This paper discusses one of the prevalent ethical issues in our present criminal justice system which is police planting evidence on the suspect. The planting of evidence on a suspect or profiling of innocent people is considered police misconduct. The driving force for the police to commit such crime is due to corruption. During police investigations, the police abuse their power by fabricating or planting of evidence to obtain false conviction by taking money in exchange for favors. Police resort to corruption, engage in other illegal means to earn income and break departmental policies due to poor police management within the agency (Goldschmidt, 2008). This paper discusses the factors that drive police officers to plant evidence against the accused and how they commit racial profiling in exchange of monetary considerations and other favors. The ethical and moral considerations regarding planting of evidence will also be discussed in detail in this paper.
Keywords: planting of evidence, corruption, profiling, accused and police.
Goldschmidt (2008) argued that majority of the officers deem that it is needless to plant evidence during a criminal investigation. Police officers claim that the maxim “if the evidence is not there, then it’s not there” continues to be prevailing. It goes by the analogy that if a person is a notorious or active criminal, it is pointless to plant evidence because such person will get caught eventually if he pursued his criminal objectives. The police believe that several of the well-known criminals share the same characteristics for being greedy and stupid that will result to their death sooner or later (Goldschmidt, 2008). Due to the present status of the county jails being overcrowded, their mission is to avoid filing of unnecessary complaints against offenders who are apprehended. The common problem of lack of funding within the county jails should only be spent on legitimate cases that carry genuine and convincing evidence against criminals who perpetrated such violations of law.
The contemporary ethical problem of planting of evidence is primarily caused by police corruption under the present criminal justice system in America. The rules regarding the admissibility of evidence had become very rigid which paved the way for mishandling of evidence. The chances of committing misuse of evidence resulted heavily relied on the technicalities that led to the planting of evidence in the form of forged, tainted and suppressed data (Newton, 2010).
There are various forms of evidence that may be presented during trial which use false data classified into four primary groups of evidence namely: planted evidence, forged evidence, suppressed evidence and tainted evidence (Newton, 2010). Forged evidence means data or item manufactured, or altered in order to make it look supportive of a particular an agenda. Newton (2010) stated that planted data refers to an item or information, which was intentionally planted or moved as part of the crime scene relating to the accused. Whereas tainted data refers to evidence obtained through unlawful means such as illegal search or seizure. On the other hand, false evidence is suppressed evidence, which was considered inadmissible by the court (Banks, 2013).
The present developments in the digital technologies have resulted in false data caused by the forging or planting data through the use of advanced forensic technologies. The failures and misconduct by police officers is equivalent to criminal or civil liability. The courts are not likely to protect law enforcement agencies, with regard to the filing of false charges based on planted evidence. At this instance, any person who shall become a victim of police action is entitled to recover compensatory and punitive damages. The purpose of imposing penalty is to discourage police abuse in the form of discriminatory treatment, fabricating false evidence, or the use of excessive force. The only and a most important, concern related to using law enforcement agencies` officials can be associated with the fact that in many jurisdictions these officials may have qualified immunity from being sued for damages.
Factors which drive police to commit dishonesty
Goldschmidt (2008) stated that there are factors which move a police officer to engage in dishonesty while enforcing the law. These factors include:
1). Avoid restrictive laws and court decisions, such as the exclusionary rule and the requirement for Miranda warning which is considered as a denial of responsibility; 2.) The police want to present a good case to the prosecutor as a form of self-fulfillment; 3.) The police anticipate cross-examination by the defense as part of their self-preservation; 4.) The police want to establish a good name and reputation within the department and his colleagues to give him a sense of self-fulfillment;
5.) To witness a winning case by seeing that the suspect is convicted and sent to prison;
6.) To protect the police officer against civil liability as part of self-preservation; and 7.) For monetary gain or exchange of personal favors (Goldschmidt, 2008, p. 119).
After having examined major legal consequences, which stem from the act of law enforcement officers planting evidence on a suspect, it can be concluded that planting and fabrication of evidence is a ground to file false imprisonment charges against the police. The act of planting evidence is the worst behavior on the part of the police officer since it is morally wrong for it diminishes the integrity of the entire law enforcement agency (Goldschmidt, 2008). An honest police officer is one who will not participate in the planting of evidence since it is a serious crime and an unethical act for which he can be held liable for being reported by another officer. Although many of their colleagues believe that they cannot speak out against the practice and have seen other officers plant evidence they have turned a “blind eye” to this illegal practice to protect the agency. On the other hand, there are also some police officers who swore not to plant evidence due to the risks involved that are not commensurate to the benefits. Still, there are those members of the police who are willing enough to risk their integrity and occupation. Goldschmidt (2008) stated that there are some police officers who admitted that they planted evidence during criminal investigations, who resort to use of this tactic in events where the accused destroyed the evidence through certain acts such as swallowing or flushing the evidence in the toilet, even before the recovery. In these instances, such officers replaced the evidence that was destroyed from the surplus drugs that had been previously recovered. The police explained that it is wise to “sometimes fight fire with fire!” in order to serve the ends of justice. However, most officers denounced the act of simply planting drugs without any other valid reason than to arrest of a suspect (Goldschmidt, 2008, p.122).
Under ethical and moral considerations, planting of evidence against the suspect during investigation and a trial bears serious consequences in the future life of such person. The criminal records can impose irreversible damage on the career path of the suspect. At the same time, the investigation, trial and detention are associated with the loss of income and serious psychological trauma on the person, especially those who did not commit the crime and experience heavy pressure exerted by law enforcement officers to make the confession. Furthermore, the suspect or accused is extremely vulnerable to suffer violations of human rights due to abusive conduct of law enforcement officials. Aside from the negative consequence of violation of the human rights law and rules of criminal procedure, there is a violation of the Bill of Rights for failure to ensure the protection of rights of the accused by suffering from the negative consequences (Weisburd and Greenspan, 2000).
It is imperative that for the police department to become vigilant to be able to combat the deceptive practices of the officers who exert extra pressure on the suspect to obtain evidence that will be used to convict an innocent person. It bears stressing the importance of ethical behavior of law enforcement agencies to avoid deceptive practices in the future by penalizing the erring officers and to avoid the conviction of those who are falsely accused of crimes they did not commit. This will ensure the quality of criminal investigation and to see it that criminal procedures are strictly followed (Weisburd and Greenspan, 2000).
In conclusion, the planting of evidence by the police on a suspect is considered both an ethical and legal issue, whose solution involves provisions of criminal law, law of evidence, criminal procedures, and tort law to monitor the effective operations of law enforcement agencies. It is vital to deter planting of evidence practices by the police since it contravenes the basic human rights law and criminal procedure principles. Aside from the ethical and moral issues involved is the strict regulation of criminal procedure and tort law to make police officers accountable for fabricating evidence that should be dealt with strictly by the agency. Aside from this, the police officers must also be given the opportunity to voice their opinions in creating policies that will be implemented within the department. Thus, flexible leadership is important in managing and operating the police agency. Etter and Palmer (1995) stated that this concept is derived from the Greek fabulist Aesop, who once said that “It is better to bend, than to break”. The police managers should practice flexible leadership in order to manage, motivate, and lead his subordinates towards the accomplishment of the mission, goals and objectives of the police department. This also enhances the productivity of the police officers because a leader who is employee-centered delegates his subordinates a part of his decision-making power and aides them in satisfying their needs by advocating a supportive work environment. Police corruption will be avoided if the police officers are satisfied with the jobs, given competitive compensation packages and benefits to deter them from finding means to additional income through unlawful means, such a planting of evidence to earn profit.
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