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The Blue Wall of Silence and Police Ethical Culture - Research Paper Example

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POLICE ETHICAL CULTURE (Blue Wall of Silence) Name of Student (author) Student ID Number: Name of Course: Professor’ Name: Name of School (University) Estimated Word Count: 954 December 15, 2011 POLICE ETHICAL CULTURE Introduction This paper tackles the unique police culture prevailing in today's modern police forces…
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The Blue Wall of Silence and Police Ethical Culture
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POLICE ETHICAL CULTURE (Blue Wall of Silence) ID Number: of of School (University) Estimated Word Count: 954 Date of Submission: December 15, 2011 POLICE ETHICAL CULTURE Introduction This paper tackles the unique police culture prevailing in today's modern police forces. This branch of government service has developed, over the years, its own lingo and culture that is peculiar and understood only by those who are in the police force. This culture is a necessity in their profession as a way to help them solve crimes and also as a way for police members to cope with the pressures and frustrations of their job. In particular, the police culture had come up with their own ethical and moral principles which are sometimes at variance with the law which they are tasked to defend and uphold. This can have adverse consequences if this takes precedence on their primary duty of protecting the citizens of this country and give more priority to secrecy. Discussion People who work in the police force encounter a number of challenges related to the job. Among these issues are risk to life and limbs, low salary, dealing with bureaucracy, pressure from peers and supervisors, criticisms from the public and government officials, corruption, drug dealings among their own members and time away from their families as it is a 24-hour job. All these make them sometimes vulnerable to temptations and failings which can markedly affect in many ways their performance on the job. The suicide rates among police officers are also one of the highest among several professions. It is therefore not very surprising that police members are finding ingenious ways of coping with the pressures of their jobs. One of these is the so-called “blue wall of silence” which is a pact not to rat on each other and maintain silence always. The origin of this term came from the blue uniforms that police members wear. This gave rise to the perceived reluctance of police officers to squeal on their fellow officers in cases of conflicts of interest, for example, between testifying against a fellow officer for being accused of certain crimes against other persons or in cases of police brutality. This kind of behavior is the subject of much debate, because police members have a kindred feeling for fellow officers. This culture of silence is fostered by the “us-versus-them” mentality in which members have to take care of their own first before they take care of other people. Ironically, many police officers feel they have been victimized by their own workplace environments (Samaha, 2005, p. 175) that had justified this powerful but unspoken and unwritten code of silence and secrecy. When lives and careers are on the line, this is a very powerful incentive and thought as one of the causes of the “blue wall of silence” among police officers anywhere in the world. A feeling of taking care of one's own first before anyone else prevails. It is a coping mechanism in a world that is full of danger, from criminals and other bad elements. A police officer who breaks this loyal code of silence is ostracized and severely penalized in many ways. Some most famous examples of this breach in silence and its adverse consequences was the movie “Serpico” which was based on a true story. Another case was that of O. J. Simpson where the police officers made mistakes in their initial investigation and gathering of crime scene evidence but nobody wanted to speak out about their amateurish mistakes which lost the case, eventually. Most police officers work as teams and rarely individually; the most common is having a buddy as team partner upon whom one relies completely for support and life itself. It is therefore hard to break a strong bond between two officers working in close tandem and can give an idea of being above the law. Officers who witnessed misconduct among their peers fail to report such behavior; it was deemed disloyal if one squeals on another officer. Many who saw such wrongdoing are too afraid to report them for fear of being shunned and black-balled, the ways by which pressure on loyalty is enforced without actually shooting some people. The “blue wall of silence” involves a deliberate withholding of crucial information when these are needed in critical investigations. In many cases, it is the higher-ranking officers and administrators who themselves keep the crucial information away from political higher-ups, effectively stalling any efforts at police reforms. The two characteristics by which the police organization can be described are social isolation and the resultant group loyalty, which in turn produces its code of silence (Hess, Orthmann & Cho, 2010, p. 516). A police department can have two types of ethics, the formal code and an informal code. Conclusion The informal code of ethics results in the police culture that in turn is fostered by the belief that the politicians and the public are very demanding. This may promote or require some unethical behaviors on the mistaken belief that the war on crime requires bending some rules. A police culture based on this belief is predicated on the requirement that loyalty counts the most. Some of the gray areas pertaining to police ethics are the use of deception to catch criminals, the acceptance of gratuities (for example, free coffee that can start them towards corruption) and also professional courtesy with other government agencies. The blue wall of silence plays a large part in these activities; it becomes an integral part of the police occupational culture in many ways in which good behavior and bad habits are merged (Barker, 2011, p. 127). This wall of silence can be dangerously extended to such acts like evidence tampering and the use of excessive force. A common technique like a choke hold can lead to violence (Coady & Coady, 2000, p. 299). Reference List Barker, T. (2011). Police ethics: crisis in law enforcement. Springfield, IL, USA: Charles C. Thomas Publishers. Coady, C. A. J. & Coady, T. (2000). Violence and police culture. Victoria, Australia: Melbourne University Publishing, Limited. Hess, K. M., Orthmann, C. H. & Cho, H. L. (2010). Police operations: theory and practice. Florence, KY, USA: Cengage Learning. Samaha, J. (2005). Criminal justice. Florence, KY, USA: Cengage Learning. Read More
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