Ethics and Corruption in the Police Force


The police force serves the community in several ways. These include protecting lives and property, maintaining peace, as well as promoting equality, justice and liberty (Barker132). Police follow the philosophy of minimalism. One aspect of the philosophy is the principle of “least intrusive action.” (Barker133) Police officers ought to be responsible in their professional conduct under all situations. However, occasional claims lodged against the police force for behaving unethically in certain situations depict a different reality. People accuse police of brutality when they use excessive force in enforcing law. Police brutality is immoral and against the standard ethics code of the police service.

Police brutality

Police brutality refers to use of excessive force on civilians, abusive language, ridicule, and disrespect (Miller and Blackler 64). It also refers to illegal use of excessive force in execution of certain police functions. There are two forms of police brutality. Individual police brutality and institutionalized police brutality (Miller and Blackler 65). Individual brutality results from a form of immaturity that is motivated by fear. On the other hand, institutionalized brutality results from poor training and inadequate supervision by seniors.

Ethics and police brutality

The ethics code that governs law enforcement lists five main responsibilities of police officers. These include protection of lives and property, protection of innocent people, serving communities, maintaining peace, and fostering liberty, equality, and justice (Neyroud and Beckley 55). The ethics code further explicates the appropriate use of force by officers. It states that a police officer should not use excessive force or violence unless other options such as discussion, negotiation, and persuasion fail. Officers are not supposed to inflict pain or suffering while performing their duties. Despite existence of this provision, police officers still apply excessive force in enforcing law.

Ethics plays an important role in discouraging police brutality. However, compliance to ethics depends on the willingness of police officers to adhere to the police code of conduct (Neyroud and Beckley 57). Studies have revealed that many officers only uphold ethics during training and first few days on the job. Compliance to ethics depends on character, personal ideals and values, as well as professionalism.

Police brutality is unethical and unacceptable because it violates human rights. In ethical terms, there are number of ways used to assess the degree of force used by police officers. The first consideration is the intention of using force (Neyroud and Beckley 59). For example, rough handling and tightening handcuffs apply to punish criminals by inflicting unnecessary pain. Such actions are unethical and contrary to requirements of police ethics.

Secondly, it is ethical for officers to observe proportionality. The force applied by police officers should be proportional to the severity of offence or crime committed (Neyroud and Beckley 60). Therefore, officers should avoid using too much force for misdemeanors or petty crimes. For example, it is unethical for a police officer to shoot a shoplifter or a pickpocket. Police officers should rely on character and personal values to make decisions that determine use of force when arresting criminals. Ethics in policing bases on character and self-control. One cause of police brutality is anger that results from reaction to criminals who resist apprehension. Officers should be able to control themselves to avoid using excessive force that is both legal and unethical.

Thirdly, it is ethical for police to abide by the principle of minimization (Perez and Moore 43). This principle requires officers to use little force to achieve goals and objectives in law enforcement. If alternatives to use of force are available, then a police officer should use them instead of force (Perez and Moore 44). For example, if an arrest can be made without using force, then officers should not use force.

Fourthly, ethics demand practicability and sensitiveness. Legally, police officers have a right to use force when necessary. However, it is up to the discretion of a police officer to know the amount of force that is appropriate (Perez and Moore 45). Ethics focuses on behavior of officers, which is determined by accountability. Responsible officers observe ethics in their behavior because they take responsibility for their actions. They understand that respect, character, and politeness are necessary for success in law enforcement.


Ethics is an important aspect of the police force. The law enforcement ethics code has several requirements that determine the behavior and conduct of police officers. Despite its existence, many offices behave unethically in law enforcement. For example, police brutality is a common occurrence among law enforcement officers. It is an unethical practice that should not be tolerated. Ethics play the role of regulating the behavior and character of police to enhance quality service to people. Ethical aspects of police brutality include proportionality, intention, minimization, and practicability. An officer should use force with the right intention and minimally.

Use of force is legal but excessive use of force is illegal and unethical. Ethics in the police force depends on character and self-control. Police officers should be accountable for their actions and ensure that they adhere to the requirements of the law enforcement code of ethics.

Works Cited

Barker, Tom. Police Ethics: Crisis in Law Enforcement. New York: Charles C Thomas Publisher, 2011. Print.

Miller, Seumas, and Blackler, John. Ethical Issues in Policing. New York: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2005. Print.

Neyroud, Peter, and Beckley, Alan. Policing, Ethics, and Human Rights. New York. William, 2001. Print.

Perez, Douglas, and Moore, Alan. Police Ethics: A Matter of Character. New York: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.