Teaching Criminal Justice Ethics: Strategic Issues.
The results of a recent International Association of Chiefs of Police needs assessment regarding the perceived justification for and effectiveness of ethic training for law enforcement officers indicated that significant interest exists in the topic. Yet, some critics of ethics training express the belief that "tigers can't change their stripes," or they wonder why law enforcement agencies hire supposedly ethical individuals then presume to teach them ethics.
The editors of Teaching Criminal Justice Ethics: Strategic Issues address these and related questions and concerns using relevant research and academic analysis. Many of the questions addressed and answered - often from both sides of the issue so that readers may choose remain important for law enforcement practitioners, academy trainers, and executive managers alike. Some of the questions addressed include: why teach ethics to individuals hired to police ranks because, among other reasons, background investigations show them to have reputations for ethical behavior? Does a sufficient distinction exist between basic morality and law enforcement ethics to justify expenditures of time, money, and effort by already-burdened agencies toward an understanding and genuine practice of the latter? Will such emphasis make a difference? Once adapted within curricula, how should law enforcement ethics be structured, what should be presupposed and emphasized, and to what end?
Admittedly, Teaching Criminal Justice Ethics analyzes most of these issues from the point of view of college/university departments that have a bit more luxury of time and reflection than fast-paced, results-oriented law enforcement academy programs. The issues and proposed resolutions are nonetheless extremely well reasoned and explicated and, therefore, should be reviewed by managers and practitioners within law enforcement academies.
The editors set the tone for this collection by stating that "a well-executed course [in law enforcement ethics] could provide measurably heightened sensitivity, improved reflection, and better performance" (emphasis added). This is precisely what the public rightly demands of its officers and agents, what the media and oversight groups pounce on if they fail, and what the contributors to this edition provide with varying degrees of success. For example, although law enforcement relies heavily on informants, some of whom have criminal backgrounds, officers cannot merely use and discard them or otherwise violate their dignity. Although this book does not draw the line between such important performance issues and the more significant moral concerns of informant handling, it can help practitioners better understand how to structure police ethics courses so that students, officers, and agents will come to know, for example, what constitutes appropriately aggressive, productive, and ethical informant development.
Some of the book's more abstract discussions may be of little benefit to the academy instructor. However, without exception, the thematic articles warrant close review. Michael Davis' "Teaching Police Ethics: What to Aim At?" offers particular insight into such issues as what the FBI (borrowing from the Australians) refers to as the "golden thread" approach to teaching ethics, which requires weaving an ethical emphasis or scenario, practicum, or something of the sort into each instructional component. This "pervasive method," as Davis calls it, coupled with a freestanding ethics course, represents a dual approach that the FBI and other agencies have adopted already In addition, Professor Joan C. Callahan's important contribution to this collection provides insight for those setting up or refining academic ethics components in their academies.
Many recent law enforcement ethics initiatives, to include those structured by the FBI, U.S. Customs, and the New York City Police Department, are developing instructional techniques and curricula in concert with behavioral science perspectives and findings. Teaching Criminal Justice Ethics speaks, albeit indirectly, to this trend Serious police managers who want the best results from their integrity initiatives should read carefully Professor Elizabeth Reynolds Welfel's "Psychology's Contribution to Effective Models of Ethics Education in Criminal Justice." Her treatment of mistakes by professionals, especially those in law enforcement, is excellent: "Truly ethical professionals will not he perfect persons, but they should he equipped to take responsibility for their mistakes. "On first reading, a truism, perhaps, but Welfel chooses her words carefully and then unpacks them. How does law enforcement "equip" its ranks to tell the truth and to understand the limits of dedication and loyalty, while not "denying or running away from their problems?"
Indeed, this collection examines what are perhaps the two most important factors that contribute to ethical conduct in law enforcement, how agencies ethically equip their personnel and how they ethically structure their organizations. Law enforcement administrators owe it to the profession to seek out and put into practice much that this timely release offers.
Special Agent Frank L. Perry, Ph.D. Unit Chief Law Enforcement Ethics Unit FBI Academy Quantico, Virginia
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|Author:||Perry, Frank L.|
|Publication:||The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 1999|
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