Division of Criminal Justice Focus: Policing
Policing is one of the most dynamic fields of work within the criminal justice system. The role of the police has span across a variety of key areas and functions across various generations. Key factors that has played in their continued specialization in the community include; income/ economic inequality within America and in countries surrounding America, the state and federal government laws, and the increasing need for security that comes with increased global insecurity, that in turn affects security within the US. 9/11 for example, was a key event that saw the role of the police in America greatly shift from the role of a public servant to that of a crime fighter. In the book “Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice” Joycelyn Pollock identifies that 9/11 was a key event that saw the public servant element of police reduced in favor of the additional crime fighting elements. From this, police service officers gained autonomous authority, wide ranging powers and greater discretion in their line of duty. Acts of ethical violation have been increasing due to this shift in policing.
In the United States v. Martinez- Fuerte (425 U.S. 931 ) case, the US Supreme court allowed racial profiles to dictate police actions. This allowed more discretion to provide context for racially target with ambiguous reasons. Added to this is the code of silence (Blue Curtain of Secrecy) that is generally defined as a police subculture where police officers maintain higher level of loyalty to other officers and increasingly become non-cooperative when fellow officers are identified to have broken the law. In the article “Jury weighs testimony of ex-detectives in Baltimore police corruption case” by CBS News, various aspect of ethical violations that come out include police need of upholding the law and a citizen’s rights, use and definition of necessary force, and ability to act impartially and not profiling people in their bid to deliver justice.
In the article, the action of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is described as the worst corruption case in the police history of the US. Two detective who had signed a social contract with the public on the delivery of service tailored around maintenance of law and enforcement of orders and laws, are described to be involved in the robbery, racketeering, and extortion of citizens. Members of the Gun Trace Task force, are described to be a criminal outfit in police uniform involved in the continued acts of criminals against citizens they are meant to protect. Ex-detectives in the case are identified to have pleaded guilty to previous corruption charges and now serving jail time tried to testify but were also identified to be increasingly not to be trusted as they pleaded guilty to constantly lying and invoking the code of secrecy for the benefit of the police department.
Acts of ethical violation that comes into focus is the lack of conviction to uphold the law and report or testify to crime within the department when corruption is presented. Wayne Jenkins and the two detectives on trial were deemed impartial in the eyes of the law. They all refused to testify and hinder justice by invoking the code of secrecy and maintaining the time honored traditional values that seek to uphold the blue curtain of secrecy. Pollock (2015) identifies that the code of silence/ Blue curtain of secrecy is a practice in which officers do not come forward when they are aware of intense ethical transgression of other officers within their outfit (119). In other words, they chose to remain silent when fellow officers take unethical actions. Ethical actions violations that are identified to be broken include the fact that the officers used unnecessary force to access and steal/ destroy property belonging to citizens without redress.
This was in a time in which the number of police indictment within the region was at an all time high which lead to the lowest trust in the BPD in Baltimore. According to CBS (2018) a Philadelphia police officer became the ninth law enforcement personnel to be prosecuted in a federal proceeding and he was accused to have conspired with a member of the Gun Trace Task force Jemell Rayam to sell heroin and cocaine that was confiscated in Baltimore. The criminal justice agency which is the police department is categorically tasked with enforcing law and order and the increased intentional violations presented is role as compromised and perpetually occurring.
Ethical styles of the involved agency revolve around the type of standards they set in their off duty life, need to uphold laws and rights of citizens, acting impartially, and necessary use of force. In the article, BPD detectives are identified to use police equipment, their uncontested rights to the use of force and increased discretion in conducting criminal operations to rob and racketeer from families of people in prison. In the news article, it is identified that the police officers monitored phone conversation between spouses at home and those imprisoned and categorically storm their homes with fake warranties and identifying as federal agents and steal money and other valuables. The matter appears to have been widespread to the point in which most cops in the department are implied to have known about their transgression. But the police’s subculture that invokes code of silence saw a variety of officers remain silence and only those who had been convicted seek to come out in order to shed years out of their conviction.
The news report identifies that Wayne Jenkins specifically was an out-of-control corrupt officer leading a unit on shaking down citizens defining them as bigtime drug dealers and frequently break the law for individual benefit. Ethical violation in which the larger police department chose not to pursue their corruption comes in to question as key failures of the BPD. Pollock (2015) identifies the aspect of brotherhood within the police department that seeks to compel police officers from revealing wrongdoers (136). As such, police who go beyond and identify the failed system are targeted and even killed as was the case with Frank Serpico. Frank Serpico who came forward with wide scale corruption in NYPD and killed and no officers were charged with a crime of negligence or of any kind for that matter (Pollock, 2015, 173). Ethical violations such as the one named above could have been avoided through education of police on their role and instance in community policing. The shift from community policing to promotion of fighting elements remains to be the largest promoter of such ethical violations. Pollock (2015) identifies that the centralized, top-down, “crime control” attitude is not productive as it alienates the police from the community (107). Meeting the 21st century unique biases, it becomes imperative to promote police cooperation with the community and reeducation on the role of the police. This will allow for the maintenance of the subculture and veil that is increasing between the police and the citizens.
Arguably, the police shift from community policing to crime fighting due to an increase in sophistication of crime has brought about more power to the police, greater amount of discretion and more autonomy in how they exercise authority. This allows elements of the police and the resulting culture of separation to easily be corrupted in their application of power on and off duty. The BPD case identifies the level that exists all over the country. To address these acts of ethical violations due to too much power and freedom of authority. It is important to create a great mix between community association and police work in order to give more awareness to their role and include the community in policing.
CBS News. (2018, February 8). Jury Weighs Testimony of Ex-detectives in Baltimore Police Corruption Case. CBS News – Breaking News, 24/7 Live Streaming News & Top Stories. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jury-weighs-testimony-of-ex-detectives-in-baltimore-police-corruption-case/
Pollock, Joycelyn M. (2014) Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions In Criminal Justice. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Print.