The police are essential to democracy. By ensuring that no person is above the law, the police protect citizens from victimization. Through the enforcement of the law, police ensure that no individual or group violently asserts its will over public order.


Learning Objectives

  1. Debate the major arguments concerning the importance of ethics in law enforcement.
  2. Distinguish the issues relating to morals, ethics, values, ethical codes, ethical standards, and ethical dilemmas.
  3. Contrast individual and organizational values and responsibilities.
  4. Analyze an ethical dilemma.
  5. Contrast issues that include decision making, discretion, and the structure of accountability.
  6. Differentiate between organizational and individual misconduct and issues related to consequences and liability.
  7. Using critical thinking, evaluate the moral issues related to a course of action including the resolution of an ethical dilemma.

In this book, you will examine the moral and ethical issues that exist within law enforcement. This book will also familiarize you with the basic history, principles, and theories of ethics. These concepts will then be applied to the major components of the criminal justice system: policing, the courts, and corrections. Discussion will focus on personal values, individual responsibility, decision making, discretion, and the structure of accountability. Specific topics covered will include core values, codes of conduct, ethical dilemmas, organizational consequences, liability, and the importance of critical thinking. By the end of this book, you will be able to distinguish and critically debate contemporary ethical issues in law enforcement.


  1. Caldero, M. and Crank, J. (2004) Police Ethics: The Corruption of Noble Cause, Second edition. Mathew Bender and Company.


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Ethics in Law Enforcement Copyright © 2015 by Steve McCartney and Rick Parent is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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