Wichita State University
The vast majority of police officers are honest and ethical, at least in their personal, or ordinary, morality, which may be different from their "role morality" or police ethics, but all of them pay the price for decreased public confidence and trust when there is little respect for police ethics. There is also a fine line between police discretion and how they identify with racial discrimination and profiling. We will discuss and examine two possible causes of public mistrust for police ethics: 1. The perception that a police subculture exists that either turns good officers bad or tolerates evil in the midst of policing; and 2. The perception that most of policing is just a front for racial discrimination. (O'Conner, 2011) These perceptions affect all of policing, go to the heart of police role in society, and involve ethical issues, which we will explore in depth. Trust is the main ethical issue in this approach to police ethics, and in learning about trust, we also learn about other irrational forces in society, like fear. (O'Conner, 2011) This kind of focus on police ethics is also a focus on societal ethics. Facts make little difference here, as it doesn't matter whether we can trace the roots of public mistrust to any specific event; what matters is perception, and how those perceptions influence the morality of a nation as a whole. (O'Conner, 2011)
When police try to accomplish both roles, the result is an institutionalized tolerance of deviance at the extreme ends of both poles. Therefore, under enforcement (leniency in the name of due process) is as much a problem as over enforcement (zero tolerance in the name of crime control). (O'Conner, 2011) The reason why it's hard to find the middle ground in such a role conflict situation can be discussed as the problem of utilitarian limits. (O'Conner, 2011) With the ideal of due process, the means to an end must always be justified, hence limiting the "any means necessary" mode of thought with the ideal of crime control.
It's also possible to talk about this role conflict as a "love/hate" (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2014)relationship between the public and the police. Citizens love the police when they see them fighting an enemy, not us or good people, but citizens are willing to defer to the expert power of police as experts in knowing the enemy. Citizens hate the police, ironically enough, when police engage in service activity, attempting to serve all people (no enemy, or the enemy is us), and the aid police render either accidentally violates the rights of the "good" guys or is seen as an insincere attempt to escape the taint of being an historical tool of oppression for the powerful. (Alpert, Dunham, Stroshine, Bennett, & MacDonald, 2006) Police are literally in a "damned if I do/damned if I don't" situation most of the time, and this erodes any sense of objectivity needed for a balanced sense of ethics. It's understandable why a police subculture would develop for self-preservation reasons, but there are additional reasons. (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2014)
Police also have to base their suspicions on certain elements for this. When an officer was curious about a citizen or became suspicious, observers asked the officer to provide them with the reason(s) for this concern. The reasons provided by observers were coded according to the following categories: (1) appearance, (2) behavior, (3) time and place, and (4) information. “Appearance” refers to the appearance of an individual and/or vehicle, and can refer to things such as distinctive dress, indicators of class, vehicle type, color, condition, and the like. “Behavior” refers to any overt action taken by an individual or vehicle that seemed inappropriate, illegal, or bizarre. “Time and place” refers