Police officers/ law enforcers are charged with the duty of maintaining law and order. As part of their job they are allowed to carry such weapons as guns and even use force. However, even before they are assigned their arms and deployed out in the field, they are effectively trained. More over they are only allowed to use in very special circumstances, for instance when there is clear and present danger to civilians for to themselves. Nonetheless, they tread a very thin line. The same citizens they are meant to protect may be a threat to the officers. Since the officers are allowed by law to use force, there is the possibility that they may misuse the right. It is for this reason that rules of police conduct have been put in place.
As contained in their codes of conduct, police officers are supposed to uphold the values of professionalism, integrity and impartiality (Police (conduct) regulations, 2004). According to Caiden and Hahn, it is only due to the nature of their profession, that the police are allowed the use of force (1979). It so happens that criminals are not logical. Therefore when they act forcefully, the police are allowed to retaliate with equal force so that the lives of innocent civilians may be saved and law and order restored. According to the police act, codes of conduct are put in place so as to give guidelines on how police officers are expected to perform their duties and functions as they preserve peace, prevent crime and administer justice. The codes also help instill a sense of confidence in the members of the public on the ability of the police officers to effectively maintain law and order (1998). Different countries have code of conducts for their officers contained in different statutes. In Canada for example, the codes of conduct are contained in the police act. Whenever the codes of counted are flouted, the result is police misconduct (Police Act, 1998).
Use of force and the Abuse of authority.
In the codes of conducts at no point in time are officers allowed to knowingly use more force than is reasonable or in the in the process of maintaining law and order abuse their authority to use force. The use of excessive force is misconduct and it brings about the issue of police brutality. The US Supreme Court maintains that while the police are allowed the use of force, they are only to use a reasonable amount of force so at to maintain order (Hall, 1999)
According to Roberts, police brutality has increased over the years and has reached pandemic level in the US. The police are said to use excessive force even when arresting suspects who do not even seem to be resisting. More over, the use of excessive force has not been restricted to male suspects rather to women, the elderly and even children. Minorities is another group that suffers police brutality at the hands of the police (2007).
The police seem to have gotten out of hand. It does not only happen in the movies rather in real life too. Police unjustifiably shoot at innocent civilians, beat then severely, choke them and generally treat them roughly and with excessive force. Consequently, police abuse/ brutality may be regarded as a serious human right violation that is present in the United States. People deserve better treatment that what the police are offering. However, Roberts argues that police are abusing their right to the use of force for the simple reason that they are not held accountable (2007). The codes of conduct are in place but there are serious barriers to answerability. It then becomes easy for police officers in the US to violate human rights by using too much force on innocent civilians and escaping punishment. The problem lies in the fact that police departments and other public officials openly deny or refer to reports, about police brutality from civilians, as aberrations. Furthermore, instead of the criminal justice system holding officers accused of police brutality accountable, it grants them impunity. The police are openly protected by law. For instance, it is considered an offense to assault a police officer. This makes it very hard for innocent civilians to protect themselves (Roberts, 2007). Illustration. If an officer started assaulting a civilian for no good reason but the civilian overpowered the officer disarming him in the process, the civilian has just assaulted the officer. This then warrants the arrest and conviction of the civilian even though he was actually trying to protect himself and did not assault the policeman in any way.
Police brutally is serious issue as it makes non sense of other values contained in the police officers code of conduct. How can police officers be brutal and still maintain professionalism? Or how can their taint their name with brutality and still expect to be openly approachable? As far as approachability is concerned, the police are expected to be courteous, polite, and accessible to all citizens. On the other hand, professionalism, requires police officers to be conscientious in their duties. Citizens will be openly scared of the officers and the relation ship between the two becomes strained.
The instance the police use unnecessary or excessive force on members of the public they are said to abuse their authority. Abuse also occurs when they arrest, detain, or search suspects without any good cause. Case in point, according to Anderson, the police arrested and detained 15 people for being in the streets celebrating a historic election in Baltimore back in 2008. In addition they used excessive force on the detainees (2008). This was after they had failed to effectively quiet them down. This is clearly an abuse of authority for the simple fact that the police used excessive force on the civilians and also arrested them without any concrete reason. As per their codes of conduct, both acts were wrong and uncalled for. It becomes clear then that the officers do not have good people skills. New ways of dealing with crowds rather than always resorting to the use of force need to be designed.
Sometimes it happens that while on duty the officers are openly discourteous and impolite to civilians. They sometimes use profanities, insults and abuse languages (Police Act, 1998). While it may be argued that the main reason why the officers use such language is for intimidation purposes, it qualifies as misconduct and it greatly undermines their professionalism. Abuse of authority again makes nonsense of the values of politeness and tolerance. In their codes of conduct officers are expected to treat their colleagues and especially the members of the public whom they serve with courtesy and respect. This then means that insults and demeaning language are to be avoided at all costs.
According to Walker, police officers have been assigned powers not assigned to others in society. They are allowed by law to deprive people of their freedom, use force (within reasonable limits) and even take human life. It is imperative that they then use the powers effectively (2005). Most police officers carry lethal weapons in the form of guns. When used without restraint they have lethal consequences; injury or death to civilians or even themselves. Still, according to Adams et al, the capacity of officers to use coercive and potentially deadly force is fundamental to understanding their functions. As much as fire arms are important to the officers due to the nature of their work, it is worth noting that the haphazard use of the arms only serves to undermine citizens civil liberties, human rights and it also endangers democracy (1999).
Honesty and Integrity.
The honesty and integrity of police officers is of primal importance (Police (conduct) regulation, 2004). This is the only way that civilians can trust and also have faith in the officers. Consequently, officers should uphold the rules stipulated in their codes of conduct. For instance they should be openly truthful in all their dealing. Further more they should conduct their duties with integrity. Lack of honesty and integrity is what results in corrupt practice. According to Serrano, in the course of discharging their duties, police officers may come across huge sums of cash. An officer who is honest and has integrity will account for the money and maybe even return it to its rightful owner. As of the year 2000, some 600 officers were in jail for corruption related crimes (2007). Over the years many officers have turned into criminals with many being convicted of such crimes as bribery, racketeering, extortion including drug related offenses. Corruption is fueled by the fact the officers earn very little compared to some of the people they are supposed to protect. It is no wonder that the officers want to make a bit of extra cash just so that they can feel like they are equal and not less than the people they protect. On the other hand, it could also be argued that corruption is common among the officers who do not have any scruples at all. Only the cop who does not feel like he is morally wrong engaging in corrupt activities will be openly corrupt. When officers engage in corruption they are only violating the trust the public places on them for being officers of the law (Serrano, 2007).
Police officer are charged with the duty of maintaining law and order. Consequently, they are allowed by the laws of the land to not only carry weapons but also use force. Nonetheless, the officers are expected to act within the law. It is for this reason that codes of conduct have been designed. The codes provide the guidelines to be followed by their officers as they administer justice. In addition, they help to reassure the public that the officers are able to protect them. The codes include certain values that the officers are expected to uphold. the values include professionalism, Flouting the codes results in misconduct. For instance while the officers are allowed by law to use force, they are expected to use only reasonable amounts force, otherwise it is police brutality. Police brutality is an issue of serious concern as far as police conduct ions concerned. Another serious issue is corruption. This comes about when the officers do not uphold the values of honesty and integrity. Consequently, they engage themselves in criminal activities such as racketeering despite the fact that they are supposed to be the custodians of law. The only solution to misconduct is for the officers to be held accountable. Officers are not above the law which means if they act contrary to the codes they should be punished accordingly.
Adams, K., Alpert, G., Dunham, R., Garner, J., Greenfeld, L., Henriquez, M., Langan, P., Maxwell, C. and Smith, S. (1999). Use of force by police: Overview of national and local data. US Department of Justice. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/176330-1.pdf
Anderson, J. (2008). Complaints roll in about police conduct on election night. 11 July 2008. Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www.citypaper.com/news/story.asp?id=17002
Caiden, G. & Hahn, H. (1979). Public complaints against the police. Lexington MA: Lexington Books.
Hall, J. (1999). Due process and deadly force: when police conduct shocks the conscience, FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www.encyclopedia.com/FBI+Law+Enforcement+Bulletin/publications.aspx?pageNumber=1
Police Act. (1998). Code of police conduct regulation. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www.qp.gov.bc.ca/police/r205_98.htm.
Police (conduct) regulations. (2004). Statutory Instrument 2004, 645. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2004/20040645.htm
Roberts, P. (2007). America’s police brutality pandemic. Lewrackwell.com. Retrieved February 11, 2009 from http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts224.html
Serrano, R. (2007). America’s national scandal: Misconduct widespread in police-state republic. Retrieved February 11, from http://www.worldfreeinternet.net/news/nws200.htm
Walker, S. (2005). The new world of police accountability. Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications.