Ethical Law Enforcement Scenarios

Published: 2021-06-24 14:25:04
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Category: Law ethics

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Scenario 1
A common perception among both police officers and the public at large is that the police expect goods and services for free because of their official standing in the community. Many people believe this practice, such as the one presented in the community, smacks of subtle intimidation, not to mention expectations on the part of business owners, such as Ari, that free offerings are not only expected, but as Statter (2012) points out, perhaps also gain them special privileges themselves and better service from the police department. Acceptance of such courtesies offered freely is an issue that must be carefully weighed by the officer. Unless otherwise specified by local law or custom, it is not technically illegal for police to accept such items as freely offered food and the like, but judgement must be at the forefront and particular situations carefully considered. Since Ari’s restaurant was crowded, perhaps the best course would be to pay for the lunch.
Scenario 2
Firstly, a list of situations should be firmly in place by the administration to assist the officer—a protocol chain of command, as it were. The officer should not be responsible for a decision that has wider effects beyond the institution where he is employed. In short, the officer should report the incident as required by his acceptance of the rules of employment. However, he should be able to take the incident to one higher up in the administration for review and action. If he has discretion in this case, he may choose, since it is not an egregious offense, to warn Ray about the consequences should he again catch him smoking.
Scenario 3
Under general circumstances, laws of search and seizure apply only to law enforcement officers who, with probable cause, can exact a search or obtain a search warrant from a judge. However, according to Free Advice (2016), the home, car or person of a parolee can be searched without a search warrant by a parole officer. “A police officer or child welfare worker does not have the same authority.” However, these rules differ from state to state depending upon conditions of probation. As a general rule, any illegal materials found during a probation search can legally be turned over to law enforcement.
Scenario 4
A review of Herring v. United States 555 U.S. 135 presents a case where ethics and/or professional practice is a driving factor. Herring’s charge that the premises were searched illegally based on a warrant long removed from the books is certainly a legitimate charge. However, the fact that due to human error, law enforcement officials were unaware of this and indeed illegal substances were found did not negate the charges. The impact of this case in reshaping the role of the practitioner in the court system is certainly heartening and clear. Law enforcement, as human’s will, make mistakes. In this case, the mistake of executing a warrant that had gone past was an issue, but not sufficient issue to let a guilty person go free. Indeed, the role of human error does support any suspicion that law enforcement was acting illegally and/or unethically in conducting the search. This is a major benefit to law enforcement that, for some minor unintentional legal infraction, can have cases thrown out. It supports the notion that the law includes consideration for such human actions. Actions stemming from mistakes are not considered unethical thus allowable under the law.
Personal Assessment
Being a person more comfortable with following specific rules, I believe I am better suited to law enforcement situations that do not require personal judgement. For instance, I would find it difficult to assess the free food situation, since factors leading to Ari’s offer may depend upon his reasoning of which I am not aware and the perception of the public. Regarding Ray, I would not want to have to make a choice between reporting him and/or warning him. I can say then I would be better suited to activities such as described in the third scenario, where the rules of search are more closely followed and procedure is key.

Free Advise (2016). Criminal Law. Available at:
Herring v. United States 555 U.S. 135 (2009). Justia, US Supreme Court. Available at:
Statter, D. (2012). Is it ethical for firefighters and police officers to accept freebies? Statter 911.
Available at:

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