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There are absolute ethics and relative ethics in law enforcement. What is the difference between the two and how do they relate to the three dilemmas?
Answer: Police corruption is often seen as a distant problem peculiar to "big city cops" or "other departments." Denial and refusal to accept the potential for ethical compromise and corruption at " our department" prevents administrators and [ officers from developing an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the issues. Without a clear understanding, adequate information and practical
strategies, officers who are exposed to a risk-filled environment are more likely to engage in inappropriate behaviors that can destroy their professional and personal lives . . . as well as the reputation and credibility of their organizations. The transformation from an idealistic, highly ethical officer into a self-serving individual who believes "if we don't look out for ourselves who will?" is a subtle process that usually occurs before the officers knows what has happened. For ethics training to be effective, officers have to see the information as relevant and credible. The typical "soap box" approach, whether taught by internal affairs, supervisors and commanders, attorneys or others is often seen as scolding, warning and threatening. This approach, even when the information is interesting and enlightening, is rarely internalized by the officers nor incorporated into their day-to-day activities. The Continuum of Compromise In this article, the authors explain the "continuum of compromise' (Gilmartin & Harris, 1995). It is a frame work for understanding and teaching how the transition from "honest cop" to "compromised officer" can occur. Law enforcement agencies can help prepare their officers for the ethical challenges they face during their careers. However, that will require changing the way this topic is approached by the organization and teaching and integrating the information throughout the organization. Officers live and work in a constantly changing and dynamically social context in which they are exposed to a myriad of ethical conflicts. When either unprepared or unaware, officers are more likely to "go with the flow" than they would be if they were adequately prepared to face potentially ethical risks. Everyday, officers practice mental preparation as it relates to tactical situations. ]
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