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History of Criminal Justice Ethics and Gratuities

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While at the academy many years ago, you were trained that it is against department policy to accept gratuities and discounts, half-priced meals, even a free cup of coffee on the grounds that "except for your paycheck, there's no such thing as an honest buck." In practice, however, things are less clear-cut.

For example, it is common among uniformed patrol officers and sergeants to accept free coffee and snacks at a donut shop in one of the high-crime areas in your city. Nearly all of the uniformed officers accept the coffee, sodas, cookies, and doughnuts offered freely by the store owner, and the department seems, in truth, to know but not care that officers are accepting this free hospitality.

As deputy chief, you find yourself developing a good personal relationship with a certain store owner. You respect his willingness to work hard and truly appreciate his generosity in supplying you and your colleagues with a much-needed cup of coffee, some food, and a warm welcome on your long, sometimes tedious and lonely tours of duty. Correspondingly, he seems genuinely happy to see you, and he appreciates your willingness to spend your breaks at his establishment. He has been held up at gun point twice in the past, and it makes him feel safer with you there.

Around 3:30 a.m., while riding with one of your patrol officers, he pulls over a car that has just gone through a red light. When the officer approaches the vehicle, he recognizes the operator as the store owner on his way home from a night's work. He gets out of the vehicle and notices you standing alongside of his vehicle. He addresses you by name and reaches out to shake your hand. He tells you he is sorry about the traffic light and says, "Hey, you are not going to let this young policeman give your old buddy here a ticket for a little thing like that, are you?"

First, identify the ethical and legal issues presented in this scenario.

When did criminal justice professionals begin to seriously examine ethics and police officer misconduct? Explain.

How do you think this situation would have been handled 50 years ago? 25 years ago? 10 years ago? Explain.

What factors do you think contributed to the evolution of criminal justice ethics throughout recent history?

Which of these ethical and legal issues do you feel are the most important? Why?
What would you do in this situation? Why?

Remember to place yourself in the deputy chief's shoes when determining how you would handle this situation.

If you were to ticket the store owner, how do you think the other officers might respond to your actions? Why?

How would you address their responses? Explain.

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Solution Summary

The history of criminal justice ethics and gratuities are determined.

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First, identify the ethical and legal issues presented in this scenario.

The legal issues associated with gratuities are presented front and center within this scenario. Gratuities even in minor forms give those who are the providers the perception that they should eventually receive something in return. Often, this is more protection perhaps at the chagrin of other store owners within the neighborhood who receive less patrols because the officer(s) are consistently at the store where they receive gratuities. The scenario mentioned is also common wherein a simple traffic ticket may only represent a minor gesture but the implications that are associated with this gesture infer that the shop owner is above the law or receiving benefits because of the gratuities. Ethically speaking, the acceptance of gratuities is unethical because of the potential that the recipient will have to return the favor one day. Police officers are supposed to treat all members of society equally, and this entails no special treatment for anyone.

When did criminal justice professionals begin to seriously examine ethics and police officer misconduct? Explain.

Criminal justice has been cognizant of the potential for ethical misconduct by criminal justice professionals since the inception of "bobbies" during Sir Robert Peeles' England. Anytime people have the power to take away the freedom of others, these people could be susceptible to corruption. Throughout history police have been recorded engaging in various forms of corruption and graft. Tammany Hall in New York during its heyday utilized police to serve their intentions and only hired police who would enforce their tenets of corruption. The ...

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