The Role of Integrity in Criminal Justice

Most people will never be involved directly or indirectly with district attorneys, judges or probation officers. Police officers are therefore the “face” of the criminal justice system for most people. Integrity in their actions is necessary so that the credibility of the criminal justice system in America can be maintained (Klockars, 2006). Corruption, cronyism and a lack of integrity plague police forces around the world. In some countries, the last person you want to interact with is a police officer because any interaction will include threats of imprisonment or the solicitation of bribes.

Police officers are charged to do the right thing according to duty. Everyone working in a professional capacity within the criminal justice system needs to uphold their duty in an ethical manner, but police officers have a special responsibility to do this. The enforcement of laws needs to happen in a manner that is fair and unbiased. Any lapse in integrity makes this impossible. A breach in integrity creates an inherently unjust situation. Police officers are often forced to make difficult decisions. Acting with integrity is a sure guide when the time comes for making hard choices.

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A lack of integrity for a police officer can be manifest in many ways. One way is through a biased application or enforcement of the law. Holding different groups within the community more accountable for breaking laws than other groups is unethical and lacks integrity. These divisions can be made along the lines of race, gender, sexual orientation, income level and age. Police officers need to keep in mind that proper enforcement of the law can not be dictated by membership in a certain group. When laws are enforced this way, integrity is lacking.

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